My book-signing table was at the very front of the Books-A-Million store, so at first I felt self-conscious, sitting so conspicuously with my books. Then I realized I had a front row seat to life at the mall, more observing than observed.
People who were alone tended to walk past at a fast clip, on a mission. Couples went by more slowly, some strolling hand-in-hand. There were large family groups with robust conversations in languages I don’t know. Groups of teenagers passed like gusts of wind, and you could feel the push and pull of their energy. They were in constant communication with each other by shout, text message, whisper, shoulder-thump.
There were children. There was wailing. One young father plopped himself on the floor of the mall maybe ten feet away from me with an unhappy toddler on his lap. I waved at the child. I wish I could say that my wave helped. It did not.
I started calling out “Hello!” to people. I was surprised how many responded positively, as if they were glad to be greeted.
If they came by my table I’d simply say, “This is my book.” And they would say Congratulations and act pleased that I had written a book.
Beside me was a display: “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck” and every now and then a kid would come running toward it, shouting in glee. Oh, I’ve got a soft spot for kids who love to read. I’d say: “I hear that’s a good book,” and watch their eyes leave me and go back to the page, which only made me love them more.
Behind me was a Doctor Who display, with Tardis-shaped cookie jars that make the whump–whump sound when you open them, Tardis-shaped night lights, a Dalek-shaped cookie jar, a special edition Monopoly game, and a whole variety of sonic screwdrivers.
One young man was engrossed in comparing the screwdrivers. He told me: “I already have one, I don’t know why I want another one. But I think there’s something special about this one.”
“Could be,” I said. “The package says it’s the Tenth Doctor’s. He’s pretty great.”
“He’s my favorite too!” he shouted. We talked for a solid five minutes and I gave him my card.” I sometimes blog about the Doctor,” I told him.
A bunch of teenagers gathered around my table. One told me he was celebrating his 18th birthday. He was the kind of kid who looks an adult in the eye. He took my card saying he has a religious grandmother who might like my book.
I really hope he had a great birthday.
People asked me about the book. I said: “It’s a really personal book. It’s about a spiritual journey. It’s about faith questions. It describes all the things I saw in Israel and Palestine.”
One man asked: “Was there an exact moment when you knew you needed to write the book?” I loved that question.
A woman with spiked hair and flowing skirts said: “You wrote a book, good for you. Looks interesting. It’s just not in my wheel-house.”
One man in a sports jersey said: “I haven’t read a book in four years. I just watch TV. But good luck to you.”
One earnest young man said: “I want to write a book some day. I want to sit in your chair.”
I drank my water bottle. I waved at small children. I received kindness from strangers. I sold 8 books.
That’s what it was like to sit in my chair.