A couple of weeks ago, I attended a book signing for a guy I went to school with. I stumbled upon it by accident, whiling away the 50 minutes of my plan time, reading the local paper online. They had run a front-page article, with his picture, a week or two before. So I was pleasantly surprised to read in the calendar of upcoming events that he was signing his futuristic historical novel. It's about Civil War soldiers who pass through a cave that's a time warp, and come out in the future, where they assume the war is still going on.
This signing was in the public library, a building I used to work in when it was the unemployment office. The Pony and I parked T-Hoe in the lot, and proceeded to seek entrance. The first door had a sign that directed us to the front. So did the second door. We walked about 270 degrees (for all the math teachers) around that venue when we could have parked on the street right by the door. As I went by the main desk, I waved my copy of the paperback, which I had ordered from Amazon, unaware of this signing.
I saw my old classmate seated at a wooden table, talking to three people. Good. I wasn't the only one to show up. I moved closer, and waited a polite distance of three giant steps, or ten baby steps. Close enough so people could see that I was next, and far enough not to interrupt their interaction. It didn't take long to figure out that these three people were in the same family, and buying one copy of the book.
Let the record show that Val is not a snob. She worked in an insurance salvage store, by cracky! She doesn't put on airs. She wears Crocs! But I must share with you the absurdity of my signing experience.
This is Backroads. People here are not privy to the ways of book signings. In fact, they would snicker if anyone said the word privy out loud. It has another meaning here. These are my people. Good to the bone. Mostly honest, and hardworking. The country was build upon their backs. In fact, it put some of their backs on disability. But they are generous to a fault. Impressed with a local author. Just not all that well-versed in book-signing etiquette.
The three musketeers lingered. They saw this event more as a family reunion, with their adopted author. I won't go into detail on their appearance. Let's just say that if this post was all about them, I would have titled it "The Three People You Take Pictures of in Walmart." It was a mom, a dad, and an adult son. The kind you know lives in the basement and plays computer games all day. WAIT A MINUTE! THAT DESCRIBES MY SON! Except for the adult part.
Anyway, these three went on and on about old times. I gathered that they were once neighbors, or the son had been a student of the author at one time. They asked if Author was still teaching. Really? His picture wasn't in the yearbook. Not even under "Playing Hooky," or "Not Picutured." They acted like he was lying to them.
Author was trying to wrap it up. "I guess I should just sign this to 'The Walmart Family.' Or do you want someone's name in it?" They agreed, and the son proclaimed that HE was reading it first. Author nodded to me. "Where did you get THAT? I'm the only one that has paperbacks." He was surprised I got it from Amazon in three days. Apparently it's a print-on-demand book.
The Walmart Family was having none of that. They drew the attention back to themselves. "Come by and visit with us. If the silver van's not there, the red van should be there." I learned that they had not been able to find the library. That they had to ask the police for directions. And that Walmart Jr. had just had a tooth pulled, and had gone through two knee surgeries. In addition, the Walmart Family home had been struck by lightning, which destroyed their stove and refrigerator and several other major appliances.
I know they were there before I was. And had as much right to have a book signed as I did. Maybe more, because they bought it directly out of Author's cardboard box. But seriously. They were taking my rightful place as a former classmate of Author! I wanted some face time. Mother Teresa herself could have raised my ire if she was all peaceful and patient and stepped in front of me to have her book signed. Because who has the nerve to be dead and cut in line at a book signing? I don't care who you are.
After 20 minutes of standing, listening to the Walmart Family drone on about themselves, my attention started to wander. I noticed a woman furtively peeping out from the shelves in the area that long ago housed my unemployment office cubicle. She exuded the attitude of Kathy Bates just before hammering James Caan's legs to put him in Misery. I glanced at some paperback shelves. Kathy Bates kept popping up in various locations like Waldo. Finally she plopped down in an overstuffed faux-leather chair near The Pony, no doubt contemplating the best moment to bring in the sledgehammers in her trunk. I wondered if she'd been there before me, and had slunk off when exasperated by the Walmart Family. Oh, well. Too bad, so sad. I held the title to the prime piece of next-in-line real estate now. Which reminded me, I needed to step back over there.
Just in the nick of time, too. There was a new gal in town. Who might have been a body double for Lulu in To Sir, With Love, had she been born several decades earlier. I gave her the stink-eye and rushed back to my rightful on-deck spot. Unfortunately, she was either a close-non-talker, a stalker, or one who has no concept of personal space. Blondie was in my hip pocket. Heck, she could have been in my hip-replacement, so close was she. With each inhalation, I virtually committed assault.
The Walmart Family ran out of sad-sack tales, and bid their adieu. I was dying to sit down across the table from Author for a little tete-a-tete. But Blondie surged forward with me. I feared that she would ensconce herself on my lap (oh, who are we kidding, Val has no lap) so as to insinuate herself between me and author. Alas, our chat was brief. Turns out Author knows Hick! He lived next door to Hick's first girlfriend way back in high school, though Hick was a few years ahead of us both, and went to a different school.
Author complained that the Backroads internet rag had run his Local Author article a week AFTER a previous book signing. Now they were not on speaking terms, and were even chilly to his liaison. He did, however, write out his number on an index card in case we ever want to do business together. That's all he had time for, what with Blondie giving him meaningful looks, butting in, saying "Hi" while it was still my turn.
I felt sorry for Miserable Kathy Bates.