When people describe this place, it is mandatory to talk about the "creaky wooden floors" but truthfully they only look as though they will creak--what they actually manage best is attempted homicide. During the decade-plus that I worked at the Elliott Bay Book Company, those floors almost killed me more than once, when the thin heels of my pseudo-Jimmy Choos became caught in the wide cracks between the planks of flooring and almost brought me to my knees. Charming, yes--hazardous, beyond any doubt.
Since it is a Seattle bookstore, I may be the only fool whose cigarette heels became a hostage of the floor--this is the land of sensible shoes where comfort trumps style in a big way and Birkenstocks excite no sneers. I am not however the only person who has come away from the rough-hewn bookshelves with one or two splinters. This may be one of the only bookstores on the planet where a pair of tweezers has a permanent and prominent spot near the cash drawer, and booksellers are routinely asked if they have a band-aid by customers who sport minor flesh wounds from slivers of cedar.
It is a spot that booklovers hope to find when they die, if they are good in this life. Along with the murderous floors and the splinter-laden shelves are rooms and rooms and rooms filled with books--so many books that you can lose yourself among them for hours, finding old favorites amid stunning new surprises, many of them signed.
Nobody wears a name tag at Elliott Bay but it's easy to see who the booksellers are, even when they aren't weighted down with books to put on the shelves. They are the people who walk through the place as though it's their home, which, to a degree, it is.
As it is for all bibliophiles--this sprawling, often dusty, historic building that clings to the edge of the world, close enough to a finger of the Pacific Ocean that you can smell it as you browse through books, that will endure as long as there are people who love the printed word encased between two covers. It's Heaven, it's Mecca, it's the Elliott Bay Book Company--and it's waiting for you.