Friday, August 11, 2006

A Greasy, Wet Night in Orland Park

My first task in Orland Park was to find Orland Park Cyclery. There I bought a desperately needed pair of cycling gloves and made a good pitch for my book. The clerk was excited, but of course he'll have to talk to the boss. With an hour to kill, I went to IHOP for an awful ham and cheese omelette. Although it's usually my favorite breakfast meal, IHOP spoiled it with too much cheddar, jack, and Swiss cheese. Those are all too greasy, and the cheese flavor drowns out the ham and egg. American cheese is much better. At least the new corn pancakes were tasty (they replaced the Cream of Wheat-infused Country Griddle Cakes on the menu). After a trip to the bathroom to make sure no food was stuck in my teeth, I headed over to Borders.

When I walked in, I was surprised to see a dozen chairs set up in front of my signing table. Wow, these people are expecting me to draw a crowd. This was my fifth Borders signing, but it was the only one with audience seating. I hoped they knew something that I didn't. They had a nice set-up with a tall display rack of books and a stack of flyers advertising the event (I took some for my souvenir collection). When I asked for water they gave me a bottle, much to my relief (usually I get a glass of water, and I'm always worried that I'll knock it over and ruin a bunch of books!).

Shortly after 7:30, I saw an older man and woman enter the store. The man was wearing cycling clothes, but he was also wearing a back brace and using a walker. It turned out to be Bill, an online acquaintance who writes entertaining reports about his bike tours. He was recently diagnosed with spinal cancer (unbeknownst to me) but exhibits an incredibly positive attitude. "I just have to get over this hurdle, then I'll be on the bike again soon." Wow. Here I had been thinking of something so trivial as how awful traffic was on my drive to Orland Park, and this guy made a special trip to meet me despite his illness. Had he not been a fit cyclist, he probably would have been unable to even get out of bed. I wasn't the only person inspired; a woman who bought my book had Bill sign it, too!

Those were the only books I sold, but it was a fun night. I have discovered the real reason to do book signings -- it's not about selling books, it's about meeting people. Since I bought five books, Borders made more money from me than from my book. At least they let me sign their entire inventory, about 20 copies.

The torrential downpour probably had something to do with the small turnout. Midway Airport reported 2.28 inches in only 78 minutes. The worst of it hit Orland Park as I was leaving Borders. I waited a few minutes in the vestibule, talking with an attractive young woman who was headed to Florence, Italy for school. She found my book interesting, but I couldn't persuade her to buy one since she's leaving the country.

The rain let up a bit and I ran to my car (I had parked in the back of the lot to leave the closer spaces for my hordes of fans). As I jumped in, the rain got heavy again. Fortunately I didn't have to pick up my wife from work until midnight so I read my new books in the car for an hour (at least I had parked under a streetlamp). Finally the rain stopped, so I headed back toward Chicago. I hadn't gone far when I noticed the streets were dry -- for such a deluge, the storm had traversed a pretty narrow path.

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