A very dear friend from Texas asked me to go over to the one book store we have in the third largest city in Illinois (yes one!) and get a book signed by the author for her. This pal came to my house and chased Jack for me when I had to put my newly reconstructed knee into the medieval knee bending machine for an hour, three times a week. I figured the least I could do was take a trip to the bookstore for her. Besides, how many people could there possibly be in Rockford standing in line for a four time world champion WWF wrestler gone children's book author? Turns out, a whole bookstore full.
The children and me walked towards the back of the bookstore to waste time at the train table play area and find the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid while figuring out what to do. I inquired about "how long these things usually take" and the line lady who had no idea.
When we arrived at the children's area, there was another mob of people standing around in a large circle with cameras in hand holding them high and trying to listen intently. I figure it was the author of the book giving a little interview and these folks were mobbing him. I didn't even bother to try to see; we walked past the assemblage and went straight to the train table. Ella found her book and sat tableside reading intently. I found a seat and decided to people watch. Next, there was a great round of applause from the mob and like a football huddle, they broke, kids in purple shirts running everywhere and doting helicopter parents chasing. I realized it was some school event, where the kids sing or dance or something and it was the same night as the book signing. The place was a zoo.
A dozen preschoolers in purple shirts besieged Jack, attempting to play trains. He seemed slightly taken aback, I let him handle it. He was able to hang onto one train, driving it in the big squirrely loop around the table while others wined, snatched, played, cried and tantrummed. I saw worried parents standing over children demanding they say please and thank you, share, take turns, "play right" and "say cheese." I watched one girl in a tutu and tiara melt down completely because she couldn't play with a specific train. Then I watched her mother try to bargain with Jack so that her child could have the one toy she wanted (the one toy in Jack's hand.) Jack paid no attention. I did, but I didn't interfere at all. The girl had to be extracted kicking and screaming from the train play area where no doubt her mother bought the train she wanted to play with in the next aisle.
Jack was polite, focused on his fun and had a good time without me jumping in. I also witnessed an insane amount of booger eating perhaps even it was the most schnozberries consumed in one place ever. I couldn't believe with all the hovering and supervising of the play not one parent said "Gross! Don't eat that!" They just pretended they didn't see it. And here is where I need to say; if you are paying enough attention to praise your precious progeny for successfully getting the train through the tunnel, then you also saw that nose pick, and "Ew" on your parenting.
Next, I had to figure out how to get a book signed for my pal. I moved my caravan of children, stroller, winter coats and new books to the other side of the store to see if the long line of wrestling fans was moving. It wasn't. The angel on my shoulder whispered in my ear, "You came all this way, you're so close." the devil wined in the voice of my eldest "Are we done yet? I'm booored." conjuring pictures of me wrestling Jack back into the stroller.
I went to the front of the store to buy the books the kids picked and inquired about the price of the featured book. I also asked if I could buy one today, have it signed, and pick it up the next day. The cashier asked with surprise "Don't you want to meet him and have a photo taken?" to which I responded that I was sure the author was a fabulous guy but I didn't need a photo or to shake his hand I just wanted his signature on a book. She asked me to wait a moment while she stepped away and then she came back and said she found a nice young man near the front of the line that would get my book signed for me. Ah! The whole operation salvaged, I quickly agreed. The nice young man found me after about ten minutes and handed me a signed book. I thank him and we left, faith in booger eating humanity restored.