Selling Books Can Be a Dirty Job


Greetings, all.

Those of you who’ve been following me for a while know that I do quite a bit of writing, whether it’s for political columns, entertainment pieces, or the next Sean Coleman thriller. Between my writing and my other projects, I don’t have a lot of time to blog for my website. But I’m going to make an exception today to share a story from last weekend.

It’s not an inspiring story, or anything like that. It actually falls more along the lines of embarrassing and disturbing. I’ve decided to tell it purely in the interest of your entertainment. So here it goes…

Last Sunday was the first stop on my Safeguard book tour. It was at the Windsor Harvest Festival in Windsor, Colorado. This is a very well-attended annual event (only 15 minutes from my house) that features a hot-air balloon launch, concerts, a big parade, and a carnival in a large park where individuals and businesses can rent booths from which to sell their products and services.  

Every two years, I participate in the event to sell and sign early copies of my latest book (along with the rest of my books). I’ve been doing this since 2013, when From a Dead Sleep came out. It usually goes very well, and I have a lot of fun doing it. It’s become sort of a local tradition, in fact, to give Windsor readers first crack at the newest Sean Coleman thriller.

Anyway, Sunday was a good day. I met a lot of people and set a new record for book sales. Yay! But it was also an absolute scorcher outside — the temperature reaching 100 degrees. My awning provided some good shade, but it was still darned hot. I gave up a lot of sweat, folks. And since the event goes from 9am to 5pm, it was a very long day.

Around 4pm, once the crowd had pretty well thinned out, I began taking down my awning and putting my unsold books and booth items back in boxes. I was nearly finished with everything when nature called.

There were a couple of porta-potties pretty close by, but since I was alone, I didn’t think that leaving my plastic money box beside my dismantled booth would be a good idea. The box had a lot of cash in it, and the lid wasn’t even staying on quite right, so I shoved the box in my backpack, and zipped it up.

It wasn’t such an easy thing to do. My backpack is old and has a lot of problems, including one of its two main zippers being broken. I’ve only kept the thing around because it’s a good size and I like how it looks. Anyway, once it was zipped up, I pulled the pack over my shoulders and walked over to the porta-potty.

Now, I doubt you’ll want to hear every detail of this next part, so I’ll leave out some of the unnecessary stuff. I will say that, as most of you assuredly already know, porta-potties tend to feel about 50 degrees warmer inside than what the temperature is outside. And since it was still around a 100 outside, you can imagine how crazy hot I was the moment I stepped foot through the door. I will also say that this particular porta-potty had a toilet on the right side and a urinal on the left. I required only the latter.

So, while I was conducting business, and another bucket of sweat was pouring down my face, I suddenly heard a loud crash from somewhere behind me. Being that the lavatory was on the shoulder of a street, I worried for about half a second that a car had slammed into its side wall. Unfortunately, that would have been the preferable explanation.

When I turned my head, I gasped in terror at the sight of my cash box and some other stuff that had been in my backpack, dropping through the open toilet and into the murky depths below. The zipper on my backpack had slid open, and nearly everything had fallen out of it — some onto the floor, but the most important stuff right into the toilet.

“F***!” I yelled, quickly wondering if anyone within earshot thought I was having some type of medical issue. (If they did, they didn’t bother to check on me).

To add to the horror, I couldn’t immediately attend to the situation because I was still dealing with a more organic plumbing issue. Once that was resolved, I yanked up the one zipper in the vicinity that was actually functioning properly (while careful not to reenact a scene from There’s Something About Mary). I then glared at the abominable scene of my open money box (lid floating nearby), hundreds of dollars in cash, and my new Square credit card reader resting on a large wad of toilet paper that was floating above blue water and…other things.

Again, I will leave out the non-crucial details. Let’s just say that a porta-potty used by hundreds (maybe thousands) of people that day, who had eaten carnival food, wasn’t a place I wanted to spend a lot of time in, let alone having to deal with the reality that if I didn’t get much more intimate with the situation — and quickly — I was going to lose a day’s worth of hard-earned money.   

Make no mistake about it… Time was of the essence. Everything that had just gone in could sink like the Titanic at any moment, at which point the situation would become immeasurably worse. There was no time to look for gloves, plastic bags, or any other kind of sifting tools that could soften the blow.

Taking the advice of Dr. Jack Shepard from the television show, Lost, I allowed the fear to only take hold for 5 seconds. I then sprang into action, lowering to a knee and moving quickly and deliberately with my hands like a surgeon, separating the things I wanted from the things I didn’t. I ignored the smells and colors, and I salvaged everything but a handful of bookmarks that I decided to leave behind for the polyurethane gods.

I then stood back up, squared my jaw, and quickly slathered on some blistering hot hand-sanitizer from the dispenser next to me.

Though I don’t really remember actually exiting the porta-potty, I imagine it probably looked something like this from The Descent:

Minutes later, I had packed up everything and was driving home. That’s when my writer’s instinct kicked in, and I began considering whether what had just happened was some kind of metaphor. Did it mean my writing career was going to end up in the toilet? Did it mean my new book stinks?

Or was I just meant to finally return to my blog, to share this delightfully cringe-worthy story with the rest of you (and maybe compel you to think twice before shaking my hand if we ever meet)?

Hard to say…

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8 comments on “Selling Books Can Be a Dirty Job

  1. I have stories selling software but I think you just put to shame any of mine. I’m just curious where you spent those bills.

  2. Damn you, John! I just laughed so hard, guess where I had to run??
    You know it’s reminiscent of a chapter in Not 16 where my date emerged from the men’s room holding a handful of coins! Maybe it’s a genetic thing with you guys. 😉 Thanks for sharing!

  3. Sounds like a metaphor about the perilous pursuit of filthy lucre, by someone not afraid to get his hands dirty. I’d shake you hand anytime!

  4. Ok – so I was one of the sweaty people who had the pleasure of meeting you – probably about 30 minutes prior to this incident. You kindly gave me advice as a fellow budding author and now I know the behind the scenes! Holy crap you’re the real deal John Daly !!

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