So many writers have written about the humiliation of book tours: the awkwardness of sitting at a table waiting for strangers to approach. There are people who don’t want to buy a book and feel that it would be a form of rejection to stop and not purchase (and they’re right), but I hadn’t realized how many people are actually just shy. I watched today as people carefully turned their heads so as not to have to see me sitting alone at the table at Barnes & Noble. For the people who didn’t care it was easy. I could hail them and offer a bookmark which they could take or not, and they could then wander on. But there were several people whom I knew perfectly well wanted to engage in conversation, but who couldn’t bring themselves to do it. They lingered agonizingly near, sometimes for nearly an hour, but could never position themselves in such a way that I could catch their glance or smile and thus invite conversation.
I knew them, because they were me. I remember sitting next to Beverly Sills at dinner for an entire evening and hardly knowing what to say to her. I was 18 years old, and wanted so much to be an opera singer just like her, but I couldn’t think of a single thing to say. Ultimately she took pity on me, but it was an opportunity missed.
Today I am going to see if I can engage more people. If nothing else it will be a way to pass the time.