Before the actual conference starts, the RWA holds an autographing session for its published authors that is open to the public. (There are plenty of other book signings set up by the publishers later in the week but they are only open to registered conference attendees.) This year there were 500 authors who had signed up — that’s one of their biggest, I believe. I’d been out to lunch that afternoon with Tera Kleinfelter, my Samhain editor, and when we wandered back to the hotel just after two o’clock people were already lining up on the main floor.
I’d volunteered to help out at the registration desk (which was on the 5th floor right outside the ballroom where the literacy signing was being held) and they’d scheduled my shift for between 3 and 5 that afternoon. Except the literacy signing started at 5:30 and authors were supposed to be in the ballroom between 5 and 5:15. Easy peasy, right? I mean, I’m already on the 5th floor right outside the door…except I wasn’t dressed for the signing, I’d dressed for standing on my feet for two hours in a tiny rather hot room and was now sweaty and needed to change. So I had to race up to my room on the 18th floor…well, okay, I WANTED to race to the 18th floor.
I mentioned the elevators before, right? Instead of pressing an up or down button, then climbing on the first one that arrives and punching in your floor number like normal elevators these had keypads at the entrance where you typed in your floor number. It would then direct you to the elevator that would take you to your floor. (There’s a video here showing how they work) Except the system doesn’t seem to worry about things like capacity. If there were 5 people or 50 needing an elevator, they’d all be directed to the SAME elevator. Believe me, there were OFTEN times when there were 50 people (or more) waiting for an elevator to whisk them up to their room. And quite often there would be three or four elevators arrive beforehand that would be empty or nearly so, but you couldn’t take them because they weren’t programmed to stop on your floor. So when the elevator you were supposed to take finally arrived the sea of people would all try to cram themselves into the elevator because they were in the same hurry as you. Well, finally I managed to make it up to my room. I had a quick wash up and redid my make up, then changed my clothes to something a bit more presentable. (Record time for me, I tell you!) But it was already 5:15 by the time we got back to the 18th elevators to go down to the 5th floor.
When the elevator finally arrived 5 minutes later (remember, everyone and their brother was trying to get to the 5th floor at the same time), we weren’t the only ones waiting, and probably one more person than should have climbed into the almost filled elevator until there was no room left. The doors slid closed and … nothing. Normally I would press a floor number again or have something to do, but here? There’s no inside panel, nothing to press other than the open or close door buttons. Then it started bouncing. Not its nice smooth (though terrifyingly fast) movement where it would deposit us safely on our chosen floor, oh no! It BOUNCED.
Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.
Cue the weakening knees, the sweaty palms. The hyperventilation.
I blame a book for my fear of elevators. Arthur C. Hailey’s Hotel to be exact. SPOILER ALERT: That book featured an elevator in a hotel where a cable snaps and the brakes fail on one side. The elevator tips onto the side, the metal weakens and tears open and the occupants of the elevator plunge to the ground only to be smashed into pulp when the elevator ultimately falls on top of them. (By the way, Hailey researched the book at Toronto’s Royal York Hotel–and yes, I have had to take those elevators in real life)
I read Hotel when I was about 8 or 9 and to a child with an already active imagination, it set a fear of elevators in me that has stayed with me to this day. Oh I haven’t let it stop me — I used to work at the Toronto Dominion Center and had to take the elevator to the top floor of the tallest building several times every day. The Otis elevator guys actually took me along with them once to show me how the elevators work and how they maintain them. So I know that the way Hailey set up the elevator to fail in his book wouldn’t actually happen in real life. But I still don’t like them. Especially when they don’t behave the way they’re supposed to. And they’re not supposed to ….
Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.
When we’d stepped into the elevator, Gizmo Guy and I had been separated (only by a matter of feet) so there were people between us. Strangers whom I couldn’t grab onto as a lifeline. Well I could have but I knew better. My luck it would have been the CEO of Harlequin who might have objected to my nails digging into her biceps in a death grip. By the time the damned elevator finally decided to get its act in gear and start heading down, I was a basketcase. Once the doors finally opened on a floor, I pushed my way out, not caring that it wasn’t the fifth floor. There was No. Damned. Way. I was staying on that deathtrap elevator. I didn’t care if it was the 17th floor or the 7th, I wanted OFF!
Turned out it stopped on the eighth floor which was the hotel lobby and there were escalators between the floors from there on down. I made it to the ballroom where the signing was taking place 5 minutes before the autograph seekers were allowed in, but there was a guard stationed at the entrance who wouldn’t let GG in with me to help calm me down. I made it to my seat, but if you showed up in the first few minutes and talked to me, I don’t remember it.
Since GG wasn’t a registered member of the conference, he had to wait until they allowed members of the public in but he finally pushed through the throngs to where I was sitting and made sure I was okay. (There really needs to be some rule that authors can bring in one “helper” with them.) Anyway, I’d originally asked him if he would go around while I was signing and take photos of my favorite authors. I’d even made up a list from the one provided by the RWA. Except I’d left the list on the desk in our room. Ooops. So I desperately tried to remember who was there and who I’d wanted photos of and sent him off with a couple names each time. Diana Gabaldon for instance…
And Lauren Dane (I had met Lauren earlier that day and have other photos with her but here’s one of her at the signing…she was across the aisle and down about a dozen seats from me)…
Victoria Dahl… I caught Victoria’s attention and mimed that I was sending my hubby over to take her picture. (A room filled with 500 people is loud enough, but when they opened the doors and the public poured it, the noise level rose to deafening. I think it was louder even than a rock concert because there are pauses in the sound at a concert — this was one continuous hum of voices. So if we asked you to repeat what you’d said, we were paying attention, we just couldn’t hear. Hence the mime routine with Victoria.) I cannot for the life of me remember what else I did, but whatever it was I got her laughing and a couple times after that we’d catch each other’s eyes and try to make the other laugh again. What a class act she is. (ah heck, every author I met in NY was a class act, not just Victoria.)
Then a guy showed up — in a roomful of thousands of women, guys were a scarce commodity. It turned out to be Leslie Kelly’s husband, Bruce Kelly. Bruce runs the Secrets of a Romance Writers’ Husband blog. I originally met him when Gizmo Guy wrote a post to me last year. He’d wanted to interview GG as a fellow romance writers’ husband. While I’m still trying to convince GG to come out of his shell, I finally managed to get the two guys together.
Oh, and GG finally got a picture of me at my first RWA Literacy signing 🙂
See? There are people looking at my book — asking for my autograph. Squee!
Oh, and I finally managed to get Victoria Dahl to myself after it was all done…