Oh, why hello.
Last night I met Michael Ondaatje. Kind of. OK, my husband pointed him out to me across the room and I pretended to take a photo of our friend, while aiming over his shoulder at the Canadian literary icon. Then, He Whose Stomach is Bottomless saw a plate of dumplings being passed around and shoved right through my line of sight, my flash went off blowing my cover, and this was the result:
The tufts of hair coming from that vaguely Santa Clausian man’s head? Those are Michael Ondaatje’s tufts. And that is as close as I got to one of my author heroes (In the Skin of a Lion has, to put it mildly, defined me. When I first heard The Cinnamon Peeler read aloud, my ovaries ached).
The morning after the IFOA welcome party, I was kicking myself. I’ll be blogging for the festival this week (unfortunately, sans Alice Munro now) and should probably have spent the evening uncomfortably out of my comfort zone: networking, making awkward conversation with new and interesting people, actually introducing myself to Ondaatje instead of acting like a 12-year-old girl. Instead I stuck to my knot of safe faces and had a lovely time regretting my own unfriendliness.
A similar incident in January: Coming back from our honeymoon, our plane got delayed in Miami for several hours. We had spotted Margaret Atwood (!!!) on the plane earlier, and then sat ogling the poor woman for an hour or two before deciding to speak to her. Actually, before Brett decided to speak to her. I hovered about a foot behind him, laser-staring her down in silent catastrophe.
You could chalk this up to paralysis by fame, but I prefer to link it to my long-standing desire to curl up in a hole and hide whenever the opportunity/requirement to interact socially presents itself.
Over the last 9 years, I’ve gotten better at uncrossing my arms, peering up and out of that hole and making some garbled small talk. In fact, it’s one of the things I love most about journalism: when I interview people we have a topic to cover and a set purpose for interacting. I function well.
Maybe if I meet my favourite author in another decade, I’ll be able to squeak out a hello.