I’m talking about books with titles like: “My Guide to Bed and Breakfasts”, “100 Reasons to Visit (Insert City Name Here)”, “Everyday Guide to Washing Dogs”, “1000 Things to See before You Die”, and the like.
Of course, with many popular subjects already copyrighted by the “For Dummies-”, “Fodor’s Guide-”, series and the like, the budding authors are searching for different topics to offer their unique spin within the type.
Though the specifics of the title may vary, here are a few of the emerging ones I’d anticipate based on my observation:
America’s Most Beloved Stoplights
This book must be aimed at readers who have an interest in the architectural styles, traffic management techniques, and motion sequencing options provided by to most of us is the common traffic light. Research consists of driving along major thoroughfares at a pace akin to a walk assuring that the researcher gets a full 30-90-second opportunity to observe and record details about each stoplight along their route.
My wife, who has sometimes joined me in this research, says one dead giveaway of a budding author is a man wearing some form of boater, beret, bowler (except chauffeurs), deerstalker, fedora, fez, flat, Gatsby, Kepi, Panama, peaked (except chauffeurs), pork pie, top (except chauffeurs), trilby, turban, or ushanka (See).
Another of her triggers is a female driver whose head does not project above the seat rest but whose bonnet projects horizontally or vertically outside the outline of the seat.
Building from her observations, Those I would exclude from being authors are maybe 25-percent of the men wearing baseball caps with the peak facing forward, 50-percent of those whose peak slants over their right shoulder, and definitely any man whose peak faces the rear.
I turn off the street when I see a man driving with the peak over his left shoulder.
Adding to the hat trigger, figure I’m observing research when I encounter any driver who appears to be hooking one finger in their ear while steering their vehicle with the off side hand.
Though from the rear the activity looks like a subliminal message I observed in Mad cartoons portraying dolts, if I get to the side of the ear hooker, I discover most times they aren't resting their off hand in a convenient cradle, but instead are using a cell phone.
I have to be careful in labeling the research, however. There is one ambiguous activity by drivers coasting along the right border of the left turn lane. They slow to catch the main intersection light, but fool me by slipping into the left turn lane just in time to take their turn using the left turn green arrow.
I’ve noted a variation on the research, apparently aimed at studying yield right of way signs at round abouts. The driver comes to a dead stop at the place where traffic is to merge whether there is oncoming traffic from their left or not.
Based on the many stopping opportunities these people have offered me by foiling my attempts to move with traffic at a steady gas-saving pace which precludes 30-90 seconds of idling (and gas guzzling) time at each intersection, I’m pretty curious who will write the first of their tomes, and how those who missed out on being the first will react.
Street Bazaar Shopping Techniques
I have a kind of uncanny biological radar which places me in lines to observe firsthand the haggling techniques portrayed in old movies documenting travels in foreign lands, quests based on Greek or Arabian mythical heroes, early Jewish and Christian histories, treks across trackless expanses in the days of camel caravans and sailing ships, .and the barbarian sagas. Most of these have a scene in a town square bordered by multi-colored fabric awnings from which merchants hawk their wares.
If not part of the story, at least the backdrop to the scene involves characters loudly arguing prices for goods.
The biological radar comes into play because regardless of how many lanes in a store are open for our more modern 21st century exchange of goods for money, I pick the one where this scene unfolds in real time.
Walking about with two items in my hands, I scan the lines, and choose the one behind a cart with 40-items, because all the others have multiple customers or carts even more overflowing with goods.
I should note here I’m amazed at the speed the researcher explores the topic, as the sweeping of goods across the laser table and the flash of the price on the screen is so quick for me that I don’t react until I get a final price.
These technicians are aware of every detail of the bazaar providing an opening to haggling.
Researcher (stopping the Check-out Assistant from grabbing the next item): “I thought the circular said XXX Super Prunes were 79-cents a can.”
Knowledgeable Check-out Assistant: “That was last week’s circular.”
Researcher: “But, I could swear it was in this week’s too!”
Knowledgeable Check-out Assistant (pulling circular from shelf beneath cash drawer): “Let’s look.”
Researcher (leafing through dog eared circular): “Well, I don’t find it here.” (Looking at date in bottom corner) “It says it’s for this week. OK, I don’t want that can of prunes. Are you sure you want to put a dented can back on the shelf?”
Knowledgeable Check-out Assistant (talking into phone at cash register): “Manager to aisle seven!”
Suffice it to say that while the lines I’d avoided because four and five people with big loads of food in their baskets passed along at a pace I had desired by driving discretely in the “Beloved Stoplights” topic, I get to observe the drama.
Manager: “How can I help?”
Researcher: “I apparently misread one of your circulars – maybe the mailman delivered it late. But, this can of prunes was advertised at 79-cents, and the scan rang it at 89-cents.”
