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American Tourist Accidentally Locked Inside London Bookstore

When I was a little girl, I saw a movie in which some children are trapped overnight in a shopping mall. I can’t remember how that came to pass, what they did in there, or the eventual outcome (I feel sure they made it out alive). What I do remember, however, is trying to go to sleep later that night – and even two or three nights following –  and being absolutely buzzing with the imaginings running through my brain. If only I could be trapped overnight in a shopping mall, preferably with a friend or two. We could run up the down escalator! Drop rubber balls from the top floor all the way to the courtyard and fountains four storeys down! We could take every pillow in the bedding department and make the world’s most comfortable fort. We could work the soft serve machine with our own hands and make ourselves sick! Makeovers in the makeup department! Cover the sporting goods department floor in basketballs, baseballs, golf balls, softballs, soccer balls, volleyballs and more – and then corral them all down an escalator! Dress up and hold still and pretend to be a mannequin during an epic game of hide and seek!

I lay there, clutching the bedsheets in my damp little hands, willing my fevered brain to slow, to stop the dizzying cavalcade of wistful possibility from keeping me awake. In summary, it was a mammoth fantasy of my childhood to be trapped inside such a place, and given free rein, if only for one night, and next-day consequences be damned. I often thought it would be a wonderful grand prize for some kind of childhood contest.

Now that I am an adult, of course, my tastes have matured, and I’ve grown too discerning and reserved for such flights of fancy.

David Willis, Texan tourist, squanderer of golden opportunities (photo: Twitter)

David Willis, squanderer of golden opportunities (photo: Twitter)

The previous statement is of course a lie, and the reason I could only shake my head in mute disappointment at Texas resident David Willis (pictured, right), who on Thursday, October 16th, had been browsing through the stacks in London’s famed Waterstone’s bookshop in London (Trafalgar Square, no less), when he realized he had been missed by the store’s employees, and the store was now closed for the night. The lights were out, and he was the only soul in the place.

This is where the story should go: Mr. Willis, delighted at his predicament and recognizing his  absolutely once-in-a-blue-moon good fortune, could hardly decide where to begin.  First, he took a moment to simply breathe, and stretch, and take in his surroundings. He listened to the silence, he scanned the room, and eventually tested his solitude with one brave “Hallo?”. Hearing nothing in return but his own echo bounced back to him off the spines of hundreds, and hundreds, and thousands of books, still on their shelves and waiting for him – David Willis embarked on the best night of his life.

Imagine – the shop closed at 9pm. Even if it opened again at 7 am (which is very early), Willis could have had 10 full hours of perusing an almost unending supply of books, with nobody to distract him. No other customers jostling his elbow or making conversation; no staff trying to sell him something or repeatedly inquiring whether he needed help; no spouse, no children, no television even. Just a glorious, uninterrupted ten hours of books. And he was on vacation, so no work the next day!  Nothing to do the next day but amble back to his hotel for some well-deserved sleep, and to prepare how best to tell his wonderful story.

Sadly, that is not where the story went, in real life. In actuality, David Willis tried the door, set off the alarm, spoke to store security, called the police, and even resorted to taking a photo of the inside of the darkened store and tweeting it out to the Twitterverse as a last cry for help. At last, his pleas were heard, and he was released. All told, he spent only two hours in the store.

I must admit, I would have absolutely no idea where to start or what to read. But I would start, eventually, and I would read. I can’t help but feel this was an enormous waste of a rare opportunity. Still, I suppose not everyone shared my childhood fantasies.

What would you read if you had a full night, uninterrupted, and a vast landscape of books at hand?


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