Oh, you think the ones in the mall are bad? Let me tell ya -- you ain't never seen a bookstore as bad as the one in Liberal, Kansas.

Here's the story: Several years ago, I lived in Liberal (an experience I don't recommend to anyone), and being a literate, book-lovin' type o' guy, I sought out places in town where I could buy books, magazines, and comic books. Well, there was Second Street Bookstore. They had a decent selection of magazines, a small collection of books, a very large (and mostly ooky) collection of pornography, and decent supply of comics. Not that bad, considering the size of the town.

Well, the place was dirty and infested with cockroaches. The owners were sullen, and they had a large sign posted on the back wall telling you all the things you were not allowed to do. Not perfect, but I'd seen worse. I'd drop by every few weeks to feed my comics jones.

When I finally got ready to move to another town, I dropped by one more time to get a final dose of comics. There weren't many good comics out that week, and nothing really jumped out at me. I flipped through a couple of books, but decided I didn't really want to buy them. On my way out the door, I wave good-bye, and the owner says, "Don't come back."

Thinking I'd mis-heard him, I said, "Excuse me?" He replied, "You read that comic without buying it. Don't ever come back."

Of course, I wasn't coming back anyway, so I smiled very happily and said, "Okay!"

Oh, not convinced yet? I later heard from someone else who visited that store once. He had found a number of books he wanted and was strolling through the stacks carrying an armload of books when the owner came up to him and said, "You've been here too long. You need to check out now or leave." My friend decided he didn't want to give the guy any money, so he left.

And yeah, last time I checked, the store was still in business. There's a lesson somewhere in there about capitalism...

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