It’s one of the great trials of a reader’s life: the fact that whenever you settle down with a good book, it seems like someone needs you or has a question or—of all things—decides it’s the perfect moment to chat with you. As someone who’s dealt with this particular problem many times, I have several suggestions for how to have an interruption-free reading time.
One: Wear a disguise. This is particularly useful if you’re trying to remain undisturbed by family members. They might wonder why there’s a random person with a wig, sunglasses, and plastic hillbilly teeth in their living room, but hopefully they’ll be too afraid to ask questions.
Two: Put up a warning sign of some sort. Feel free to include actual consequences, and don’t forget to follow through if people disregard it. After all, you can’t risk your reputation by making empty threats. Besides, if they ignore your warning sign today, they might start ignoring One-Way street signs and Toxic Waste alerts next, and it’s all downhill from there. You’re doing them a favor.
Three: Hide. There are different levels to this skill depending on how engaging the book is and how desperate you are to find a truly secure location to finish it.
- Beginner: You can still be found if needed, but you’re in an out-of-the-way location. This level includes reading in the laundry room, behind a tree in the backyard, or in the bathroom.
- Intermediate: At this level, you really don’t want to be discovered, though you might keep your cell phone with you in case you need to be contacted for an emergency. This is the flashlight-in-the-basement-storage-room stage. It can also include fleeing to an off-site location, like the local library or a coffeeshop. Or, even more cleverly, the grocery store so you can pretend like you’re running errands at the same time.
- Expert: That bomb shelter your paranoid neighbors built during the Y2K scare? You’re there. No wi-fi. No cell service. Just you, your book, and a ten-month supply of canned goods and dry Ramen. (Maybe you should’ve brought multiple books with you….)
Four: Acquire a set of Legos. Then place the little plastic land mines at strategic intervals around the room, working inward until you reach the couch or chair where you will be reading. Post a “Enter at your own risk” sign if you’re feeling generous. Just see if anyone tries to disturb you now! (Note: this only works if your family members typically take off their shoes while inside the house.)
Five: Wear these printed sunglasses while reading. Your eyes can be looking down at the page, but everyone else will think you’re staring right at them, and who wants to deal with that?
Six: Develop a focused death-glare to use whenever you’ve been interrupted from your book. Much like how you approach hiding, you should have different levels to this skill depending on how engaged you are in the book.
- Beginner: When you’re just starting out on a light, fun-but-not-page-turning read, a mild raise of the eyebrows and annoyed sigh should do the trick.
- Intermediate: When you’re halfway through a really good book, it’s time to bring out the flat stare of disbelief that communicates “This had better be really important.” Undertones of threat are acceptable at this point.
- Expert: If someone dares to interrupt you when you’re at the nail-biting climax of one of the best books you’ve read all year, go all out with a glare that would turn into laser beams if you had superpowers. (Watch seasoned elementary school teachers dealing with classroom nonsense if you need an example to imitate.) Just see if anyone tries to disturb you after that!
Seven: Pretend you’re doing something else. “Dusting” is a likely excuse for this one (you can keep a book propped open while running a cloth aimlessly over whatever happens to be in front of you). “Cooking dinner” is also fabulous, particularly when dinner is in the Crockpot and you’re just reading in the kitchen. Be sure to announce to your family that anyone who enters the kitchen has volunteered to help you with the dishes. That ought to keep them away long enough for you to get a few chapters in.
Eight: Make a fake book cover. If you’re planning to read in a public place, like an airport, your child’s swim lessons, or the dentist’s office, print out a false title that will scare away anyone who might otherwise want to make small talk with you. I suggest titles like, “How to Be a Sociopath” or “The Complete Etymology and Classification of Tree Fungus.”
Those are my best tips. Any other ideas to add, readers?