To start off with, Hastings is a store. Some of you may have them in your neck of the country, but far more of you have probably never heard of them. Even if you have one though, you do not have my Hastings, the one on 50th and Slide in Lubbock Texas that made me fall in love with it during college, and turned me into a Hastings shopper for life. That love story began in earnest on a fitting day: February 14th, Valentine’s Day of my freshman year of college.
Now Hastings always had my eye, for it was a wonderful store. Free coffee, comfy chairs, the sort of place where bookish young man (with movie star good looks) could while away the hours engrossed in fantasy. It was convenient, stocked full of various books and electronics that served to entertain, and cheap. Yes, Hastings already had a hook in me during the first semester, it merely bode its time until reeling me in.
As to that particular Valentine’s Day, I fear I must make a confession to you folks. You see, I was not always the paragon of amiable charm who courts you with words in these weekly sessions. Once upon a time, I was actually quite shy. The shock of moving ten hours from home (and everyone I knew) reduced my usual bubbling stream of outgoing confidence to a mere trickle. I was fortunate, in that by the time February rolled around I had discovered a wonderful group of friends, but less fortunate in how that day played out.
Each and every one of my friends either made dates or, in a larger amount of cases, planned to go off on a ski-trip to skirt the holiday entirely. Wise as that method was, I lacked the disposable income to go gallivanting off in such a way. So it resulted that on February 14th of my freshman year of college I was not only dateless, but friendless, and entirely alone on what was intended to be a day of romance.
I tried to keep to myself that day, staying in the dorm and catching up on some television and reading. Still, as the day wore on I felt even more disconnected, as though the absence of people was hammering in the sense of loneliness that permeated my abode. Setting my resolve, I threw on some outerwear appropriate clothing and forced myself into the metropolis that was Lubbock.
After a few minutes of aimless driving, I found myself at the Hastings. It was no surprise, as I said before Hastings was a place where people could easily fritter the day away. Upon entry I found it much as I expected: largely empty. With an inward sigh I set off down the aisles, heading toward my solace, safe place, and port in all times of peril: the book section.
As I loped down the empty aisles, a sign captured my attention, predominantly because of the squat dwarf drawn on it. I walked over and read the words under the Dwarf’s heels, an smile coming unbidden to my face.
Valentine’s Day Special:
All Dungeons and Dragons Books 30% Off!
There it was, a breath of comradery in a desolate day of loneliness. These people had known, had realized, that their more adamant D&D playing patrons would perhaps be alone on Valentine’s Day. So what had they offered? A respite. A distraction. A way to pass the hours that resulted in joy, not self-loathing. Hastings had looked us in the eye and said they cared about us, then put a thirty percent discount in place to prove it.
I bought an Epic Level Handbook that day, and left the store with visions of high level encounters dancing in my head. That store is gone now, moved across town and never truly the same, but it lives on in my heart as the champion that saved my first Valentine’s Day at college.