July 18, 2011

Spinal Tap First, Puppet Show Last

Ah, the life of a traveling lesser-known children's author...

Have I mentioned that I am a huge fan of This Is Spinal Tap?  It is one of my all-time favorite movies.  If you haven't seen it, get thee to your netflix queue and remedy the situation ASAP :)

The reason I mention it is because I felt like Spinal Tap on Friday.

I was supposed to do a library visit.  (Yes, I realize I just gave away the ending.)

Now, please know that most of the school and library visits I do are wonderful.  People work hard to organize and publicize them and they are usually well-attended.  I am very grateful.  But there are always the odd few that just don't work out so well.

Here's what happened...

I set out in a blinding downpour.  (Remember a while back when I noted that an awful lot of my recent visits have involved heavy rain?  The trend, apparently, continues...)

Anyhoo, through the downpour I made my way in the trusty Dog Mobile (who, it must be confessed, had yet to be properly vacuumed since the Nantucket trip and was sporting a rather horrifying carpet of dog hair and sand, along with the unmistakeable aroma of eau de dead sea creature but was pressed into service anyway because, let's face it, it was too far to walk.)

Driving rain was not challenge enough on this outing, however.
I was journeying toward a little town in The Back of Beyond where, apparently, the prevailing sentiment was that road signs of any kind should not be used under any circumstances.  I was supposed to be on Route 44/55, but was I?  It was anyone's guess, and the Dog Mobile wasn't volunteering an opinion, so I was on my own.  I could have asked, but given the extremely rural area and savage weather conditions the roadsides weren't exactly packed with helpful bystanders.

So I kept driving around.  (And for any Spinal Tap fans, this is like the part where they're ready for the show and they wander around in a maze of tunnels from the dressing room and can't find the entrance to the stage!)

Meanwhile, the minutes were ticking by, and I was beginning to get nervous about my arrival time.  I do not like to be late!

AT LAST, more by luck than good navigation, I miraculously found the well-concealed library.  The attendant Farmer's Market which was supposed to be part of the evening's festivities, was not set up indoors as I had been told it would be if it was raining.  Instead, about 6 little tents were set up in the parking lot down the hill from the library.  A few hardy vendors were huddled underneath in their rain ponchos, hoping against hope that someone would venture out in this weather and make their suffering worthwhile.  The prospects were not looking good.

They were not looking good for me, either.  I hadn't seen a single notice of any kind to let people know I would be coming this evening - no email notices, no mention in the local paper, no flyers or posters, nada.  I felt a prickling of disquietude a la Puppet Show and Spinal Tap except I was worse than an afterthought.  I was not a thought at all.

I drove up the hill, parked outside the front door at 5:35, well in time for my 6 PM reading, and entered the silent library.  And when I say silent, I mean silent.

I had assumed I'd be met by the librarian who was organizing the event, but no.  The place appeared deserted.

After wandering around for a few minutes, I discovered a woman.

"Hi!" I said, relieved to have found someone.  "I'm looking for Anna.*"
(*Name changed so I don't get in trouble :))

"I'm Anna," she said.

"Nice to meet you," I said, extending my hand.  "I'm Susanna Hill."

"Oh," she said vaguely.

Hmm.  Inauspicious beginning.

Alas, things did not get significantly better during the ensuing conversation:

ME (brightly): So where shall I set up?

HER (vaguely):  The library closes at 6.

ME (patiently):  But I'm supposed to read at 6.

HER (vaguely):  I know.

ME (giving her every opportunity to show me she had a back-up plan):  Sooooo....?

HER (vaguely):  I guess you'll have to do it outside.

ME (observantly):  It's pouring.

HER (vaguely):  Yes.

ME (informatively):  I didn't come equipped for heavy rain since you said we'd be indoors if it was raining.

HER (vaguely):  Usually we are.

ME (still patiently):  So what would you like me to do?

HER (vaguely):  Maybe someone would let you squeeze under their tent?

ME (intelligently):  That's a big imposition, and besides, the tents are teeny.  There's no room for an extra table, and nowhere to read to kids.

