Every great once and a while, I expect something amazing to happen. I imagine I feel it coming from a long way off, the preliminary tremors of a large quake, a vibration felt in the earth a long while before the air carries sound. Yesterday was one of those days, when I went to meet Buzz Aldrin.
Now, I’ve got a real soft spot for Buzz. Second on the moon, that whole underdog thing. It faltered a little when I learned he’d received Communion on the moon (how can you look upon the endless black and think that anything simply granted it all as such?) but he kept it to himself and in fact said the words that we should all “(…) give thanks in his or her own way.” Because foremost, Buzz is simply pro-exploration. Get off planet, any way, any how, and get it going. Get to Mars, get new propulsion systems, just get.
And he punched a moon-landing hoax theorist in the face! That is honestly my happy place.
Unfortunately, I’ll cut to the punchline early: it was a less than stellar day. In fact, it was pretty disappointing, made worse by the issue that none of it was Buzz’s doing.
I had originally intended to go to a signing at the Westwood Borders Books & Music, but that was Thursday night, right around the time the world learned that Michael Jackson had died. And for those that don’t know: Westwood is where the UCLA hospital is. And the bookstore itself is two blocks away. Which meant that the news kept cutting to scenes of the whole neighborhood cordoned off, traffic reduced to a crawl, reroutes in place to ensure only the passage of ambulances and other needed personnell and most importantly, no me. I don’t even know if Aldrin’s signing was cancelled, I never made it there.
And here a second chance! But at the dreaded Grove, a monstrosity of a local mall known for mid-high end retail stores and shoulder-to-shoulder weekend crowds hoping to spot the occasional attention-grubbing celebrity (trust: if a celeb is spotted at The Grove it is because they want to be spotted). No matter: it was Buzz Aldrin and I’d be there.
I’m not even sure where to begin. Scratch that, I’ll just print the letter I emailed to Barnes & Noble corporate:
“As much as I am weirded out by writing complaint letters (I prefer to handle these things in person) it would seem it is required as my complaint is about an entire store.
I was at the Buzz Aldrin book-signing on Saturday the 27th at the Hollywood, CA Barnes & Noble (The Grove).
So many unpleasantries happened that it’d sound nuts for me to list them all, so I’ll summarize it: the store was chaos. Not the customers, but the staff. Each staff member was a varying degree of rude, a varying degree of confused and all were totally apathetic.
I suppose what I would suggest to improve the awful experience I had would be to have a tighter system for book signings (I honestly am most shocked at this part – this store hosts celebrity signings every week but it felt like they’d never done it before!) and ensure the staff are all on the same page with the facts. Otherwise, I don’t know what to say. That kind of ill behavior is difficult to intentionally coordinate; I’m not sure how you pulled it off.”
Except I’ll go ahead and sound nuts here on my own website: the staff? Were total douchebags. Each and every one of them. The scene was a tremendous clusterfuck all the way around, made worse by a hot day. To give you an idea of what we were dealing with:
- You had to get a number from the registers in order to get your book signed.
- In order to get a number, you had to present a book with proof of purchase. They tried to tell me this meant I needed to buy a book in the store from them right at that moment, which was not true (and seemed intentionally dishonest), and I badgered them until they gave me a number.
- I was then told that my companion would also need to buy a book in order to simply stand in line with me. Also not true.
- The number I was given was 189.
- Upstairs, people were queuing at a first-come-first-serve basis. Why were we given numbers? No one knew why.
- People with low-digit numbers were pissed off.
- People queuing behind me were told they needed to queue on a lower floor due to “safety issues.” These safety reasons were not elaborated upon.
- Non-queuing rubberneckers stood around, somehow safe from the “safety issues.”
- All the while, staff were totally apathetic. A manager-looking type in a tweedy suit was short and rude with everyone.
- The queue was arranged so that no one could see Mr. Aldrin speaking.
My view for the talk.
- The volume of the microphone that Mr. Aldrin spoke into was so low that people called out “louder!” and were hushed.
- Babies were screaming.
- It was very hot.
- Someone called for people with numbers 1-30 who were then seated at the front while Mr. Aldrin let them ask questions. Neither their questions or his answers were heard by the crowd.
This photo had to be achieved by holding the camera fully extended over one’s head.
- The numbers were totally useless, as it turns out, and they allowed the first-come-first-serve queue to continue while he signed books.
- Mr. Aldrin did not personalize books, nor did he look at or speak to his fans.
Okay, that last bit was a bitter jab, but true. I’m inclined to let that part pass because the man is 79 years old for fuck’s sake and was basically assaulted by weirdos for hours (seriously: men with bowl-cuts) but it was kinda sad. I had expected to get teary because I MET A HUMAN WHO HAD BEEN ON THE MOON! but mostly I was overheated and exhausted and disappointed. Still.
Sigh. I don’t know. I certainly won’t be going to another Barnes & Noble event any time in the next 5 years (after which I’ll forget that anything happened).
Still, I’m glad I went and it’s kind of intense. After Buzz and his cohorts are gone, will there be more humans to meet that have been to the moon?