I'm a loser.
So, in recounting the details of the weekend spent in Nashville at the Southern Festival of Books, I neglected to recount how I was, once again, sucked into the hellish black hole of name badge anxiety.
Here's a general rundown of the day (told in three Acts).
Act One: [The interior of an elevator in my hotel]
Okay. So, I'm in the elevator in my hotel, going down to get a Starbucks in the morning, and I hear this woman rushing down the corridor to catch the car before the door closes. So, I hold the elevator for her.
I can tell she's a writer. She looks so literary.
I say, "Good morning."
She says, "Hello."
[I am not one to shy away from having involved conversations in elevators. It is, after all, my opportunity to provide someone with absolutely no possibility of escape a good thirty seconds of terror.]
I say, "Are you presenting at the Festival today?"
She smiles a writerly smile and says, "Yes. I am an author."
And the way she says "author" would have made the heavens open and angels sing if we weren't in an elevator.
I say, "So am I. I'm presenting later."
And you know what she said to me then?
I am not kidding. She kind of scowled and said, "Where's your BADGE?"
Act Two: [The check-in table at the festival]
So, I get to the festival. Walk around, looking at all the stuff. And I find my way in to the area where authors are supposed to check in. The women working at the check-in are all so Southern and polite. I tell them my name.
One of them says, "Oh. I saw your name on the schedule."
"I guess that proves I exist."
She goes to the table of name badges and begins looking for mine.
There is no name badge for me.
I say, "Oh. This happens to me all the time. I can't tell you how many authors show up at these events and try to pretend they're me."
This kind of statement is similar to Mandarin Chinese to check-in hostesses in the South, I think.
And the woman begins looking harder at the name badge display, obviously convinced that deeper scrutiny will cause the Andrew Smith badge to materialize.
She gives up looking, says, "I guess I'll just have to make you one."
So, where all the REAL authors get name badges that are custom-printed, my hostess pulls out a pen and a white card and prepares to write. my. name.
And she asks me -- out of politeness, I am convinced -- how to spell Smith.
I say, "Oh. Just write William Faulkner on it. He won't care, and just think of what it will do for your attendees."
Act Three: [Inside the "Author Hospitality Room"] So, yeah. Now I am wearing a hand-printed name badge, sitting down at a table. I'll admit it, I'm kind of sulking -- wondering how inappropriate it would be if I drank the free Jack Daniels they put in my author goodie bag. Hell, I'm sure Faulkner would have done it. Oh, and the only reasons I sit at this particular table are that 1) nobody else is sitting there, and 2) it's closest to the door.
Sara Zarr is standing nearby and comes over to my table to sign copies of her books for a librarian. Oh... and my hand-printed-how-do-you-spell-smith name badge is tucked inside my shirt where no one can see it.
Eventually, the conversation turns to me. And not just because I am drinking straight out of a bottle of JD at 11:00 a.m. [Sara Zarr is played by herself]:
SZ: Are you Andrew Smith?
ME: Yes. Sorry I don't have a real name badge.
SZ: I saw your name badge! [I think the exclamation point belongs here. Just my guess]
ME: My stalker. Obviously, he's having a lot of fun.
SZ: No! Your name badge was at the fund-raiser dinner you were supposed to be at last night!
ME: My name badge is quite the in-demand dinner guest at these functions.
So. If you see my name badge out there, or, if you see someone wearing my name badge... just so you know... it isn't really me.