HER (vaguely):  There's no one here anyway.  I don't think anyone will bring their kids out in this weather.

(At this point, I was sorely tempted to ask if she'd ever heard of a little device called a telephone.  We could so easily have rescheduled.  But I didn't want to be rude or seem unpleasant.  SO...)

ME (still patiently):  So what would you like me to do?

HER (vaguely):  I don't know.  I doubt anyone will come.  It's raining.

ME (problem-solvingly and looking pointedly at the completely empty parking lot):  Perhaps we should skip it for today then.  There doesn't seem much point in waiting around if we have nowhere to read and no one is coming.

HER (vaguely):  Yeah.

ME (uncertainly):  Okay, then.  I guess I'll head out?

HER (vaguely):  Maybe you'd like to come in the fall when the Farmer's Market is always inside.

ME:  Sure, let me know.  (But thinking when h-e-double hockey sticks freezes over!)

So I got back in the Dog Mobile without ever taking out a single book and drove back through the driving rain to the family I had abandoned on a Friday evening for absolutely no reason.

Two hours of time, 80 miles on the Dog Mobile (and, let's be honest, she's not getting any younger and she doesn't need the extra miles!), probably a good $15 in gas, and a missed evening with my family all for nothing.

Next time it better say Spinal Tap first and Puppet Show last!

Have you ever been an afterthought or worse?


  1. That sign is so crazy! This made me laugh and it's a good thing you were able to use humor to get through it. How frustrating, but a great story for telling in the future when you become a well-known children's author.

  2. That is absolutely horrible! You should talk to that woman's supervisor. I think that there are people in the world who do things like that and are completely oblvious that they did anything wrong. I'm not saying you should tell on her to be mean, I'm saying you should tell on her so it doesn't happen to someone else. I'm so sorry--that's (vaguely) the rudest thing I've heard of in a long time.

    If it makes you feel any better, Can't Sleep Without Sheep has been requested a record EIGHT nights in a row by my wee one!

  3. How frustrating! I think you did a wonderful job not to throttle the woman! On the bright side, it makes for a great blog post - you had me giggling the whole way through! :-)

  4. I'm so sorry the librarian was that rude. How horrible! Anna (pseudonym for your real name), you should be ashamed of yourself!

    If you have the time, go back and read my early "Substitute Teacher's Saga" posts. You can laugh and cry along with me. I'd visit schools preparing for the worst, and sometimes they didn't disappoint me.

    I hope your next visit is rain-free and full of nice people.

    Why does it always rain when I drive to visit family on a Friday night?

  5. Natasha - glad you enjoyed the sign, and I will look forward to becoming famous :)

    Jess - you're right. A heard from an author/illustrator friend of mine that the same thing happened to her at the same place. But knowing your wee one has requested Can't Sleep Without Sheep a record 8 nights in a row makes up for it all and then some :)

    Cally - yes, I marveled at my self-restraint :) Glad it made you giggle!

    Theresa - I certainly will go back and read your early posts!

  6. Oh, Susanna, how awful! You're going to have an interesting memoir someday, with all these things that happen to you!

    Could you please send some of your rain up here to the Toronto area? We've been having a heatwave and it hasn't rained at all in July.

  7. Andrea - perhaps a rain dance is called for. (Please send the video if you do one :)) Or maybe you can reverse the children's rhyme and sing "Rain, rain, come this way, or we'll dry up and blow away!" Or something :)

  8. Whoaaaaaaa. That's awful! Yikes! I am super impressed that you were able to remain patient and friendly. Ahhhh!

  9. Ali - well, I really didn't want to be the one who was difficult!

  10. That definitely didn't make me chuckle. Oh my gosh, I'm absolutely flabbergasted at Anna's behavior. If this is a library-sponsored event, it should be held in the library and planned during library hours. It doesn't sound like Anna put much planning into it, however.

    I'm glad this hasn't affected your sense of humor or adventure! My son did a book report on Can't Sleep Without Sheep 2 weeks ago in our library's summer reading program. So cute! (Have you ever done a reading in Saratoga?)


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