Okay, so I had it coming. I'd been lying low for years, while my first three children passed through kindergarten and into the upper grades, hoping I could fly under the radar by volunteering as a room parent and donating stuff when stuff was called for. But last spring, the phone rang in the early afternoon, well before school release, and like an idiot I answered the call.
It was the outgoing PTA president. For reasons still unclear, I'd been nominated for a position on the Nominating Committee. What's the Nominating Committee, you ask? (I did.) The Nominating Committee, my friends, is the committee that nominates people to serve on committees. It's the smoke-filled room of PTA politics, except the smoke has been replaced by the scent of baking cookies in well-appointed kitchens, and the single-malt Scotch by a Dunkin Donuts Box o'Joe (because we are all about keeping things real around here, oh yeah).
So there we are, zapping unsuspecting mommies to chair the thirty-odd PTA committees, like some kind of elite suburban sniper unit, when we came to the Fall Book Fair committee. I'm wiping cookie crumbs from my mouth, wondering if anyone will notice if I snatch a third, when I realize everyone is looking at me. She writes BOOKS, they're thinking. SHE can help organize the book fair. It's PERFECT.
Never mind that I have trouble organizing my own refrigerator. Never mind that, by the same logic, I should organize the Election Day Bake Sale because I happen to make the best goddamned chocolate cupcakes you've ever tasted. It was a done deal. I couldn't even protest.
So I showed up obediently at the school media center (what, you're still calling it a library?) at seven-twenty on a crisp October morning, donned my red Scholastic apron, and started selling books.
One thing became clear right away, as I cruised through the rolling metal shelves and stacked tables: letting a book lover run the book fair is like letting an alcoholic man the liquor store. With a few innocent swipes of my credit card, I became the fair's best customer. In the morning before school, my kids and I would start our stack, and by the time I rang myself out in the afternoon, I could practically hear the entire publishing industry give a distant cheer up the East River and across Long Island Sound.
Another truth: kids love books. Every time another class came in, a high-pitched squealing would fill the air, as if the students expected Justin Bieber himself to be hanging around among the stacks, and not just his autobiography (which he totally wrote himself, haterz!). Sure, many of the girls would head straight for the Pink Table, where we sequestered most of the Barbie and Disney Princess books, and many of the boys bolted for the Pokemon guides. But they were books, real live books with paper pages, and the kids were nuts for them. So, hey.
Third (and this is a big one): if you write books, you should go RIGHT NOW to your nearest bookseller and give him or her a big smacking kiss on the buttocks. I personally sold us out of War Horse and Library Mouse, just because I love the pants off those guys and made sure everyone knew it. It's a big old complicated bookshelf out there, and people want a recommendation. I don't know if it was the red apron or what, but they pretty much bought whatever I told them to buy.
So the week wasn't a loss after all, except for the ten thousand or so words I could have written instead, and it turns out we increased sales 8% over last year, both volume and dollar. (Take that, end-of-the-printed-book chest-beaters!)
The bad news? It looks like I'll be re-nominated to the Fall Book Fair committee next year.
Oh, and I'll see you at at the Election Day Bake Sale table, bright and early.