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Hubby had a brilliant idea this morning. Our town is currently hosting a large event, which means it is swarming with people. He thought it would be a good idea to take a copy of the Sharing Edition of Greenville downtown and leave it on a park bench for someone to pick up. In my concept of the Sharing Edition, this is exactly the sort of thing I was thinking of – leaving a book in a random location so that someone would happen upon it. Hubby wanted to leave the book in a way that wouldn’t cause attention. He also wanted to see what happened to it after he left it. Here’s what he experienced, in his own words.

“We had predetermined which bench I would leave the book on. When I arrived at the bench in question, a family was sitting on it, so I walked around for maybe 5 minutes and came back to the bench. The family was still there, so I stood behind the bench until a couple of them left. When they did leave, I sat down.

“So, now it’s me and still a couple of those family members there. I didn’t want to just sit down, set the book down, then get up and leave too quickly for fear that one of the people on the bench would say, “Oh, sir, you left your book.” So I sat there and people-watched. When the family left, I put the book down and got off the bench.

“At that point, I walked around for a bit, then leaned by a tree several feet behind the bench and watched to see what would happen to the book. A woman, probably in her 70s, sat down without even taking note of the book. Shortly thereafter, another couple of ladies came and sat down. The one who sat nearest the lady already there seemed to assume that the book was hers, so she pushed it closer to the lady. Eventually, the first lady left. Someone else sat down and pushed the book toward the other two ladies, assuming the book was theirs. When those two ladies left, another person sat down and pushed the book toward the lady that was left. This occurred several times until someone knocked the book off the back of the bench onto the ground. People didn’t even notice the book after that.

“At that point I decided that a bench was not the appropriate place for the book. It needed to be on a surface where people expected to see something, so I picked it up and carried it to a picnic table in the food vending area. I casually set the book down, sat down, and a few minutes later, got up and walked away. I chose to sit on a curb several feet away and watch the book again.

“The same pattern that occurred at the bench recurred at the picnic table, with various people coming and going, but nobody doing much about the book. One woman, who was eating a taco salad, picked up the book and riffled its pages, almost as though she was checking to see if there was ink in the book.  Finally, someone who had been sitting at the table and left, returned with a friend, and that friend picked up the book, looked through it, put it in her lap, riffled through the pages again, checked my wife’s business card that I had stuck into the book, seemed to realize that this might be a marketing thing and put the book in her bag.

“At that, I walked away. It took 2 hours before someone took the thing. It was fascinating to watch this play out.”

As Hubby was undergoing this study in human behavior, I was wondering what was taking him so long. I thought he was going to go drop the book and be done with it. I’m very glad he hung around and watched what happened, although it would have driven me crazy to do so.  It makes me realize that leaving a random book laying around for someone to take is a much harder proposition than it first appears. People are waaaaaay too tentative to take something that doesn’t belong to them. (A little ironic given that the book’s cover says, “This Book Is Your Destiny.”) That’s actually pretty comforting in that the exercise proved that people are generally conscientious and honest. Makes it hard to give away a book, though.

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