Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Trafficking in Turtles

From time to time I drive past this store that makes me curious, hopeful, confused, and amused all at once.

It’s a turtle vendor.


It’s a store that primarily sells turtles. Indeed I am talking about those shelled beasties that you occasionally swerve to avoid running over. Or possibly you don’t, in which case you probably wondered what that thump you heard under the back tire was before you shrugged and kept going.

I like turtles. What’s not to like about turtles? That's not the point. The point is: how does such a place possibly stay in business? Can you really earn enough money each year selling turtles to make ends meet? Really?

Actually, what do I know? Maybe I’m just putting my ignorance on display right now. Maybe you can make a good living selling turtles.

But I don’t think so.

Not unless there are costly turtle accessories I’m unaware of. Turtle lotions or turtle vitamins. Something like that. Stuff that makes your beleaguered turtle clients think, I’d never have bought this freaking turtle if I’d known how expensive they were to maintain. Maybe turtles are money pits, which is bad for people who buy them but good for people who sell them.

I mean, it’s astonishing. The very notion of taking out a small business loan to open a turtle shop --  it’s so gutsy, so wrong-headed, so funny. Didn't anyone vet this business plan? Try to talk the guy out of it? Just think about the level of interest you have in turtles and then survey a few people you know and ask them how they feel about turtles. I’ll bet they say, "Turtles? Um, I guess turtles are fine. I never really thought about it before.”

Now ask them how much money they spend annually on turtles and turtle-related products.

Exactly. None. None amount of money. Their turtle budget line for FY 2011 reads zero dollars and zero cents.

Some people are extremely passionate about turtles – so much so that they establish a business trafficking in them – perhaps without taking into account that the vast majority of people are indifferent verging on uninterested in turtles. And even those people who are farther along on the turtle-o-phile spectrum probably wouldn’t shell out (pardon the pun) much cash to buy or support one.

I wonder if certain novels are like turtles for sale. I know that I definitely categorize the books I want to buy and own vs. the books I can wait to read and will probably check out of the library. Same is true for movies. Sometimes you see a movie trailer and think, “That’s definitely a rental.” Then there are those movies you will pay any sum to see, and you'll go to the midnight showing dressed as one of the characters, all the while squealing and tweeting “ohmygodohmygodicannotpossiblywaitonemoresecond !!!!!!!!! *faints of acute squee intoxication*” 

What I'm saying is that turtles -- they're always a rental. At best. At least for 98 percent of America they are.

Not to overwork this turtle thing too much, but some of us (ie., me) are inevitably going to be turtle vendors -- hopeful souls, passionate about our novels, who fling open the doors of our brand-new turtle paraphernalia shop only to be met with very, very few paying customers.

Which is why I find the turtle store simultaneously perplexing and inspiring. Of course, the turtle shop has been there for a while now so they must be staying afloat. I should be so lucky to eke out a living selling my turtles, er, I mean novels. 

So there it is. Perhaps I've gotten a glimpse of my future in that turtle shop. 

Godspeed, turtle vendor dude.