21st May 2013
Day 8: Chicago
Schools Visited: 2
Total Audience: 850
Where I am right now: In the Dallas Airport, waiting for my flight to San Francisco, under a tornado watch and praying I get to SF in one piece, let alone on time
What’s on my iPod: “I Want it That Way,” Backstreet Boys
After a light Saturday and Sunday, I deluded myself into thinking my life was normal again. But by 8:30am on Monday morning, I was back in front of a crowd of 400 kids for another Class Acts event. Even though I get up at 5:30am most mornings on tour to swim laps and try to keep my energy level at a constant adrenaline-high, it doesn’t really work. l tend to stumble into these schools, half-asleep, unsure what city I’m in, and wondering how Madonna does it — when I’m more like Patsy from ‘Absolutely Fabulous,’ slurring words, tripping on students’ backpacks, and looking for any identifying sign in the school to remind myself what city and state I’m in.
Remember how Britney Spears once showed up in Boston and yelled ‘Hello Dallas!’ That’s me, only without the fortune, fame, and autotune.
But once I see the army of kids, I’m magically ‘on’. For one thing, they’re adorable — at least the 4th and 5th graders are, cherubic, angelic, and attentive. The 6th, 7th, and 8th graders tend to be a bit grumbly and hormonal, but once they realize this isn’t your average book presentation — and that I’m a bit mischievous and hormonal myself — they tend to be even more into it than the younger kids. For another thing, the Class Acts program means that they are HYPED beyond belief for our appearance. The schools have been divided into two teams, one supporting each author, and the teams usually have made banners, costumes, posters, signs, etc. rooting for the book. (This is how we ended up with the creepy Mask Incident on Day 3 in Atlanta — see that diary if you missed it.)
So at the first school, the kids had made over 150 signs and banners supporting THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD & EVIL, and at the second school, all 200 kids showed up in Team Chainani blue. I tend not to get nervous in front of large crowds, if only because I enjoy the rush of intensity and pressure, but there is something scary about not disappointing a group of kids who’ve been preparing all week for your visit. Plus, like all middle-schoolers, they don’t want to be on the ‘crappy’ team.
So far all the appearances have been going fairly well — but at the second school, I had my first disastrous start. I tripped during my triumphant entrance and ran onto the stage, only to accidentally take the wrong end of the stage. This left me standing near his red banners and signs, while across the gym, my blue-costumed team gaped at me, wondering how they drew the buffoon as team leader. Then, once I finally found my end of the stage, the microphone started emitting ear-shattering feedback — at which point I thought it was my cell phone causing the problem, so I took it out of my pocket and to be cool, tried to slide it away with my foot. I missed.
[Dear Self, Please stop trying to be cool.]
Instead of sliding like a hockey puck, I caught the edge of the cell phone and it slid two inches and the feedback went 10 decibels louder. I actually heard a boo from my own side. To make matters worse, the gym was furnace hot, so I was sweating so bad, I could feel it trickling into my own mouth. And let me tell you… Sixth graders _notice_ sweat. They notice sweat because they themselves can’t stop sweating, so when they see a sweater, they no longer see an adult. They see a fellow wretched sixth-grader.
In the end, the book won them over, thank god, because the book is much cooler than I am. All I can do is keep trying in vain to live up to it.
Best question of the day: “If someone gives you a bad review, does it mean no one will ever buy your book again?”
Best meal of the day: Eh. Probably a Luna bar. Bad food day.
Weird incident of the day: In the faculty bathroom at one of the schools, there was a sign on the mirror:
“Dear Colleague, This is a reminder to relax and take this moment to appreciate your life and calmly assess why you are here and what your goals are. Then you can proceed to the rest of your day with serenity and self-awareness.”
If I was a teacher, that sign would make me down a bottle of Xanax every time I saw it.
Awkward moment of the day: At the Chicago airport, as I got into the normal security line, I noticed the first class security line was even longer. The very, very Indian ID-checker noticed my look and chortled, “TOO MANY RICH PEOPLE IN AMERICA!”