Manager: “I’m sorry. We always update every item price in the store Sunday morning to coincide with the circular distributed in the Sunday papers. The scanned price is accurate!”
I cheered for the manager in my mind, while peering at the ceiling to indicate I wasn’t involved.
Researcher: “The can’s dented!”
Manager (spying my three items tightly jammed behind the “place between orders” bar behind the 40-items the Researcher had unloaded from the cart and the end of the conveyor): “OK, we’ll sell t for 79-cents.”
The manager places a card in the scanner’s reader, types in some information, waits, and types in again.
Manager: “It’s been corrected.”
The manager walks away.
Researcher: “I thought . . .”
As the people behind me start pushing their carts to other lanes, I continue my observation without regard to what may be taxing my already overworked blood pressure.
Guide to Sharing Knowledge
Being an observer of nature, I spend a lot of time along trails in open lands. Trying to get in tune with my surroundings, I try to be non intrusive, carefully watching where my steps fall along trails to avoid cracking twigs or rustling leaves, scanning the area around me for movement, or contrast in an attempt to spot interesting life forms, and listening for changes in the wind rustling the leaves or animals calling.
In heavily wooded areas, the first evidence of the researcher comes as caws from birds high in trees in enclosed areas, first at a distance and if the research is approaching me, closer in. The acid test whether it’s coming is when I stop, and while I listen, the noise radiates in a sequence from left to right or worse from farther to nearer. In open areas, it shows itself by birds rising to the air, first at a distance and gradually nearer to me.
As the birds or rise closer to my location, I’ll hear first a deep drone, and later distinct human sounds. It’s more difficult to determine whether the research is taking place when the human sounds are intermittent, but is certain when they are at a constant cadence and echoing across the expanse.
By the time all the life around me has moved I make out the subject:
“Over there is a Tufted Plover Grouse,” says the researcher to his audience. It’s a dead giveaway when he’s wearing boots suited for an ascent of Everest, carrying a pack with 3-days of provisions on his back, and has binoculars suitable for spotting targets for naval warfare around his neck in a 200-acre nature preserve.
“But, a Tufted Plover Grouse is a Gulf Coast bird which has migrates there from the Amazon jungle,” responds one from the audience.
“Well, then it’s transient here in Maine. I’ll have to point that out when I find the ranger!”
Since I generally wear khaki, and have my own naval-quality binoculars around my neck, I’m sometimes mistaken for a park official.
Not wanting to intrude on the research, I’ll often look for a side trail or begin back tracking from the way I was approaching the encounter.
Although I’m most sensitive to it in natural areas, I often encounter evidence of this research in many venues. Engineering research is conducted in stores specializing in electronics, culinary research in specialty food stores, financial research near banking institutions, and a general studies research in the walkways of enclosed shopping malls.
An Art of Romance
This research is performed as couples, most often male female encounters among Generation X or Y or Z types. I’ve most often noted it in restaurants among more mature couples either on a date or out for a quiet dinner.
It’s most obvious in surroundings designed to emphasize intimacy, lights toned down, candles on the table, cleverly tented napkins at each place setting, and soft music in the background.
The researcher and his partner arrive together, and he often seats her with a flourish, maybe even holding her chair if the waiter doesn’t. Once the waiter has conducted the preliminaries, maybe unfurling the napkin and placing it in each diner’s lap, presenting the menus, explaining the selections, and taking a drink order, the research begins.
While the woman peruses the menu, the researcher will pull a cell phone from a hidden pocket and begin peering at the light. As she reads, he’ll punch furiously at the display, maybe using one thumb to dial a number or two to type a message.
I admire multi-tasking skills when the punching is done in the right hand while the menu is held in the left.
As the waiter approaches with the drinks, he’ll clap the phone shut, and toss it in a breast pocket.
Right after the drinks are served, and the waiter takes each diner’s order, the man’s pocket will buzz.
Researcher: “Yeah! (30-second pause)
“Well, why didn’t they deliver it on time? (2-minute pause)
“That’s not acceptable. (90-second pause)
“You call Jones and put him on it! (10-second pause)
“OK. (interminable pause)
“Hmmm (interminable pause)
“Uhuh (interminable pause)
“Oh!” (interminable pause)
“No! You tell Mike . . .”
The grunting and orders continues through the drink, past the salad, picked through with a fork in the left hand, and well into the main course, sampled in the same manner. After clapping the phone shut and returning it to his pocket, he then relates the other side of the conversation he just had to his partner.
About the time he finishes, the waiter arrives with a check, and the phone rings again.
Because the region in which I research is limited, and time available at a premium, I don’t believe these are the only topics the inquisitive reader should anticipate on the shelves at their favorite bookstore. But, because they occur most frequently, I’d expect these, or similar titles to be available sooner than later.