Saturday, May 21, 2011
The Hazards of Cutting Out Early
I try to remember what it was like to be forced to sit on my bottom for an hour crammed between sharp elbows and suspicious odors. I try to remember what it was like to listen to some adult drone on about the importance of a subject like, say, reading. I try to remember what it was like to be a kid.
And then I force from my mind the fact that there are adults in the room and just go for it.
From pretty early on the kids all think I’m a little crazy.
Better than them thinking I’m boring.
Last week I visited six libraries (and a school) where kids were bussed in to see “the author of Shredderman.” The whole community read Shredderman: Secret Identity, and many of the kids were given free books. The mayor of one of the bigger towns hosts a golf tournament every year and for the past few years he’s been donating money to this program.
Now, maybe I should have realized that the man in the sharp green suit at the back of the room during one of my presentations was this mayor, but I was trying to block adults from my mind.
Especially sharp-dressed ones who may very well not remember what it was like to have to sit on the floor for an hour next to sharp elbows and questionable odors.
Besides, I have experience with mayors and I know—they never stick around. They read their proclamation or dedication or whatever, then flash their toothy smiles and make a practiced exit as soon as politically possible.
I recently had that experience in the town of “Santa Martina.” I was the keynote speaker at a breakfast and the mayor was also at the head table, there to read a proclamation and be an official presence. And actually, I was kinda sweating it out, wondering, Does he know? Does he know that I totally make fun of “the mayor of Santa Martina” in the Sammy Keyes books? Does he know that Sammy describes him as a softball fanatic who dips to one knee as he passes by the softball statue in the foyer of City Hall? Does he know his mayor-ness is translated into 20 different languages and that kids around the globe have a definite (and quite comedic) impression of “the mayor of Santa Martina”?
As it turns out, almost certainly not. And that is almost certainly because he doesn’t stick around after reading his proclamation to hear the keynote and learn that his town is (barely) fictionalized and enjoyed by kids around the world.
After all, they’re just “kid books” and he also almost certainly doesn’t remember being one or anything remotely associated with sharp elbows or questionable odors.
Well, unless you count his cologne as questionable.
Which you very well could.
Actually, he may know now, because after he made his speedy exit I got up and told the entire audience about it and our chorus became “That’s what he gets for cutting out early!”
It was glorious fun.
And surely a guarantee that he will never offer me keys to the city.
But hey, that’s okay.
I’ve got the Keyes.
But the point here is that, having experience with mayors, I was not expecting any mayor to hang out for a whole hour watching me spazz out and tell wild stories.
Surely there were ribbons to cut somewhere.
But the mayor who provided funding for this literacy event did stick around. He didn’t even have a proclamation to read. He just came. And when it was over he shook my hand and from his comments he clearly understood that what I do is just a backdoor approach to getting kids interested in reading and writing…while also giving adults the courage to not give up on their own dreams.
Not something you’d ever understand if you cut out early.