Monday, June 22, 2009

Just one more service we provide

A report from the Society of Independent Newage Gals & Life Enhancers. That is a cheap acronym, but this is what happens when you pressure me to blog.

In fact, to show you how far behind I am, I am going to tell you about something that happened months ago. But I have been very busy. Helping you live the dream.

My buddy Jason contacts me -- we bachelor girls say "buddy," because while we can say "girlfriend" with impunity, "boyfriend" about another woman's husband is fightin' woids. He says "How would you like to stand in line at the bookstore for me to get Bill Russell's autograph?"

People I have stood in book signing lines for:
Jimmy Carter
Amy Tan
Barry Williams (you heard me)

People I have marched right up to because we are Hollins sisters:
Annie Dillard
Lee Smith
Jill McCorkle
Jeanne Larsen.. well, I actually do know her. I might have been standing in line for to ask for an extension.

Extenuating circumstances of this request:
Jason lives in New Hampshire; the bookstore is in the town next to where I work -- decidedly not in New Hampshire.

I honestly had no other plans.

Here is the thing about spinsters: we are either available or we are not. You think we are sitting home balling yarn or pressing flowers, and sometimes we are. But if we are, we are not really busy. If we are off to the theatre, driving to the airport, or helping Janice stencil the baby's room, we are busy, and we will tell you so. (And if we don't want to do your crazy errand, we will tell you we are stencilling the baby's room, so just keep that in mind.)

For me, I can sit around the bookstore reading The Economist as easily as I can sit in my house doing the same thing. So I said sure.

Jason's wife was mortified. But these are the things that only bachelors and the elderly can do -- the crazy screw-you-I-am-single self-serving tasks you would do if you could but you can't. Similarly, you are tolerating in-laws, which I just never...get.. to do.... (Church lady voice).

If you look hard enough in America's small towns, you will still find independent booksellers, and this is one area where they shine, because it is an "everybody wins" situation: draws traffic, raises sales, builds community. Wrecks traffic, clogs parking, loses sales. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The schedule had Russell arriving at 7pm. Patrons would be issued a line number when they bought their books, then group numbers would be called like airplane boarding. Until then, said the signs, "relax in our coffee shop."

So I went to the bookstore straight after work, bought the book, received number (brace) 548 and best wishes. Went to a fine dinner of Indian food, came back at 6:30 to get a good wingback chair. I really could have gone to a movie, but i already had prime parking, and if I moved my car I would never get back in, so I stayed where I was, and headed in.

There were a lot of rules. You know I love me some requirements.

Mr Russell is not signing anything but THIS book
Mr Russell is not posing for photos
Mr Russell can not chat
Do not taunt Mr Russell

In order to get through 700 signatures (or however many it was), we needed to observe these rules, or


No one was ruffled. It was a store full of people who just wanted to talk about old Celtics games and how Boston used to be, and how the game has changed because they are all hotshots now and no one plays team ball.

There were not enough wingbacks to go around, and too many old guys to give this middle-aged lady a seat. I had forgotten that most of the crowd would be old -- at least as old as Bill Russell. I had this same revelation standing graveside at Graceland. I pictured us 30 years from now going to hear Pat Benetar at Foxwoods. (or now, even) I wandered through the stacks listening to people's conversations, and made about 3 circuits before I was bored of that.

I knew that if this were Judy Blume, Jodie Foster, maybe even Tai and Randy, I would stay the night. Jason would stay the night. And tonight I am Jason's surrogate.

The groups being called by 100 began to slow to 50, then to 25, as people (with the collusion of Bill Russell) broke every rule. But what are you to do when an old red-faced Irish man clutches the big man's hand and gets teary-eyed talking about Johnny Most? Or the teenager, in his high school team jersey AND knee-brace tells him he was his inspiration.

So the night went on.

And now I am thinking, certainly this is more tiring to Bill Russell than it is to me. All I have to do is sit here.

The store officially closes to everyone but book holders. The coffee shop runs out of cookies, but keeps pumping coffee. Kids begin to fall asleep. Teens go out to the parking lot to throw a ball around. A rumor spreads that Russell is down to just scrawling "BR." At 10:30 I promise myself another 30 minutes, but we are only on #400 and I know it will not happen.

The cashier refunds my charge without protest and says (sincerely and very wearily) "I'm so sorry." And I assure her (not at all bitchy) that "it's really ok. I mean, I am coming out even."

I know Jason would have stayed. But only in a bachelor life he no longer inhabits. He might have been happy enough, as many of the men there were, to see the man up close and to talk about Larry Bird and replay every banner game as the hours unfolded slowly in front of them. Livin' the dream.

Living it for you. Just one more service we provide.


  1. Bill waited in line for several hours to get an autographed copy for Kevin's birthday. When it became apparent there were several more hours to wait, he punted and left. Kevin was perfectly happy with his unautographed copy anyway.


  2. And this is why you are a saint. Jason completely understands and is just happy you blogged about the experience so he could relive it through you.

  3. Dennis stood in line for over 3 hours at one of the big box bookstores in Boston. He read the entire book while waiting in line. He bought multiple copies, had a nice chat with BR, and went home with sore feet but a happy heart....


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