Blasphemy alert: Two weeks ago, I’d never read anything by David Sedaris. I’d never heard anything by David Sedaris. “Not even the elf thing, at Christmas, on NPR?” you ask, disbelief in your voice, your eyebrows rising into your hair? Nope. Not even the elf thing, at Christmas, on NPR.
It’s not that I had anything against David Sedaris. On the contrary, customers and coworkers alike raved that he was spectacularly, side-splittingly, tears-in-your-eyes-can’t-breathe-right kind of funny. But when you work in a bookstore, your To Read list has the tendency to, er, get away from you a little. Get away from you like the distance runners got away from me, a last minute 800 meter relay substitute, during my 8th grade track championship: quickly, and painfully, and dramatically.
So when I found myself scheduled to work David Sedaris’ May 25th event with Left Bank Books for his new book, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, an event which sold out in less than 24 hours, prompting us to shut down a section of Locust Street and pipe his talk out for the masses, I was pretty excited. I hadn’t had the time to read any of his books, but now I had the opportunity to get a taste of what all the fuss was about. “You just have to hear him,” people would say to me, “and you’ll understand.”
Ladies and gentlemen, consider me a convert.
You’re looking at David Sedaris’ newest fan. And it’s not only because he’s hilarious. I mean, he is hilarious. So hilarious that it was actually hard for me to do my job – manning the book table outside the store for the listening party, which numbered around 300 strong – because I was laughing so hard. And it’s not only because his fans are so awesome, as all the ones I met were – from the group who ordered pizza and brought wine and set up their own picnic in the street, to the couple who traveled from Kentucky to hear him, to the two young Mormon men on their mission trip who wanted to personally thank Sedaris for getting them out of a tough spot, to the toddler who clapped at all the right moments and was especially interested in our May events calendar.
No, the real reason I’m now a card-carrying member of the David Sedaris fan club is because of how absolutely wonderful David Sedaris was to all his fans, and how generous he was with his time. He engaged with each and every person that stood in line to meet him. He listened to life stories with genuine interest, and tailored his book personalizations for each person with stickers and references to funny anecdotes and details they’d revealed in their conversations. This was much more than a signature and a handshake. This was an experience.
And this experience lasted until 3 am, which is when a still chipper and friendly and invigorated Sedaris ran out of people to sign books for. I clocked out around 1:30, because I had to open the store the next morning, and he signed my audio book, purchased for my upcoming trip to Texas, “To Lauren, Who Quit Early” (all in good fun, of course). Sedaris, it seems, isn’t about to forgive you for leaving his party.
But really, where else today can you get that kind of experience? More and more, people are expecting less and less. In this era of now, now, now, of e-books and smart phones and having the whole world available at your fingertips, who’s still going to sit down and have a face-to-face, one-on-one conversation with you, not only about a book, but about what a book means to you?
David Sedaris will. And for that, I consider myself a fan. I might be a few years behind the curve, but I’ll be devoting six hours on the road to Me Talk Pretty One Day because of my David Sedaris experience.
And next time, I won’t quit early.