“So welcome to an intimate evening with me, here in the middle of H1N1 season.”
Every once in a while, I get to do something that would have made my 16-year-old self very, very envious. Seeing the Lowest of the Low live a few years ago was one of those things. Seeing Douglas Coupland speak at the Writer’s Festival last week was another.
(If you don’t know Douglas Coupland, go borrow Generation X or Microserfs or Hey Nostradamus! from the library. You’re welcome.)
The evening confirmed for me that my 16-year-old self wasn’t wrong about Douglas Coupland. He was great. He talked a bit about life and culture and Marshall McLuhan and went off on some wonderful digressions about spam, the voice you hear in your head while reading (try it – it’s not your own voice), and people on public transit who forget to use their inside voices. It was interesting and quirky and reminded me that I should pay more attention to the local arts scene.
My mom came with me and bought me his newest book, Generation A, as a Christmas present. Not an early present either – I have been instructed to forget that it exists so that I don’t ruin the surprise Christmas morning. And, my mom being my mom, she attached a condition to this gift – that I had to stand in line and get it signed by the author.
To many people, that probably sounds like a completely reasonable thing, and something that one might do without parental coersion. I, on the other hand, think that sounds way too intimidating. I know there’s a lineup of dozens of people waiting to get their book signed and Doug Coupland hasn’t eaten or humiliated a single one of them – in fact it seems he’s being quite friendly – but that isn’t enough to change my opinion of the situation.
But hey, I’m a “grown-up” now. I’m just going to go stand in line and pretend like this is not a problem. I’m cool. Like a cucumber. As a cucumber. Whatever. Very cool.
So this is fine and my mom and I stand in line, me with my book in hand, chatting as we move closer to the front of the line. We are about two people from the front when my mom turns to me and says “He’s going to speak with you. You know that, right?”. Yep, mom. Yep. “I just want to make sure you’re not caught off guard. Do you have anything to say?”
Well. That had occured to me. I had initially thought I’d have a little story ready for him about how this book will be my Christmas gift, but my mom’s going to read it before she gives it to me and I have to act all surprised on Christmas morning. But then I played that one out in my mind and realised the inevitable result would be:
Douglas Coupland: Hi. I’m Doug, what’s your name?
me: THIS BOOK IS A CHRISTMAS GIFT FROM MY MOM AND NOW I’M GETTING IT SIGNED AND THEN… wait, what? My name? Um. Name? … IT’S A GIFT! (run away)
So then I thought “that’s not a great plan”. I won’t prepare a little speech. I’ll just wing it and although that’ll probably go wrong too, at least it will go wrong in a slightly less foreseeable way.
And you know what? It was fine. Turns out he’s just a regular guy who has signed a million books and knows a few generic bits of small talk that make everyone feel at ease. He shook my hand, signed my book, and wished me a Merry Christmas.