By Miranda Beninger
I’m sitting with a friend in the café at the World’s Biggest Bookstore, when an older man with dark brown hair walks toward us. He is wearing a leather jacket, grey flannels and leather-tied shoes.
“Excuse me, can I buy you a coffee?” he asks me. I don’t know what to say.
“It’s not every day a man who looks twice my age asks to buy me coffee in a bookstore. I’m suspicious. Is he looking to slip me the date-rape drugs? I accept the offer, hoping he will inspire a story. After all, it is free and I could use some caffeine. I watch him closely as he puts the sugar and milk in my coffee. While he mixes my drink, he stares intensely at me.
The man sits down at our table and looks nervous, with shifty eyes and hands that never stop moving. He tells us his name is Kelly Reddy, he is 26 and he’s looking for love.
I ask, “Have you been drinking? Is this a dare?” He recoils, obviously offended as my friend and I giggle under our breath.
It’s very hard for me to keep a straight face.
“You aren’t taking me seriously!” he says. “I’m an auditor, at work,” he claims. His eyes are red and bloodshot. “I’m on my lunch break.”
Is the World’s Biggest Bookstore the world’s biggest place to pick-up?
Bookstore employee, Annakay Eldridge, says it’s commonplace. She describes an experience about a week ago, where an older man approached a much younger, attractive girl.
“He was wearing a leather jacket. You know, trying to be young,” she said.
“He was in the self-help section, and he approached the girl, trying to start a conversation.” She says the attempt was not successful and the girl tried to be polite, but backed away.
“He stayed in the store for another half-hour. It was so sad.”
Theo Noseworthy, a second-year hospitality student at Ryerson witnessed my experience with Kelly Reddy. He says that he would only approach strangers of the opposite sex if there was something special about them. “They’d have to stand out,” he says. “It couldn’t just be looks.”
About two minutes into my conversation with Reddy, he asks what my fantasy vacation is. This is getting bad.
Right before he leaves, he asks me for a kiss.
“Excuse me?” I say. “Um, nice try, but no.” Reddy finally walks away, and out of the bookstore.
Another employee at the World’s Biggest Bookstore says he has been victim to a pick-up attempt. Joel Dean was working one day when a man phoned him.
“He told me what I was wearing, and then he asked me out.” Dean’s response? “I said, sorry, I’m not on that team. And then the guy hung up. That was that.”
Located in the centre of Toronto, north of the Dundas Subway station, at 20 Edward St., the World’s Biggest Bookstore gets its share of bizarre customers.
“A few people with mental problems come in here a lot. One person came in and asked me for lightbulbs,” says employee Joel Garcia. I wonder if Reddy had similar problems.
Erika Morrison, who has worked at both the World’s Biggest Bookstore and a Chapters bookstore, says that one man approached her a while ago, trying to strike up a conversation. “He told me he could see Jesus in my eyes,” she says. She describes how one woman came in every Thursday night for more than a year, letting her child run around the bookstore while she tried to meet men.
“She was horrifying!” Morrison says. “But it was quite amusing to all the staff. I guess you just think people buying books are smarter than people getting wasted at the bar.”
Seneca College student Joe Lieperowitz says, “It [The World’s Biggest Bookstore] is a good place if you want to find someone smart.”
That’s what Kelly Reddy told me. “I’m a very smart guy,” he sais. “I don’t have time to pursue women.”