I was talking to my son this afternoon, we do that a lot, and somehow we got to discussing the need to be friendly and reach out to people.
He said that he’d been rebuffed at times, and so was reluctant to do so.
And I remembered a moment so very vividly right there and I told him about it.
It was in New Orleans, a year after Katrina struck, they had the American Library Association convention down there. Must have been 2006.
I remember the cobblestone sheets wet and shining from the light of streetlamps. I remember looking through some wrought iron bars of a graveyard, back before they creeped me out, and seeing an ornate sort of white marble mausoleum structure that was greyish in places with age. It looked a bit like a miniature church.
I think this is it:
But I can’t remember exactly. Just imagine it at night.
And I remember the intricately wrought iron balconies and just the *feel* of the place.
It’s always been my habit at library events, to chat up people in lines. Hey, you’re not going anywhere. It helps pass the time and sometimes you can make some nice acquaintances. I met a lot of lovely people that way!
And there’s just something in me, I really don’t mind chatting people up about my books. I guess I’m deluded enough to think that they’ll find them interesting.
Well I checked the badge of the lady in front of me, she was a strawberry blonde, petite little lady, and I noticed she was from Kansas and to make conversation I asked her a little about it.
She said this or that, and half turned away, but I continued to try to engage her, not realizing that she just wasn’t interested in talking to me.
And when I started talking about my books, I paused and said something like, “Oh, this must seem incredibly bold…”
And she just nodded and said, “Yes.”
It felt like she had slapped me.
With a little smile she turned away and that was the end of that.
All the time we stood in that line, I replayed the conversation over and over again, wondering if I’d really overstepped all bounds of decency, if I’d really been rude enough to deserve such a snub.
I don’t think so.
I had expressed interest in her, in where she was from, I was just trying to strike up a conversation, and yes, I was hoping to eventually interest her in my books, she was a librarian after all, and a children’s one at that, wouldn’t she be interested in new authors? I would.
At the end of it all I came to the conclusion that there are certain people who, no matter what you do to engage them in dialogue, are just not interested.
And I suspect it’s because of the way I dress and what I suppose I represent to them.
They are stone walls.
I was trying to be nice, I was trying to be friendly, and not just to talk about my books for goodness sakes!!!
But it didn’t matter.
Nothing would get through to her. It was as if she was a stone wall.
You will meet various stone walls in your journey.
Don’t waste time on them. Don’t expend energy.
Just go around them.
You will not reach a hundred per cent of people, no matter how nice you might be. You just won’t!
Oh but it still stings.
Even though it shouldn’t!
Still that doesn’t mean I stop reaching out to people.
I still reach out, I just make sure while I’m doing so that the other person is reaching back.