Yesterday, I drove three hours to Fargo (yeah, that Fargo) to sign books as part of the Altrusa book fair. This wonderful group raises money to build bookshelves in Habitat for Humanity homes and then stocks the shelves with brand-new books. Twila, the woman running the event, said the children who move into these houses are so happy to have books of their own that they run straight to the shelf when they first enter their new house and plop on the floor to read. Sigh. Makes you happy to be part of this world, doesn’t it?
During this signing, a lovely woman in her 60s picked up a copy of September Fair, turned it over in her hand, and asked me why she should buy it. I said, “It’s funny.” (I’m not a saleswoman, never have been, don’t wanna be.)
She “meh’d” and hemmed and hawed before deciding to give it a try. As I’m autographing the title page, she remarks that I sign my name just like Sarah Palin, whose book this woman had recently waited eight hours in line to get autographed.
As my brain tries to sort out all the implications of her comment, the woman leans forward and conspiratorially whispers, “You know, I wouldn’t trust that lady to run our country, but she was really kind to the people in wheelchairs who were waiting a long time. She walked over to all of them personally.”
Her comment tickled me on all sorts of levels, but mostly because it was so perfectly Midwestern: kind but judgmental, with a total absence of irony. I wrote down the line in my “buttons” book, where I keep all sorts of great dialogue that I hear. Last Thursday at the train station, for example, my boyfriend and I were waiting for the Empire Builder to Milwaukee when we heard deep laughter rumbling out of the closed back room of the depot, where a group of conductors were meeting about something.
Two grizzled travelers were seated next to us. It was Veteran’s Day, and they had been talking about their service in the Korean War and what a shame it was that Amtrak gave 20% discounts to students but only 10% to veterans. When the laughter spilled out of the back room, one commented to the other, “Sounds like they’re having fun back there.”
And the other guy nodded and said, “As much fun as four men can have, anyhow.” Then they both started chuckling.
Hee hee. Love that random, honest stuff. What's the last great line you heard?
p.s. Speaking of the beauty of sharing books with others, the Mystery Writers of America is collecting gently used books to donate to underfunded libraries in Mississippi. If you have a pile you'd like to send to a good home, contact your local chapter and they'll send you instructions. It's easy to give!