Except for when I was twelve and my bedroom was wallpapered with New Kids On The Block pictures, I’ve never been a star-struck sort of person. I’ve never liked the idea of putting someone on a pedestal. I might have an admiration of people rather than an obsession about them. I tend to think of myself as one who thoroughly appreciates the talents of others, but I wouldn’t go so far as to consider them superhuman. I guess it’s admirable that, when compared to rest of us, they’ve accomplished a lot more.
It even feels a little creepy even calling myself a fan, because a fan tends to worship another person and swear that they can do no wrong. No matter how I much I cringed knowing that I looked like just another "fan", here I stood with the rest them. I was waiting to have my book signed in a very long line full of his obsessed number one fans who thought the entire world of him.
I’d read every book David Sedaris had written, and a couple of them more than once. But I’d like to think of myself as a connoisseur of his works and not one of his "number one fans!!!!" "Well, good news!" a smirking theatre usher said, "I think I saw someone up there that looked
like him!" He rushed by the line and appeared to be on his way to some other duty. He was ribbing us, of course. He thought we were a bunch of morons, I could tell. We were so far back in the line, we couldn’t even see the front. Our position was pathetic enough as it stood. "Ya know, I think if you aren’t even in the line
, you shouldn’t mock the people at the very end of it
," the girl behind us said. She had a good point, I mean, didn’t we already feel like big enough assholes spending our Saturday night standing in a long line?
I wouldn’t have anything to say when I got up there. Even if I managed to scrounge up a little something, it’d probably sound stupid. I think I know myself well enough to be sure of that. I began to think that maybe if I was lucky, they’d cut off the line and say that "Mr. Sedaris simply cannot sign anymore books. He’s really had enough now, people. Please, go home." I thought that if at least that happened, I wouldn’t have to endure weeks of beating myself up for tripping when I walked up to him, or even worse; attempting to say something witty, only to end up sounding mildly retarded.
I mean, what are you supposed to say? Do I have
to ask a question? Sure, I had a few, I guess, but I didn’t want to be the loser who asked the most frequently asked question that had ever been asked. Anyone who’s in the line should probably quite enough about him just from reading any one of his essays. Was I supposed to remark about his reading? "Oh, yes, you read very well this evening. So did you practice reading the night before, or was that all done off the cuff?"
I’m sure there’s nothing I could have said that he hadn’t heard already.
The only small comfort I took was that there was probably some schmuck up ahead who would be the guy that pitches story ideas to him. At least most of us know better than to do that. That’s the guy who honestly believes he’s such a genius that a best-selling author will look up from autographing a book and pause thoughtfully feeling his pockets for a notepad, "What a minute, say that again...Oh this will be great for my next book!" Was I supposed to remark on how I was a little bit of a writer myself? Oh yeah, that’s rich. And then what’s he supposed to say? "Oh, really? Um, good for you. I mean, aren’t we all
writers when you really think about it? Putting together a grocery list is writing. You are
writing it down. Oh get away from me, already." And I would fully respect him for it, too, because that would be a real idiotic thing to say. I resolved to say nothing. Nothing at all.
The longer we waited in line, the more painful it was. Painful, not just because on this unseasonably cold day it turned out to be ninety degrees inside the theatre and everybody was complaining they were so thirsty. It wasn’t painful because I hadn’t worn the most supportive shoes. And it also wasn’t because I was forced to look at the Akron Civic Theatre’s terribly over the top decor.
It was a cross between an old English castle or one of those Medieval-themed restaurants. It also had hints of Roman sort of place because it had all those Caesar sculptures, and the Disney’s mockup of Mexico in EPCOT Center. They couldn’t have used more colors of paint if they’d wanted to. There were orange faux finish stucco for walls, teal crown molding, and bejewelled light fixtures. The carpet matched, being that it wasn’t short on pizzaz either. It was a parrot pattern. Each parrot had a swirling feathered tail that went around in loopy curly-q’s. It reminded me of the type of carpet you’d find in a Vegas casino, flashy with wild designs. You’d never find a stain in all that confusion.
These were all pains I could take. It was the awful doom of the impending awkward situation I found the hardest to withstand.
Meeting David Sedaris is something I have always thought I wanted to do, but all along I knew that this wasn’t the way I wanted it to go down.
I never wanted to be the lowly blubbering fan who sheepishly asks for an autograph. To be clear, I never looked down on anyone who asks for an autograph, it’s just not something I never really pictured doing myself. It’s not me.
I was fourteen when we went to the Penn Pilot in New Haven, Connecticut. During one of the breaks between tennis matches, the up and coming Jensen Twins sat on the bleachers a couple rows from us. My father handed me a slip of paper and pen and told me to "go on and get their autograph!" "I’m not going over there," I said looking at the players. "Oh come on, Deb! It’ll be neat!" Mom chimed. Neat for who?
I thought. I couldn’t care less about those guys. "You want it so bad, go get it yourself," I said. . My parents play tennis. My parents watch "Breakfast at Wimbledon" every year in it’s entirety. They’ve been watching it for as long as NBC has broadcasted it. My father was disappointed in me. To him, I was turning down the opportunity of a lifetime, as if the sheer act of going up to these people and getting an autograph was going to open doors for me.
