Tuesday, April 04, 2006
My Moment with Dave Barry
This Just in: Humorist Dave Barry “Two-times” His Fans
It was too late to back out; I was going. With the stroke of key, I had registered and paid for the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop in Dayton on March 23rd.
I’m a novice writer. I was scared to mingle with “real” writers, but I wanted to go so badly . . . not the least of my reasons was that Dave Barry would be the keynote speaker on opening night.
After twenty-four hours of repeatedly hearing me rebuke myself for signing up and then talk myself down from the ledge, my husband promised that at the opening, if I showed any hesitation whatsoever about entering the banquet room, he would gladly stand behind me at the door, put the sole of his foot to my back and launch me until I hit the opposite wall. He’s just sweet like that.
For months, while I plodded through humdrum days at the office and swam in Lake Laundry at home every evening, I secretly counted the days until Dave . . .
er, I mean, until the workshop, of course.
March 23rd finally arrived.
Waiting in the foyer on the first night of the workshop was nerve wracking. The other attendees seemed polished, professional and confident. They were networking, small talking, throwing back their heads and laughing in that nonchalant, literary, “Why of course I’m published!” way.
On the other hand, or heel, I should say, I was stricken mute. Instead of networking, I was focused on “pantsworking.” That is, I was trying not to step on the back of my pant legs, which I discovered were just long enough so that the hems found their way between my heels and shoes with every step I took. I was plucking them out as surreptitiously as I could, but it was hopeless. I decided to camp in one spot.
Before long, the hall began to bustle, the doors opened, and I pivoted (avoiding hem plucking) to see . . . Oh Happy Day!--Dave Barry walking into the room! Now, normally I’m not a celebrity zealot. But Dave Barry? Well, he’s my Oprah.
In the ballroom, I found a seat (I know you’re not going to believe this!) right behind Dave Barry, which only happened by fate, and not at all by my elbowing people out of the way while sprinting on my hems into the room and throwing my purse onto that particular seat from five feet away.
A lady next to me struck up a conversation that went something like this: “This room is lovely. By the way, I just had a private interview with Dave Barry.”
“What?” I was shouting incredulously in my mind. This was unbelievable. “What? You did what?” But what I actually said was, “That’s interesting. How did that come about?”
I heard her say phrases like, “lovely person . . . very gracious . . . humble . . . .” But I could only re-process her getting to meet him personally. Finally, I asked, “Really, tell me; how did you manage to arrange meeting him?”
With a shrug of her shoulders, she said, “I called and asked if I could.” She smiled smugly. “Called who?” I wondered. “God? Erma?”
Dinner was underway. It occurred to me that I should visit the restroom before opening remarks. I excused myself and headed down the hall. Suddenly, I heard “swish-swish” behind me. I turned to see (and I know you’re not going to believe this, either) Dave Barry! “Ohmygosh!” I said under my breath. I turned away. I turned back. Still there. Still swishing. I turned away. I plucked my hems. This was my opportunity. I could compose myself, turn and have a few private words with Dave Barry, or not.
I chose “not.”
In fact, I bee lined into the restroom as if Dave were stalking me. Immediately I took out my cell phone and tried to call my friend, Madelyn, who was in sunny Florida on some boring old spring break thing.
I was so excited that I couldn’t dial the numbers. It was like a bad dream; I was pushing two buttons here, dropping the phone, hitting the button on the side, clearing, trying again, etc. With much urgency, I remembered why I was in this particular room. But I had to tell Madelyn!
I maneuvered myself into a stall. The phone was ringing at last! Her voice mail message began. I was “multitasking.” I had to put the cell phone in my mouth to hold it because I had to talk fast.
“Mavvalyn—jhish ish Inda. You von’t va-vieve ish . . . I jusht schaw Vave Varry in de haw!”
I was now at the sink. With the phone lying on the counter, I washed my hands and yelled into the phone: “He had to go to the bathroom at the very same time! Oh my gosh--he’s flushing right now! I hear him flushing! Dave Barry! Flushing! I’ve gotta go!”
It just doesn’t get more exciting than that, seeing a great big, megawatt star and then seeing (hearing) that he’s just human like you and me . . . he flushes . . . he has probably stepped on his hem a time or two. No, it just doesn’t get more exciting, unless you’re some show-off attendee who snags private interviews with Dave.
Back at my seat, I enjoyed pleasant repartee with my tablemates. But every so often, I was distracted by the back of Dave’s head. I just kept thinking, “You know, he really is a genius. So funny. Look at that--even the back of his head is a genius.”
Fast forward, fast forward. Dave spoke ingeniously: blah, blah, blah. Very entertaining and insightful. I noticed that a couple of women were laughing extra heartily at every joke. I looked at them. I judged them.
“I believe we have some sick-o loony groupies here,” I muse. “I’m glad I’m not like that.” I don’t know who Mrs. Dave Barry is, but she would not have liked these women. “Don’t worry, Mrs. Dave Barry, I’ve got your back.” I mentally marked those women.
Then it occurred to me, “This opportunity is about to end, and I don’t have any pictures of Dave Barry.” That’s when I remembered my cell phone. I took it out as stealthily as possible and tried to take his picture. No good. Blurry. Left eye out of frame. Hand waving caused strobe light effect. You get the picture. (I didn’t.)
After the event, Dave signed books. In line, I tried to come up with something intelligent, maybe even clever, to say to Dave. I never settled on one choice; I didn’t want to blurt it out like some canned joke. I do like to think of myself as quick witted and spontaneous.
My husband showed up with a real camera. (My hero!)
Finally, it was my turn to meet Dave. My husband was snapping away like an American in Europe.
There was a moment of awkward silence after Dave greeted me and took the book. Unable not to speak and yet unable to remember anything clever, I announced to him that I’ve been reading him since I was a teenager, and now my teenagers read him. He responded by informing me that basically, I had just called him “old.”
More awkwardness mixed with giddy headiness.
Before I could stop, my spontaneous, witty self came up with: “I see that you’re left handed.” To this clever, discerning remark, he looked up, smiled, and said, “Yes I am. Are you?”
“But my daughter is.” (She likes to keep track of famous lefties, but I do not share this interesting fact, for fear of sounding . . . stupid?)
He stood; I scootched in, and “snap” went the camera.
I was elated! I had just met Dave Barry! And because of my astute southpaw observation, you could almost say that I had a personal, unique interview with him!
I opened the book. The inscription read, “For Linda . . . a goddess!”
Cloud nine? Try cloud nine with orchestral accompaniment, a chocolate fountain, and a 20 lb weight loss—that’s more like it.
The night was almost over. I ran into my new friend who had snagged that personal interview. Quite proudly, I said, “Look! Dave signed my book!” and put it in her face. (After all, I mean, “goddess”? Honestly, that Dave!)
She smiled wryly and said, “Uh huh. He signed one for my daughter, too, during my extensive personal interview with him. With Dave Barry, the one I had the personal interview with. That Dave Barry. Such a nice young man, that Dave Barry.”
I looked at her autograph. It read, “To Carolyn. You are my idol.”
Oh, so that’s how it is, Dave?
I tucked my book in my bag and headed toward the elevator for my room, pulling my pant legs out from my heels every three steps. I looked at my husband and said, “Oh well. At least we (Dave and I, that is) have that one brief shining moment when we walked that lonely corridor almost together toward our mutual yet respective restroom visits. No one can take that away from me.”