I have a tendency to believe that if I’m intrigued, interested, or inspired by a person, and want them to be my friend, s/he will feel the same. I can count on one hand the number of times that has worked out.
I can count on two hands the times it hasn’t.
Those instances have been massively embarrassing and emotionally discouraging, however, as with most situations in my life, the worst stories end up being ones that make my friends double over in laughter. Then again, most of my friends are kind and prefer to learn from my mistakes.
This past September, Peter and I heard David Sedaris,the prolific American humorist, speak at the Paramount in Rutland, Vt.
I wrote him a fan letter in March of 2020, one of the 1500 or so he gets a month. I was inspired to write because I felt he wrote like me, and I told him so. I was intrigued that he never had to establish a social platform in order to get published and interested to know if he thought that was still possible in this day and age.
It’s not too difficult to read between the lines. Dear David, I know everyone wants to be your friend, but we have so much in common as you will see in my blog. You may even wish to save me from jumping through hoops and find me a publisher.
Six months later I received a postcard from him. He had read one of my blogs and wrote, “I think a beginner chainsaw class for women is a great idea. After 15 years someone just asked me to write a book so I don’t have much advice.”
To be clear, that blog entry wasn’t one of my best. In fact, there wasn’t much funny about it except for a photo with me in my PJ’s making a smoothie wearing a hard hat and ear protection. That’s only funny if you know it was the only time I donned any of the safety equipment, much less looked at my chainsaw, since the class ended a year ago.
The evening in September was going to be my chance to show him, or remind him, who I really was, a smart, talented, pleasant, witty, and likeable person. Someone he would be honored to call his friend and protege.
I’d been carrying his postcard with me for almost a year, but due to my constant switching of pocketbooks, I couldn’t find it that night. I pretended not to be distraught as I planned my outfit.
What was I going to do anyway? Wave it in front of his face as he signed a copy of his book screaming ‘YOU WROTE ME!’”
I’m much too cool for that.
Because I couldn’t find the postcard, and I couldn’t bring him my book, Virtuous Sinner (of course I sent him a copy a few months back) I needed something to make an impression.
So I penned a list of “Five Interesting Coincidental Similarities Between David Sedaris and Alexandra Langstaff” and put it on a piece of matting board suitable for framing.
There were about 20 people in line ahead of me after the show waiting for David to leave the stage and get set up at a table, with a protective plastic barrier with his pens and markers.
The oversized card was a good idea because I used it as a fan. (Note to self, scarves should only be worn outdoors in blizzards, not as the perfect accessory to tie an outfit together in a crowded theater lobby.)
The people in front were all couples. I was alone because Peter was leaning against a wall pretending to be part of security in his black fedora and tweed jacket.
That was just as well because I had no ability to speak. My legs had gone to jelly and my heart was beating so that I could not only feel it, but I could hear it, sending the blood coursing through my carotid artery. I was slightly worried that I would explode.
As the line shortened, one of the real security guards brought David two plates. Obviously the man needs to have choices of what to eat.
How humiliating for the people in front of me, I thought, I’m so glad I’m back here. Is he going to talk with his mouth full or focus on his food rather than his fans? I hope he’s a fast eater.
As I grew closer and Peter continued to act like the Secret Service, my brain, obviously unappreciated, left the building and went back to the car in the Walmart parking lot, where we had sushi before the show. It was evident that my wits had left me as my turn came. Up to the table I walked with a slight limp, my legs had gone numb, and the first thing I did was to point to one of his plates and say, “That looks horrible.”
Needless to say, he was slightly taken aback as was Peter, who had left his post to accompany me, unaware that I was about to implode.
“We’re so sorry to interrupt your meal” Peter apologized.
Wait, this is a book signing, we aren’t asking for a selfie at a diner for god’s sake, I thought wildly.
“Uh, do you accept gifts?” I whispered.
“Sure, what is it?” he asked while taking a small forkful of something that looked delicious. Some jokes fall flat.
“It’s a list of five interesting coincidental similarities between David Sedaris and Alexandra Langstaff.”
Notice I didn’t say between “you and me” but used our full names as if being formal was a sign of reverence and respect.
“Uh, it’s sterilized”, I added as I passed it under the barrier.
“What do you mean?” he questioned.
“Uh…I mean it’s sanitary, no cooties or anything.” I mumbled.
What if he asked me to prove it?
“Read me some of it”, he asked while drawing falling leaves next to his signature.
“Uh, David Sedaris once saw a dead wallaby on the side of the road. Alexandra Langstaff once saw a dead kangaroo on the side of the road, holding a can of Foster’s.”
How to ruin someone’s appetite and put a damper on the conversation.
It was clear that I was untethered, so Peter said, “You sent her a postcard!”
Rather than be grateful for his interjection, I wanted to elbow him in the ribs. This was like going up to a famous author in a grocery store and gushing, “We’ve read all your books”. How crass, how gauche, how… helpful.
Peter broke the ice. We had a conversation starter.
“If I wrote to you, you must have written to me. What did your letter say?” David asked beaming.
Because my brain, in defeat, had gone back to the car earlier, I drew a blank.
Think! Think! Say something original and clever.
“Uh, I asked you about the publishing business.”
Time is running out. Why is my head so empty?
“Uh, the picture on the postcard you sent me was of Mr. Smith’s runaway horse and my maiden name is Smith!”, I jabbered.
I felt a wave of relief. Maybe my mind was returning. Maybe I just needed to warm up.
“Well thank you for coming, I love meeting people I’ve written back to,” David said as he slid my book towards me.
“And thank you so much for your words”, I blurted rapidly as the Secret Service agent, Peter, escorted me away from the table. “You read my blog and agreed that a chainsaw class for beginners was a good idea” I announced over my shoulder.
I know the 30 people still in line were glad to see me go.
On the 45 minute drive home, I replayed the embarrassing and discouraging experience over and over. So much for being at home in the world. What happened to the confident, sparkling, easy to speak with, refreshing burst of energy person that anyone in their right mind would want to exchange phone numbers with?
I was pretty sure that Peter was to blame for me making a fool out of myself in front of an author I was interested in, intrigued and inspired by.
Poor guy, it’s taken me weeks to get over it.
Namaste: want to read the 3 other similarities ? Send a message my way.