Meeting David Sedaris

I saw a sign a while ago advertising that David Sedaris would be speaking at my local Chapters branch. I read Me Talk Pretty One Day several years ago while vacationing in Switzerland and scrounging through my father’s large collection of pass-around books. I really enjoyed it and always intended to read more, but I just never got around to it. In any case, I was fairly interested to attend the event.

And then promptly forgot all about it.

That is, until a friend who also writes a book review blog just happened to review Sedaris’s new book, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk. Hoping I hadn’t missed it, I looked it up online and found that it was going to be on the next day! I do love coincidences!

My husband picked me up from work and we went out to dinner and did a little New Year shopping. The event wasn’t until 7pm and I finish work at 4pm, so we had quite a bit of time to kill. Of course, it was freezing and so at about 5:30, we decided just to go to Chapters and hang around until the event began. Good thing we did because the place was already pretty packed.

We bought a copy of Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk and then my husband left (due to his work schedule, he has to get to sleep early). So I was standing in line until my back started hurting too much and I sat on the floor.

More and more people were showing up, and someone asked the woman behind me if she could move up to give more people room. “There’s a pregnant girl here,” she said, perhaps a little indignantly. Then she leans down to me: “Honey, you just sit right there, okay? You can come up in front of me when we get close, but you don’t have to move, okay?” I thanked her and the line moved on without me.

A minute or two later, another older woman leans down to me and says “they’re getting a chair for you.” I was rather surprised, and I asked her if she was the one who had told the staff to do so. “A pregnant woman shouldn’t have to sit on the floor,” she responded. Then I see it – the chair was floating above the crowd, slowly making its way in my direction. A short woman in staff uniform was carrying it raised above her head and trying to make it through the press of people. She put it down when she got to me and motioned to a young man also in uniform. “He’s organizing the event. He’s going to take care of you, okay?”

The young man took up the chair and told me that they were going to put me at the front, asking if that was all right. Who am I to say no? So we went through the crowd (something of a walk of shame, I felt like some VIP who doesn’t have to obey all the rules for ‘commoners’), and he set the chair down all the way at the front, extending the front row of seats so that I was sitting next to a security guard and a speaker. “Is it okay for the speaker to be here? Is this going to be okay?” asked the staffer. Are you kidding me? Like I’m going to fuss at this point!

It was still very early, with perhaps another hour to go before the official start of the event, when David Sedaris showed up. To keep things moving, he started signing books right away. An announcement was made that he would be staying until everyone had their books signed, no matter how long it took, but that there were two conditions: 1) No photography of any kind (close-up or from far), and 2) That to get a book signed, David Sedaris was requesting that we tell him a joke in exchange. I don’t know if the first rule was David’s or Chapters’s, but I think it might be the latter since my book doesn’t have an author portrait in it.

In any case, I was now in the first line, so I got to move up for the signing pretty quickly. I overheard him trying to guess people’s Zodiac signs, which was rather funny because people sounded impressed when he got them right even though he was mostly getting them wrong. “I don’t believe in astrology,” he said. “But it’s fun to try guessing.”

The girl two spots ahead of me told her joke and David howled with laughter. When the next one came up, he asked her if she’d heard the joke. When she replied that she hadn’t, he told it to her:

What did the pedophile say when he was released from jail? I feel like a kid again!

The person in front of my wanted a book-on-tape signed, so David pulled out his trousse and got a silver pen. He came prepared!

As I stepped up, he was talking about how he prefers listening to books on tape rather than reading them because it means he can get his ironing done at the same time. “You can read and iron at the same time, it just takes a bit of practice,” I said – being an expert at doing chores one-handed since my university days offered me the choice between learning to do both or skipping out on one (sleep was already being minimized as far as it would go). “You can do that because you’re a Sagittarius,” he replied. I’m not.

“How many of these have you actually gotten right?” I asked.

“I’m not doing to well tonight, but…” He motioned to the Chapters events rep standing behind him, “she can back me up on this, I was getting them all right last night!”

“Oh yes,” chimed in the woman. “I don’t think you missed any!”

Then he asked me for my joke. I’d been thinking ever since the announcement was made, but I couldn’t think of anything to say. In a panic, I said that I only know the ones about the two tomatoes crossing the road.

“Ketchup?” he asked. Yes. “Yeah… Listen, why don’t I tell you a joke instead?” I failed. Here’s the joke he told me:

Why does it suck having sex with Jesus? Because he’s always trying to come into your heart.

So there you have it!

I went back to my seat and read Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk until 7pm.

He read the title story of the book, as well as a story about a fly eating vomit that was apparently excluded from the print version of the book (but is on the audio version) because his editors told him it was too gross. He played with two little sound-effects toys, then he recommended that we all buy a book called Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned (saying that we ought to buy this book before any of his own) and read a few passages from it. To finish off, he read out some passages from his diary.

While I was listening to him speak, I kept hearing this snorting noise coming from the right. The only person there was a dour security guard. It was truly a mystery. So I decided to keep an eye on that guard (clandestinely, of course, because security guards don’t generally like it when you stare…).

Sure enough, I soon caught him snorting, face all scrunched up, trying to keep control of himself. The poor man had an image to protect, and here was this author, this comedian, ruining everything!

It was a great night and I really enjoyed the experience. David Sedaris seems like a really nice guy – or, at least, a really good actor. I was also very impressed with the staff and customers who worked together to provide assistance to a complete stranger!