You enter the store on a sunny and beautiful Saturday in mid-June around lunchtime. Sure people are eating lunch or vacationing or doing errands or watching the Sox play the Cubs. But that doesn't stop you.
The sign says you're signing at noon, but no books are to be found. You eventually help them move a table and place your books on a table so you can sit behind that table next to that wonderful sign.
Fifteen minutes after noon, you can hear the seat you're sitting in creak.
A stranger walks into the store, glances your way then heads the opposite. Another comes in with a child and smiles as you greet her. She doesn't say "hello" or "how are you?" or "what are you selling" but rather just smiles in a way that says "I don't speak English".
Another man walks in, and he definitely doesn't understand English.
It's 12:37 now.
Another couple walk in and walk up to the table. And after an earnest ten minute talk, they give patronizing smiles and say "good luck" as if you're in prison having a last meal.
The minutes keep going by. The sun beats down on the parking lot outside. The girl at the counter hunches over, seemingly passed out, reading a magazine. The bookstore workers pass and give you glances that say I'm so, so sorry you poor, poor fool.
It's approaching 1 p.m. now.
Five people have come in. The stack of books in front of you still remain stacked, unsigned, untouched.
You think of the gas it took to get you to this place. How you rushed and had a lousy sandwich at a fast food joint in order to make it here on time. Only to be placed in front of the bargain books and to be neglected just like them.
And then the song comes on. And this does it.
It's the classic Led Zeppelin song Kashmir. Except it's not performed by Led Zeppelin, but by some musical group that makes really boring muzak. It's background music for elevators. It's music for the dead and lifeless. It has no lyrics and a really slow beat and the violins strum away. And you want to light yourself on fire and run around the bookstore to make sure you're alive. To make sure someone's alive.
And that's when you realize it's just not going to happen today buddy. Why fight it?
So you peruse the bookshelves and enjoy yourself and don't take it personally because it's not personal. It's just another booksigning and you're a pro. At least when you're a musician playing in front of nobody, you can still jam away. But when you're an author sitting there doing a signing, there's nothing else to do but sit and stare at the sun-drenched parking lot and think of all the other thousands of things you'd like to do.
But this is part of the journey. Sounds fun and glamorous, huh?