Friday, November 2, 2007

Day 1

Here's the rest of what happened yesterday:

Joey and I were sitting in the opening session of the conference talking to our professor Dinty W. Moore and recounting our overnight trip when Pat Madden, our old professor we'd had at BYU and from whom we'd carefully hidden our planned attendance at this conference, walked in and sat down several rows behind and on the far right side from us. As the opening speaker got rolling we kept looking back to see if he'd notice us. After a while we gave up and concentrated on not dozing too deeply during the speech (a losing battle—we seemed to trade off nodding off), but then, just at a certain lull in the oration, we both simultaneously looked around at Pat just at the moment when his eyes strayed out over the crowd. We watched his line of sight slowly converge with ours, and our faces cracked into big smiles when we saw that he saw us.

After the talk we finally got a chance to say hi and reveal that we had brought him some Wild Wing Sauce from Athens, a commodity he had sorely missed since moving away (to which he noted that there was a Wild Wings in town, so it wouldn't have mattered if we had not come nor brought the gift, but he apologized for that comment today; no offense intended, none taken). He invited us to go to lunch with him and some old friends of his, a jolly group of editors and professors and writers of all ages, so we all went walking around Iowa City to find a place to eat.

Now I could tell you about the fun conversations that we had, about awards and publishing and the secret inner politics of certain lit mags in this country, but I'd rather tell you about the hostess at the small bar/restaurant we decided on. She was tall and had shortish blondish hair—that's really where the description ends, mostly because I'm a poor hand at describing pretty girls and also because I am crummy at noticing the details. I'm not even sure she was blond. The important part is that I said thank you to her and smiled as she showed us to the hastily mashed-together tables by the window, and she smiled back. And she continued to smile at me whenever she came around with an extra menu or anything.

Was she smiling at me, or did she smile at everyone as part of the job (or her personality)? Does it change anything that she made eye contact with me? Did my quiet thank you have anything to do with it?

I don't know the answers to these questions, and I don't really care. I only record this because it is the kind of kindness that makes one's day and I told Joey that I intended to keep a record of all my psuedo-flirtations of whatever kind. This is one of them. It's an oddly gratifying experience to be smiled at, to be made eye contact with, to find evidence that at least one person in the world finds you somehow attractive. And these kindnesses need not go anywhere at all; it is enough that they exist.

The rest of the day was spent in a daze of dozing off in panel discussions and readings. Eventually I bailed out to a chair in the lobby and propped my feet up in front of three plasma screens (playing Fox News, MSNBC, and ESPN simultaneously: two with captions, one with sound) and went to sleep. Joey floated in and out of my semiconsciousness as he seemed to keep leaving to call his wife and arrive again only to tell me that he had to leave to call his wife. And then Dinty Moore showed up and told us that because of a malplanned website the conference bosses had ordered twice as much food as necessary for the optional classy dinner and he thought we should just sneak in and eat the trash-can-bound leftovers. We thought that was a great idea, but being of sensitive conscience, Joey thought it best to ask Robin Hemley in person if that was alright. So we did. And he assented readily (out of guilt for not admitting Joey to his program?). So we ate way too much and then some.

Then we left to find the home of a nice finance PhD student who had offered us his couches by way of There we slept the sleep of the dead tired.

[This is the end of day 1. Please turn the tape over for day 2.]

1 comment:

Melissa said...

Ha! For your information he called twice! :) And really, can there ever be enough conversation in a marriage? :)