I’d like to blame it on my wife’s shoes, or even global warming, but when it comes to the Boston Meltdown, the fault -- as usual – lies with my own stupidity.
That’s too bad, because I’d really been looking forward to that particular reading and signing. We’d be in a great city. We’d see friends and relatives. And best of all, I’d be able to thank many Gather members who supported me in the First Chapters contest, not to mention staffers who’d been so helpful in promoting “The Way Life Should Be.”
So maybe I panicked.
All I remember is slowwwwwly walking through a city park in unseasonably humid 90 degree weather. It was pushing 1 o’clock and I’d been due at 12:45. Meanwhile, Beth was walking with her brother, Bobby, and moving at two-thirds her usual pace, probably because her fantastic-looking shoes served no practical purpose. (I made a note to throw them out the car window once we were leaving town and going at least 80 mph.)
“How much farther?” I asked.
“Fifteen minutes” was the same answer I’d gotten 15 minutes earlier. My brother-in-law has his own sense of time, which comes from being brilliant enough to retire at age 50.
Me? Well, let’s just say I’ll be working till the day I die, which suddenly seemed imminent. As you might have guessed, I’ve never been particularly calm or patient.
“I have to run,” I finally said, and that’s what I foolishly did.
In my defense, I’m not sure a humid 90 degrees is the same to me as it once was. My wife and I now live in the South, where it’s always a humid 90 degrees, which means we never leave air conditioning. And we certainly don’t leave it to do something as crazy as trying to walk anywhere – let alone run.
During those 15 awful blocks, around pedestrians and through crowded crosswalks, I began to realize this may not have been the best idea. Maybe it was the looks people were giving me. They probably thought I was fleeing a crime scene. By the time I reached the School Street Borders, I realized just how much I’d perspired. That’s when I began to hope I really would be mistaken for a criminal and one of Boston’s finest would shoot me down.
No such luck.
Since I’ve always viewed my life as a situation comedy, I figured I’d play it for a cheap laugh.
Not with this crowd.
They were either too stunned, too polite to acknowledge my hideous condition, or like the guy in row five, too engrossed in reading another book to pay attention.
Ever see Broadcast News? You know, the scene where Albert Brooks gets his big break as a substitute anchor and sweats through his suit and makeup? I made him look cool and collected.
To top it off, my sweating had only gotten worse. Of the 16 readings I’ve given, never have so many people looked me so directly in the eyes. God bless them. We soldiered on together.
Afterward, when I met Gather President Carl Rosendorf, who looked like he’d stepped out of the pages of GQ magazine, I wanted to apologize, but he didn’t give me a chance. He was charming and gracious and for a moment I didn’t feel like crawling under the table. Carl even shook my hand – without benefit of a towel, mind you.
Several Gather friends did as well, including Liz Goodwin, who has been my main contact with the staff. Liz is tiny and angelic and looks like she has never perspired in her life. (Okay, she did post pictures from this event, so maybe she’s not so angelic after all.)
A few hours later, I did a live chat at the Gather offices. But don’t worry, I made sure to change and shower first, and put on shorts and sandals and to walk very slowwwwly the entire way to the building.
Everyone there was so nice and young and enthusiastic that I just wanted to hug them. Of course, knowing how badly I’d melted down earlier, none of them were foolish enough to get near me.