The good news about visiting schools is that you get to meet some amazing kids, teachers, librarians, principals, and parents. I’ve been having a ball. The bad news is that you come home absolutely exhausted after doing four of what really amount to one hour performances. It feels like you are a light bulb that’s been running at extra high intensity all day. Combine that with meeting lots of kids, and the results are probably predictable enough.
Last week, I did two days of Provo school visits. Tuesday night I did a signing. I’d been fighting a chest cold for about two weeks, but medicine was pretty much taking care of it. Wednesday, we went up to Ogden for the annual UELMA (Utah Educational Library Media Association) conference. I had asked to do a workshop on integrating authors and illustrators into curriculum. They agreed, and generously offered to let me join the author panel as well.
I had a great time and met lots of wonderful people, including authors Trudy Harris, Karen Houston, and Becky Hall. The last two, I knew from e-mail but had never met in person. They were great to spend time with. I want to give a special thanks to Mike Goodman, his wife Chris, and the rest of the UELMA board, who took us out to a great dinner. But that night I started feeling kind of weird—really tired, achy, and cold a lot. I figured it was just the cold and took more meds.
I made it through Thursday, but kept asking my wife if the hotel felt cold to her. And that night, I could barely eat at one of my favorite restaurants, Maddox.
Friday, I was really feeling lousy, but I had three schools to visit up in the Brigham City area, and I love that area. By the end of the visits, though, I felt completely wrung out. We went to get something to eat and I could barely keep my eyes open. An hour before we needed to be at the first of two book signings, we went out to the car and realized I had locked the keys inside.
Now this is more of a trick than it sounds like. First, the van has a remote lock on the key fob, so you would think I would have noticed I had no keys. But apparently I locked the car by hand, which I never, ever do. Second, you cannot lock the door by hand with the keys in the ignition. Unless, that is, you remove the keys from the ignition until they are just barely hanging there. Which is exactly what I did. Of course we called Triple A, who promised us someone would be there in thirty minutes or they would call us. Thirty minutes later, no call and no truck. So I call Triple A, and have a conversation something like this.
“I’m calling to check on the person who will unlock my car.”
“We told you they would be there by 4:01. It’s only 4:00.”
“So you want me to hold for a minute until it’s 4:01?’
“That’s only an estimate. They have an additional ten minutes to call you if they are going to be later than that.”
“Okay, but I need to be at a signing twenty minutes away by 4:30. Can you call and see what their ETA is?”
“You can’t call them?”
“Can you give me their number so I can call them?”
“No I can’t do that.”
“You know it show here that your service is inactive. I don’t even know why the other person took your call.”
“But my card says my service is good until May.”
“I’m just telling you what the computer says.”
“Look, can you just tell me the name of the company who is coming?”
“No. I can’t.”
“Wow, you guys don’t seem very service oriented for a company that is supposed to provide service.”
Just then I get a call, so I let her get back to “serving” other Triple A customers. It’s the locksmith. They ask me where I am. I repeat exactly what I told Triple A. (See how much fun I am having repeating the name of the company that was so not helpful!) I am at the corner of 300 East and Main in Tremonton, in the Taco Time parking lot.
My heart drops. “Where are you?”
“Logan. They didn’t tell us Tremonton. I can be there in about forty minutes or so.”
After discovering that the Tremonton police department dispatch would not send anyone to help me unless a pet or child was trapped in my car, (do books count?) and that they wouldn’t tell me if there was a local locksmith. (“Use 411 or the yellow pages” Again, what happened with “To protect and serve?”) I called 411 and found that there was only one locksmith in Tremonton, and he was not in town.
About this time, my wife took matters into her own hands and walked down the street to the Tremonton Big O, who had my car open in less than five minutes for free. Big O, Big O, Big O. Apparently they have heard of service!
So we made it to both of our signings, came home and found out I had STREP. Got a shot, felt lousy, rested, felt better. Got snowed on, felt lousy, and rested some more. Fortunately today was an off day. Tomorrow I have five school visits.
So what’s the moral of the story? I think service—Triple A’s lack of it and Big O’s abundance of it—would be high. Don’t do school visits when you are sick has to fit in there somewhere. And thank goodness for really good people.
Just as an update on the schools. Since January we have visited just under a hundred and fifty schools, which amounts to about 60,000 students (about 200 schools and 100,000 students since the book came out.) I have signed over 4,000 books, and easily twice that many posters. I have answered over 1,000 e-mails. And I have made a bunch of great friends. So thanks to all the great kids! Thanks to the schools who have let me come visit. Thanks to Shadow Mountain for providing tons of posters, bookmarks, and a free book to all the UELMA attendees. Thanks to my son Scott who has booked many of the schools, my daughter Erica who has created the signing invitations and fliers, and my two little guys who have done everything from stuffing flyers to helping at signings.
And most of all, thanks to my wife who not only runs the whole show, joins me on so many of my school visits she could do the whole thing herself, and coordinates all of my events, but can even get me back into a locked car with only a smile!
Here’s to a lot more schools and a lot more good times. But no more sickness. (Crosses fingers.)