Douglas Adams did a reading at a local bookstore years ago, when we were living in Madison, Wisconsin. K and I are fans, so we went. I don't know why we assumed that it would be an intimate little reading with maybe 20 people.*
It was not. I suspect that half the population of Dane County was in that bookstore, standing on each other's toes, just to hear Douglas Adams. Only a select few actually got to see him. The rest of us were shoehorned behind tall bookcases and around corners in the many-chambered bookstore. We all clutched small yellow squares of paper with numbers on, which harried bookstore personnel had distributed as we squeezed through the front door, and which indicated our place in the book-signing line after the reading. K's and my number? 169.
After the reading, which was wonderful, as the bookstore folks tried to get us to stop pushing and form a nice, orderly line according to the numbers on our yellow squares of paper, K looked at me.
"Do you really want to stand in line?" he said.
I looked at the book I'd brought for Douglas Adams to sign. I looked at the yellow paper with "169" written on it. Someone stepped on my toe.
"No," I said. Someone jostled K. "But I really did want to have Douglas Adams autograph our book."
"Enough to stand in this line for the rest of the evening?"
"Um…" Someone elbowed me. Hard. I shook my head.
"I'll autograph it," K said.
And because neither of us is a competent fan, able to wait in line while 168 other people get their books signed in a stuffy bookstore where absolutely everyone was standing in our personal space all at once, not to mention stepping on our toes and smacking us accidentally on the back of the head with their copies of Mr. Adams's books, our copy of Mostly Harmless, which, for a glorious half-hour, was in the same building as its author, is inscribed thus:
*We did actually know that Douglas Adams was Famous-with-a-capital-F. We just hadn't quite worked out that Famous-with-a-capital-F Writer doing a reading = mob scene. Please make an allowance for the fact that we grew up in remote, sparsely populated towns where 20 people attending anything was a huge turnout.