We were halfway to the front of the line. At this point I figured that he was going to sign a book for everyone. As admirable as that seemed, it made me even more nervous. I was going to have to face him, now. I still couldn’t think of anything to say. By the time I reached the front, I’d had over two hours to consider what I could say. I drew a blank. But watching the people that had gone ahead of us, it was easy to see I was the only person who would have nothing to say. I was going to be the weird mute fan. Oh, great
, I thought, Do you want to be remembered by this guy because you said something stupid or because you were the one who said nothing?
The truth was I didn’t want to be remembered at all. We were fourth from the last people in line. The last person in line would surely remain the freshest memory, that is until the next book-signing gig, of course. I still had nothing. So I was going to say nothing. That was it.
I had also noticed people having him sign all sorts of things, like every book that had of his plus other copies that belonged to friends of theirs. How annoying are those people? Then one couple had him sign a few of their business cards. That was definetely more creative than having him sign a bra, I suppose. I tried to picture this guy at business lunch with a potential client. "Yes, Mrs. Harris, it’s been a pleasure. I would love to assist you in drawing up a living will. But before we go, let me give my card....I beg your pardon?....Oh, my, I forgot all about that! Did I give you one of my specially autographed cards? Silly me."
The people in front of us went up for their turn. Five books. Five books, they had for him to sign. John thought this was getting ridiculous. I agreed. Really, now, was that necessary? But somewhere between the back of the line and the front, I’d thought that maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to ask him to sign my notepad. I carry it around with me in case an idea strikes me in the car, the grocery store, or even in line for getting a book signed. What’s the harm in asking for that? It was just one book and a notepad. That’s not too much to ask for, right?
While we waited for the people in front of us to have their entire library collection signed, we talked to the usher who was manning the front of the line. We learned he was from Connecticut. We also learned that if you stood on one foot at a time your feet wouldn’t tire so quickly when standing for hours on end. I had wished he’d been in charge of the back of the line so he could have shared this information with us much earlier.
The usher had stopped himself from saying anymore and gave us a wave of introduction to the man of the hour. It was our turn. Shit
, it was actually our turn. I hadn’t considered that we’d ever be finished waiting.
I held out my notepad and copy of Naked
. "Hi," we said to one another. "Just two things," I was trying to communicate that he only had to sign two things instead of four or five or a pack of business cards, but I don’t know if it really came across that way. He asked who to make it out to and I answered "Debbie....IE!" another attempt at speaking. I was trying to explain that my name ended with an "ie" and not some of the alternatives other Debbies of the world use. "I mean, ie
, you know, D-e-b-b-i-e
. No ‘Y’. Please, not a ‘Y’" I tried to explain myself. "So that’s the classy ‘Debbie’, right?" he asked. "Yeah, I mean the ‘Debby’ with a ‘Y’ is sort of, like, whitetrashy," I said. "And when it ends with just an ‘i’, that’s sort of like a slut, don’t you think?" he asked. I did. I thought so exactly. How gracious of him to save me from making a complete fool of myself. When he’d finished a cartoon drawing of TNT and writing "To Debbie: You’re dynomite" on the inside of the book, he handed it back to me. "And I was wondering if maybe you could sign my little idea book?" I said handed the notepad to him with a trembling hand. Did I just say "idea book"? I don’t even know what that is. He thought for a second and asked, "Do you have plans tomorrow?" "No, just sleeping in and John’s going to church, you know, being it’s Palm Sunday," I said giving out way too much information. And then he said, "I’m going to make you a To Do List." He jotted down three things. I was too embarrassed to try and read what he was writing. I felt like I was in grade school and had to see the really cute teacher after class that I’d had a longstanding crush on. I did have some kind of crush on him. But not in the traditional sense. It was like I had a crush on his talent. He asked where we were from and I told him, "Solon, Ohio. Not far from Gates Mills." I was referring to a story he’d written about his rich aunt who’d lived and died there leaving an inheritance to his mother. "Ah, I had an aunt who lived there once," he said, trying to humor me. God, I was such an idiot. I couldn’t leave well enough alone, now could I? I wanted to go back to my original plan of saying nothing. It would have worked too, if he hadn’t been asking me so many questions. It was so unexpected. "Thanks a lot," I said and then I stuck out my hand which he didn’t notice at first, but then did, and shook it. "It was nice meeting you," I said. John was already halfway out the door. I was hoping he could have at least held my stuff so I could put on my coat if he hadn’t been such a goddamned hurry.
Feeling like the biggest dork, I sat in the car and went over that two minute meeting the whole way home. I would go back and replay the entire scene in slow motion and hitting the pause button on the most awkward parts. I cringed.
I could have asked him where he came up with the title of Dress Your Family In Corduroy And Denim.
I’d read it twice and couldn’t remember ever finding a reference to it. I could have asked an even more obvious question like, when was his next book coming out? I could have told him that the reason I bought my ratty looking copy of Naked
was because it the first book I’d read that made me realize that all the little things I’d been writing could add up to a book one day. It introduced me to many other writers of essays and short stories that I didn’t even know where out there. I never knew you could make a living writing that way. I should have told him that when he read his story about Mrs. Peacock, I forgot I was sitting in a theater and swore I was in a rundown neighborhood inside her house staring at her mish-mosh collection of dolls. One had a dirty face with no eyelids and half her hair was cut off.
I could have told him any one of these things.
But I couldn’t.
I was star-struck.