“Do you have one of your cards on you? You can tell him you’re a writer, hand it to him, and ask him to read your blog.”
“No,” I said, firmly.
“Why not? You’ll never see him again. Who cares? If he takes it, that’s great. If he doesn’t, you’re no worse off than before.”
I glared at my husband, big oaf of a cheerleader that he is, and tried not to pinch him.
We were standing in line at a small theater an hour from home. It was a school night, and we had just seen David Sedaris speak on tour. My husband gave me tickets to the event as a Valentine’s Day gift, and we were waiting for an autograph.
“That’s not why we’re here. We’re here to say hello, nice to meet you, we ask him to sign our book, and we go home. Giving him a business card is your style, not mine,” I said. Unlike my husband, I am an unqualified boob in casual gatherings. My social ineptitude often leads me to say grotesque things that are out of line with my normally winning personality which emerges after several years of close friendship. I’d have to work up the nerve for weeks, processing the logistics of coolly and confidently passing one of my contact cards to David Sedaris, famous writer. I might even have to do several dry runs. As it was, we were mere feet from the author who was conversing with a pack of rabid fans while he signed their stack of books. And my husband was just mentioning this now?
Like I said, I could have pinched him.
I stood in the line, silently willing my prodding husband to evaporate so I could think about what say – the love of my life never met a lapse in conversation he couldn’t fill, and I am no multitasker. The people in front of us moved on, and the author shoved a forkful of tomato into his mouth and motioned for us to approach the table.
It was 10:30 at night and he was eating dinner. I nudged away my motherly instinct to fawn and patronize. Aw, poor you, having to eat your dinner so late! You must be starving! He chewed and smiled. “Hello,” we sang in nervous unison, a pair of warbly parrots.
My mind wildly rifled through a series of thoughts to calm my unexpected panic – a quick prayer to find the right words and not seem like an imbecile, one of the thousands of appropriate conversation starters that I had practiced hours before that were now hiding safely away in the grooves of my brain. He’s a regular human, I finally reminded myself.
“Hi,” he said, reading my name scrawled on the post-it that the helpful line-tamer handed me just minutes ago. He scrutinized my face. “Have we met before?”
We all want to be remembered. We want to make a mark, be witty and amazing and liked and likable. I am not any of these things upon first meeting.
“Um… I don’t think so. Maybe,” I suggested, seriously wondering if I had met him previously, despite never having seen him in person before. Had I rubbed elbows with David Sedaris? my mind stupidly considered. I recalled taking the time to tape an episode of a talk show – Jimmy Fallon, perhaps – when he was a guest once. Just to clarify, the correct answer to his question is NO.
“I like your dress,” he said, cannily observing that I am a hollow dolt. “Thank you,” I gratefully replied. The words tripped off my tongue. I can do this, I thought. Then the word vomit started.
“Someone gave it to me. I think her mother gave it to her – or was it her sister?” – I turned away from him to my husband for correction, who stared at me with a frozen smile – “anyway, she got it as a gift, and my friend told me, ‘I’m too short to wear this, do you want it?’ So I took it!” It was a riveting story. I was about to go into the beauty of fabrics that required little care when he spoke again.
“Well, it’s nice. Do you see this shirt?” He pulled his jacket away from the front of his shirt, which was stained with several small spots, a matter that he pointed out during his performance. “Do you see what I am wearing? This shirt; it is terrible. Look at this collar. It’s sort of too big, and it’s kind of awful, isn’t it?” I had to admit that his shirt looked a little worse for wear, but I was wearing a cast-off dress, so who am I to judge?
“Well, it goes. It goes with the tie,” I remarked. His tie was a mess of color: yellow, green and orange. I barely even noticed it before I realized that I just agreed that his tie was as awful as his shirt.
He addressed my husband, who was standing there waiting to say something sparkling. “And it’s wrinkled. I should have ironed it, but I didn’t,” he said, hoping against hope that my husband was a more adept conversationalist.
Missing the cue that my time for speaking was over, I blurted, “I think it’s fine. I don’t iron anything. Why iron?” Pure lies. I had just put the ironing board away at home, having ironed a shirt that had air-dried in the closet.
“Well, I usually do, but I didn’t this time,” he replied, again to my husband. As I contemplated adding that my dress was comprised of a fabric that is wrinkle free, he and my husband had a short exchange about no-iron shirts.
“Well, thank you for coming. It was nice to meet you. Have a good night,” he dismissed us. I mumbled “Okay, see you later,” or something equally inane and inappropriate. He handed me the book and my husband and I walked outside into the drizzling rain.
As I flipped through the front pages of the book to see what David Sedaris had written to me – he is famous for writing witticisms to his fans along with a signature – I saw that he had drawn an outline of an owl, possibly indicating his impression of me as a vapid twit.
In the car, my husband remarked, “Well, that was fun. I can’t believe he sits there and talks to all the people who came to see him! He’ll be there until midnight!”
“Yeah,” I said absently, mentally reviewing the conversation. I had insulted him at least once. Not too bad, considering my track record at small talk. I insult most people once. Then my husband confided, “He’s not as tall as I thought he would be.”
“Famous people usually aren’t,” I said, generalizing. I remembered mentioning short people in our conversation with him, too. So – twice, then. I insulted David Sedaris, if he was paying attention to my blathering even a little bit, twice, in the span of three minutes.
*The title of this article is a nod to David Sedaris’ latest book, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, which you can purchase on Amazon or at any bookstore. The author has not compensated me for this piece or my advertisement of his literature. Really, are you serious?