My sister Steph and I went to see one of our favorite authors , Charlaine Harris, speak at Shippensburg University. Steph came up from MD to my house and then we rode out to Shippensburg where neither of us had ever been before. (Wow, so far this is a really boring story, but it gets better, I promise! ) It only took about 45 minutes to get out there and we were really afraid that it was going to be crowded, what with the popularity of True Blood….wait, I forgot, you all may not know off the top of your head who Ms. Harris is. Well. She is the author of the Sookie Stackhouse mysteries which is the basis for the TV show on HBO called True Blood. So you can see why we might’ve been afraid it would be packed.
Now Steph had called about 4 weeks ahead to SU and the woman there said she’d gotten lots of calls, but there was plenty of parking and the auditorium was huge, she promised. The doors opened at 6pm for the lecture to start at 7pm.
A little background: SU puts out a journal twice a year. They print it themselves and it is interesting the way it works: they announce a topic, a theme, and take all writings about that theme. The theme for September 2009’s issue was Vampires, Parasites and Invaders. From what I read, they were taking poems, non-fiction and some fiction if I remember correctly. It’s hard to find out information because their journal, Proteus, does not have a website (I know, right??). So anyhoo Charlaine Harris was like the featured writer for that journal issue. And we thought it’d be crowded, that there would be a line to get in waiting for the doors to open. And we were afraid the weather would be crappy and we’d have to wait outside in it. And the fact that we’d be driving and waiting for the doors to open and listening to the lecture all through the dinner hour---well we were afraid we’d be hungry too and wouldn’t have time (or any idea as to where) to eat.
All fears were unfounded to say the least and apparently, we should’ve been more concerned with getting home, but that’s later in the story.
So we drive out there, there’s plenty of parking and there’s no one outside at 5:15pm. We go to this hole in the wall restaurant (where I could’ve parked right in front, in the LAST space available, but when I stopped and started to back up, this car full of f__tard (fill in the blank) college students zipped right up on my butt so I couldn’t back up. I swear, people should have IQ tests before getting their licenses!! Just because they’re in college doesn’t mean they’re smart enough to be driving!!....I feel better now) We had steak wraps with chips and ranch dip. We get back to campus at about 6:10pm and there’s no one waiting outside. There are plenty of (elderly) attendants waiting to pounce on us as soon as we walked in, all trying to be helpful at the same time. We noted the good size spread of books for sale but after standing there indecisively for a solid 3 minutes Steph finally said, “Look, why don’t you see if you want one afterwards?” So we grabbed our copies of Proteus (free of charge! Thank you Shippensburg University!) and went quick-stepping down the ramp to the lower level of the auditorium. We peered in anxiously to find….auditorium maybe a quarter of the way full and plenty of seats up front. We sat in the third row.
It was awesome. It was 19 minutes of awesome. And then she was done. We couldn’t believe we had driven so far and she had only spoken for 19 fricken minutes!! But then there was like a good 30-40 minutes of Q & A. Overall, she’s really funny and it was great fun hanging out with my sister of course, because she’s one of my absolute favorite people. Then we waited in line for I don’t know how long—30 minutes? – to get her autograph and get a picture with her. She’s so darned nice and she chatted with everyone. I mean, you don’t want to wait in line for forever but then you want a few minutes with her when you get up there, so it’s a catch 22: you want everyone else to hurry the heck up and then you want to be able to linger with the author yourself! ;) At any rate, I could tell the attendant want to keep things moving, and I had 2 things I wanted her to autograph and a student of SU took our picture for us and then we were moving on and I hadn’t said more than, “can you sign this to…” Steph had the presence of mind to actually say how much she liked her work. Not me. Brilliant.
So then we see a fan in line with Starbucks and we pounce.
“Where did you get that coffee??”
Her intelligent friends says, “Starbucks.”
Her friend tells us it’s on campus at the library. She tries to direct us and tells us it’s a 3 minute walk. We decide to drive over and walk but it’s still not clear (library not labeled on road side but on interior side….helpful!!) By the 3rd student we stop, we aren’t even asking nicely, we’re just saying, “Starbucks?” in an increasingly desperate tone. Finally we get there, there’s a good size line and no bathroom. We had to use the (disgusting) library bathroom around the corner. We head back to the car and get on the road, chatting happily about Charlaine (yeah, we call her Charlaine now, we’re like this) . We hop back on 81 after a brief directions check and continue talking. We’ve never had this much time alone that I can recall! No kids, no other family around, just us in the car, talking up a storm. We talked about music and TV and books. We laughed and laughed and sipped our Starbucks. It was great. Until I noticed a sign. It said:
Maryland Memorial Highway.
I’m sorry, what?
I mention the sign to Steph. We panic.
I pull out a map but it’s only for York County, PA. We’ve been driving a good 30 minutes or more, wondering where the signs for 83 were and now there are signs we’re in MARYLAND!!! The map gets pitched.
I pull over at a gas station. As we pull up, I see a heavy-set greasy-haired woman with glasses glance out the side window as if checking for something and then start to move away from the counter. She notices us, but doesn’t notice me noticing her and I read her lips: “Shit” she says before moving back behind the counter.
My sister dashes in and asks where we can get on 83 North.
The woman looks at Steph as if she were stupid and asks where we’re trying to get to.
Steph says “York” and the woman says, “New York?”
Yeah. Who’s the stupid one now?
“No, York, PA” Steph answers.
“Honey, you’re still in Maryland,” she says.
“You need to go out here and get on 81 going NORTH and you’ll see signs from there,” she says helpfully.
Steph gets back in the car and we marvel that we got on 81 going the wrong way---how?? How had we done that?? We checked the direction, we checked the signs….sigh.
I drive like a bat out of hell. We pass Shippensburg again with a groan and continue until we see signs and more familiar territory. It took us 45 minutes to out there and 2 and a ½ to get back. We missed the coffee/reading /further sister time we had been fantasizing about. Morgan had consumed all the pumped milk I left, so I showered, got Ian’s stuff ready for school the next day and still had to change and nurse the baby. I didn’t get to bed til 1am.
All for 19 mintues with Charlaine Harris. Good times.