Who would you queue for? And once you have queued, do you mind the brief and often impersonal contact achieved in 30 seconds or so? (Yes, I know, many of you stop and spend time on each fan, doodling and chatting and being friendly. But not all queuees do.)
Sara Paretsky was wondering this on her blog recently. She felt that she’d want her special Sara-ness to be recognised. So do I. My witchyness has to be acknowledged for complete happiness, but sometimes I’m willing to receive the 30 second blank stare simply to have been that close to X. It’s better than not having got close at all.
It’s the several hours in the queue I’m not too keen on. Let’s face it; I’m too old and nervous to cope well with any wait, so I don’t think I could do the Jacqueline Wilson style queue for most of the day (or was it just JW who spent eight hours signing, rather than her fans?). What makes sense is to plot and plan how you get to the beginning of the queue. Daughter and I did a careful recce in Cheltenham last year in anticipation of beating all the John Barrowman fans to it. (Not me, her.) And Michael Morpurgo at the National Theatre went accidentally well, with us just happening to be at the front.
I didn’t care enough for a Neil Gaiman signature to stand on a London street for hours that time a few years ago, when I had no idea of his cult status, and marvelled at the snake of people all over Covent Garden. When Terry Pratchett’s signing in Manchester turned into a barricade, thanks to Waterstone’s staff, we didn’t bother staying, either, despite Son’s admiration for Terry.
On the other hand, the queue for Wilbur Smith at the local bookshop last year wasn’t all that slow, despite him taking the time to shake people’s hand. Twice. And he asked people if they were ‘together’, which seems awfully risky to me.
Offspring and I stood in line to meet Sara Paretsky the first time we saw her. And she was friendly. The second time I took an alternative route, and asked to interview her, which can cut down on waiting time. It needn’t, since people often run late on tours. But you can wait sitting down, and generally you get more than the blank 30 seconds.
In theory there are people I’d wait hours for, except I don’t wait well. And close up some people can be a disappointment.