Sunday, February 24, 2013

Psycho Stalker

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?

The FBI.

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.

16 comments:

Deepa M said...

You aren't a psycho stalker you were just being friendly him.

Deepa M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gabrielle said...

Wow,that was quite a story. I could understand where the guy was coming from,but you are defentely not a psycho stalker. You're really awsome! I just can't believe he gave you an address that goes to the FBI! Well he does work in the government,and you can't be too careful,but like I said before you aren't a psycho stalker.
Anyways,I hope everyone has a great week! :)



Gabrielle

Jessica said...

If he really worked for the FBI, you'd think he could have looked you up while you were on the plane together and seen that you were who you said you were. It'd be funny if one of his kids is a fan of your books. What if he doesn't actually work for the FBI, and just has the address memorized to give to random scary strangers, so the FBI will start watching them? Hopefully someone will enjoy the books, wherever they end up.

P.S. What books did you choose for each?

Kylie said...

Haha! This is great! Such a great story! Either he really does works for the FBI or he memorized the address to give to people when they ask for it. My dad had my sister and I memorize fake names and addresses so if we ever get in the situation where someone asks and we don't want to give them real information, so we give them that instead.

I hope his kids do get the books. I think that would be awesome if an author sent me books because she met my parent on a flight.

What books did you send?

Kylie

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Kylie! I'd better not run into you on a plane. Geez. Books to nowhere.

I sent (ironically) Psycho Kitty Queen, HISBAG, and a Gecko & Sticky for the kids and TRD for the mom.

No way he had the FBI address memorized just to throw me off. (Well, if he did, HE'S psycho!)

gabrielle said...

You're right Wendelin,of he memorized it he is the psycho one,not you! And that's a pretty good idea Kylie,making up fake addresses,and names. You ca never be too careful. And since he works for the government,wouldn't he automatically be tide in with the FBI,aren't they all like connected? I don't know that much about either.




Gabrielle

Kylie said...

The name is for those people that you see at like a home and garden show and they won't leave you alone until you give them a name or for when you are on a bus and a homeless man is next to you and you don't feel comfortable giving your real name to him if he asks.

Those are some lucky kids! Great books that you sent!

Ky

Ryan said...

I saw the title of this post and thought you were going to post about me! *whew* Off the hook again! =)

-- Ryan

Isabel said...

LOL, what a story! Wow, and Wendelin, you are NOT a Psycho Stalker! What a story, man if I were that man's daughter I would have loved all the books!
I know how those kids felt, because from November to the middle of February, my dad had to go to Hawaii...for his job. Atleast now his job is in San Francisco, but then again, that's two hours away...
And once my mom, she was on a plane, and kids were sitting by her. she had to stand the kids looking at her food and telling their mom, "I want that, mom!" in the middle of the night. And kids crawling under her legs to get color pencils of the ground...
Next flight, Mr.Overload was passing gas every time he ate. The guy on the other side of would be looking at her like, "Need some gas-x?" All my mom could do was smile, and stand getting blamed for horrid smells.
When she told us that, man was I busting up, and I was laughing at your story too, Wendelin!
My friend, when she met me, she thought I was a stalker, too. But she's gradually getting over that...

Isabel said...

In case you're thinking, "Us? Who's us?" That's my brother, dad, and me.

Yusa said...

Haha i feel like this is probably unsocial of me but i really dont like sitting next to strangers on planes... speaking of planes im in an airport right now... :) coming home from canada. Takes 2 planes and a 2 hour drive. I feel ya. Hmmm what i would do to be that guy. Thats probably awkward after you figured it out. Oh and so we just landed in Las Vegas and out the plane window i saw the MGM Grand hotel and i though of Sammy Keyes of course!
Hopefully the guy likes the books. I mean who couldnt... :)
What if i ran into you in a plane :O A girl can dream...
--Yusa

Isabel said...

WOW, Yusa...you're right a girl can dream...and man that's 24-7 for me!
And man, I STRONGLY dislike the idea of sitting next to a stranger too. I mean, the first I had to sit by a stranger I was six. I only did it because I felt bad for my dad and let him take my place so he could talk to my mom.
The good thing was I was sleeping then.
The most awkward thing was when I was sleeping by my mom. And the the next thing I saw when I woke up was a strange man sitting by me. I was SO scared, the dude was like, "Whoa, she has a problem."
So that was...interesting.
Yusa: I hope you had a fun time!

Bella Honeydew said...

Lol that sounds so funny! =)
I hope the kids get the books, those ones are really funny! - no wait all of them are funny! What's a Wendelin Van Drannen book without being funny?! =)

Jessica said...

So I watched the ALA press conference where they announced the Newberry, Schneider, Printz, etc. winners, and then saw they had "author reaction" videos for some of the winners. Which made me search for Wendelin Van Draanen on Youtube... which had a video called "Wendelin Van Draanen is phsyco [sic]!!!" I think it was part of a school assembly -- you weren't kidding about getting excited so the kids would get excited! Anyway, given your post this week, I thought it was really funny.

(I also found an interview that pronounced your name presumably correctly, which made me realize just about all your fans -- including myself -- have been pronouncing it incorrectly. Oops. Is "DRAW-nin" correct?)

Sophia Bianchi said...

I go to Sisters Middle School and I know you went there last year (BEFORE I read all the Sammy books, and read them all AGAIN), but I would LOVE it if you could come again (in the near future maybe) and I could actually talk to you and ask you questions. I don't expect you to come, but if you did it would mean a lot to me. I am 12 and in 6th grade and love all of your books. I have read almost all of them. The Sammy ones are my favorite! Thank you so much!!