I woke up Saturday morning to the familiar post-Friday headache and the voices of two of my guy friends in the hallway, requesting that Erin and I drive them to Starbucks and wondering why I was still in bed (it was 9:30, they just need to do less). Never one to turn down over-priced coffee, I agreed.
I was debating how I wanted to spend my Saturday when I remembered that I had made a 1 o’clock appointment at the Apple Store in Birmingham to get my cracked phone screen fixed.
Since cracked phone screens rank right up there among incessant beeping and too-hot-to-eat pizza on my list of sh*t I can’t stand, I knew I couldn’t cancel, but wow…the headache. I had never regretted being reckless in the Phi Delt courtyard (twice) more than I did in that moment.
After making the hour drive and waiting 25 minutes for a self-proclaimed “Genius” to sign me in for my appointment, I explained my idiot college girl predicament and the bespectacled guy took my phone (and $140, ouch).
“It’s going to be about an hour and a half,” he explained, as he pried my lifeline out of my hand. It wasn’t until now that I realized I would actually have to surrender my phone and wander around The Summit, alone, phoneless, and now $140 poorer for the next two hours. Basically, my personal hell.
I wandered out of Apple feeling a little naked without my piece of crap iPhone 5C and scanned my options: Bath & Body Works, Home Restoration, Victoria’s Secret and North Face. Oh, God, I thought to myself, What did I ever do to deserve this cruel fate?
I nervously picked through discount panties at Victoria’s Secret, periodically reaching up to my frocket to check my… Nothing. I swear, I was almost starting to itch. I asked someone what time it was, thinking I had been in there for at least half an hour.
Seven minutes had passed.
Feeling suddenly claustrophobic in the pink polka-dotted walls of Victoria’s Secret, I ventured onward and turned the corner past Brooks Brothers. Just as I was beginning to wonder how people entertained themselves pre-2008 iPhone announcement, I looked up and faced the answer to my nerdy, restless prayers. A Barnes and Noble. Oh, thank God, I muttered, practically skipping to the entrance.
Knowing I could easily blow two hours in a bookstore, I felt a wave of calm relief wash over me. I’m going to be okay, I thought. (Have I mentioned I’m really dramatic?)
Saying a silent prayer to the literature gods as I was welcomed by the always comforting “books and smart people” smell, I quickly scanned the layout. I walked to the café section, bought my second Starbucks drink of the day, and then aimlessly wandered over to the nearest stand of “Must Reads.”
I saw the distinct blue-and-yellow The Fault in Our Stars cover and almost rolled my eyes, until I noticed what was sitting right next to it: the most underrated John Green novel in the history of teen fiction, Looking for Alaska. I instinctively reached out and picked it up; a fancy, 10th anniversary edition of one of my favorite books. I turned it over in my hands, opened it, and read the first page.
Hooked, all over again.
For those of you who haven’t been blessed enough to encounter this novel previously, first, minimize this window, open up amazon.com, and purchase a copy right now. It’s set at a fictional boarding school in Alabama 15 miles south of Birmingham, and the kid bitches about Mountain Brook. It’s hilarious.
I settled in for the next hour and a half to reread my favorite novel, having moments of honest emotion sitting in their pseudo-Starbucks. I swear I started tearing up at one point, but I think that was just the hangover leaving my body.
The story is told from the perspective of this 16-year-old boy with a pretty subpar social status who basically falls face-first for this incredible girl whilst at boarding school. Her name is Alaska, and she is #goals.
She’s super hot, intelligent, hilarious and beyond interesting. I don’t want to ruin anything for you since I know you’ve taken my advice and already ordered it, but she rocks. She’s super energetic and full of life. She’s exactly the type of person that I want to be, minus the chain-smoking and mood swings (but hey, nobody’s perfect).
I finally looked up at the clock after I was about 75 pages in, and an hour had passed. But plot twist, I was actually sad that I was about to leave. I read for about 15 more minutes, and then resignedly shuffled back over to the table I picked it up from.
I carefully placed it on top of its stack, and then stared at it for a few minutes. Who am I kidding, I need this, I decided. Since I’m a delightful mix of intellect and fiscal irresponsibility, I handed over $22 for the hardback, fancier edition (because paperback is for peasants), and headed to Apple.
My mood entering the store was so drastically different than when I had left it a few hours earlier. A hipster wearing gray cutoff jorts named Chadwick signed me in and after a few minutes someone came out bearing a slightly less sh*tty iPhone 5C.
Back when I was in high school, I had this really great English teacher. She had a sign on her desk that read BOOKS TEACH US HOW TO LIVE. I found myself thinking about that quote as I walked back to my car, white-knuckling my now-unshattered iPhone in one hand and carrying Looking for Alaska in the other. It never really fully resonated with me until right then.
It’s so easy to lose yourself in the plans, pitfalls and drama that punctuate daily life. I feel like if you’re in college, you’re consistently trying to discover and rediscover who you are, who you want to be, and just how much work it’s going to take to get from the former to the latter.
I won’t even delve into the hilarious irony of my lack of iPhone driving the John Green-induced spiritual cleansing, but I guess now I’m a little thankful that I ended up at The Summit today. I guess sometimes the stars align (John Green pun) and we get what we need most.
Thanks for reading. Have a good weekend!
The fine print: