I forget sometimes that people might mistake me for a psycho stalker.
I am, I assure you, not a psycho stalker. I'm just, you know, me, and I have this thing about trying to spread a little happiness around. Which--who knew?--apparently can be a little scary.
Last week I flew to Arkansas to do school visits. It took four airports and an hour's drive in a car to get there. As you might deduce, two of the flights were little hoppers, with only 3 seats across. On one of them, I was pinned into my window seat by a man who didn't quite fit in the aisle seat beside me. (Good thing there were no refreshment carts on this flight, because if there were no one past seat 7B would have been refreshed.) In addition to breaching the invisible aisle barricade, this fella definitely spilled over into my personal space. The little arm rest between us could only do so much.
To his credit, he did his best not to impose. He kept his arms out in front of him (holding his book the whole flight), and he held remarkably still the entire hour we were in the air. But there had definitely been a meal involving garlic in his recent past, and with those extended arms...
It could be that my experience on that leg of the journey contributed to my next neighbor's suspicion that I was a psycho stalker. He had the aisle, I had the window. There was no possibility of him blocking the refreshment cart, and miraculously, on this "completely full" plane, there was an empty middle seat between me and the new aisle guy.
I was overjoyed! And since he seemed like a somewhat weary traveler I said something about it being a long day of traveling and how this little stroke of empty-middle-seat luck was a very welcome thing.
Now, look, I wasn't being Chatty Cathy or anything. I was just having the standard back and forth conversation regarding destination and travel. But when it turned out he was traveling to a foreign country, I was like, whoa! Well, I'll stop feeling sorry for myself now 'cause I'm only going to Arkansas. So of course I asked him business or pleasure, and since it was business I asked how long he was going to be over there because you don't travel halfway (or more) across the earth for a morning meeting and then fly back. He said two months, and I'm like, wow, really? Who do you work for? and then I can see him getting all, hmmm, is she a psycho stalker? right before he gives me a real nebulous "the government." I laugh and I tell him, "Nice non-answer!" 'cause, c'mon--that covers half the jobs out there!
He turned it around after that and asked me what I did. So I told him, and since being a children's book author is about the most non-threatening profession there is, I just plowed ahead, blithely asking if he had kids. Which he did! So I asked for details...boys, girls, ages...the usual stuff parents like to talk about. And he did tell me, but he was strangely, I don't know, confused. Like he didn't know if his daughter was 10 or 11 or even what grades they were in.
Now, in my head, I'm figuring out which of my books I can send to his kids. Their dad's going to be gone for 2 months, the poor mom's got a part time job and him being gone is going to be hard on her...how fun would it be to get a surprise package from an author with a letter saying their dad misses them already and here are some books to help them pass (and laugh through) the time.
But in his head, I can tell--he's worried that I'm a psycho stalker.
So I tell him about my great plan to send books. (A psycho stalker would never send books, right?) All I need, I tell him, is an address and the names of his kids. And his wife. So I can send her a book, too.
He wants to believe me. So he writes down the names to inscribe the books to and an address. Only then he says that he's "just moved there" and not sure about the zip code. "That's okay," I tell him. "I'll double check it on the internet."
"No, no," he tells me. "This is right."
It seems marginally odd, but whatever. I do this almost every time I take a trip somewhere, and reactions vary. Often people are a little take aback. Like they can't quite believe I'm serious. So I just put aside the marginal oddness of it. I was just planning my package, happy thinking about making those kids (and the wife) happy.
After my 3 days in Arkansas, I flew back and unpacked and picked out some books and found a box and some bubble pack and started making a label. Only something about the way the guy had acted had been a little odd. And I didn't want to send a bunch of books to the wrong zip code.(USPS is not exactly agile in that regard.)
So I did go to the internet. And I did look up the address. And you know what it was for?
I thought about chucking the whole idea. I mean, clearly the guy was being cagey. So what would happen to my package? Would it ever even get to get to his kids before he returned? Did he warn his secretary to be on the lookout for a mysterious box from a psycho stalker? Would they blow my box of books up in the parking lot?
But realistically, paranoia about the safety of one's children has to be part of the territory of working for "the government". Would I give some random stranger on a plane my address? No. (Which is why it's nice to have a PO box.) So, really, I couldn't blame him for not telling me the truth.
But geez. He should have just told me the truth! Or said, mail it to my secretary and she'll see that it gets delivered to my kids.
Anyway, after debating the pros and cons, I put the package together and wrote the letter and I'll take it to the post office tomorrow. I said I would, so I will.
I am not a psycho stalker.
Just someone trying to make the world a little happier.