Late last year, I had bought my wife a copy of "Going Rogue" by Sarah Palin. She had wanted to read it and I was also semi-interested in seeing what she had to say as well. I remember when the book signing tour came through I gave serious thought to standing in line to meet her. When I made it to Borders and I saw the line, I said 'forget it'. It was four or five people wide and went on for two to three hundred yards outside of the store!
Well Kim loved the book and was an enthusiastic 'Palinite.' With Christmas coming up, I saw that Mrs. Palin had released a new book, "America By Heart". Well this is one of those 'no-brainer' gifts that I know Kim will enjoy, so I grabbed a copy. Two days later, I hear that there will be a local book signing for this one as well. I thought if I could get the book signed by Sarah Palin, my no-brainer gift would be elevated to something really special. I couldn't tell Kim what I was doing and I didn't know for sure I even would, remembering the lines from the last time. Well publicity for the book signing made it impossible for me to hide what I was going to do, but I still was very doubtful I would go through with it.
This time, the event was hosted by Meijer in Carmel, IN. When I arrived, at 3:00p, I could see no line outside of the store. Once inside, I could see an area sectioned of by very tall black curtains and a table full of books and the instructions. I had to buy a new copy of the book here and now in order to get it signed. The book signing started at 6:00p and once I bought the new book, I had to get in line and I couldn't leave the store.
Well I am used to standing in line for a long time at Meijer, but this was different and it was decision time. When I was a teenager I gave no thought to waiting three or more hours for the doors to open at a concert so we could make a mad dash for the best seats, but I wouldn't do that for a concert any more. I thought, what the hell, I've come this far. I picked up a copy of the book and headed to the checkout line.
Turns out there was a line forming inside the store. They were snaking them up and down the aisles on one side of the store. I had my iPod and a new book I could read, so I settled in at the end. People were making the best of the accommodations, sitting on the bottom shelves and chatting away. Periodically, Meijer would send someone around offering cookies and bottles of water. I would have preferred a nice lawn chair. I tried to keep to myself, but occasionally the ladies around me give me sideways looks or tried to involve me in their discussion. I decided I had better participate, since they were making an effort. Representatives from the publishing company came around to verify we had a valid copy of the book with a receipt from that day and they told us Sarah would be working from a pile of books at her side and we would be surrendering the books we were holding back to them in the signing area. Well most if the conversation turned to grumbling from then on, until the line finally started to move. I estimated that if she signed 500 books in two hours, she would have 14 seconds for each one of us. The publishing people mentioned that she likes to challenge herself to see how many she could do, so we may be pushed through faster than that! As we approached the curtained signing area, I noticed quite a few security people and local law enforcement. We are told to remove our coats and there are to be no pictures taken once inside.
Now I can see how this is working. An assistant slides a book in front of her, she locks eyes with the person approaching, reaches out her left hand to shake theirs and introduces herself as she is signing the book with her right hand. She thanks them and is on to the next person. Well here we go, I will get my turn in front of the famous signing/greeting machine and then it will be over. The lady in front of me starts to cry as she predicted she would when it was her turn. my heart suddenly starts pounding harder as I realize it is my turn. What should I do, should I try to say something clever? My mind races as I quickly consider and dismiss several approaches to this situation. Then, I lock eyes with her. My mind goes completely blank as I feel her hand reach out for mine and she says "Hi, I'm Sarah Palin." I stammer out "Hi, I'm Bill". She holds on to the moment, still looking at me and asks me what kind of work I do. I said "I'm a photographer" Unbelievably, I see her scrambling for another question to engage me! "What kind of photography do you do?" "Portraits mostly" I answer. "Yeah? Hows business?" I kind of chuckle at her persistence and I say "Not too bad, but it could be a lot better." "Ok, well it was nice meeting you!" she said. "Nice meeting you as well" I tell her. I turned and walked out, smiling from ear to ear and in complete shock. That was surreal. I felt like she wished we could go somewhere and get a cup of coffee.
I know I did.