“Everyone will be famous for 15 minutes." —Andy Warhol
I was food shopping recently near my apartment in College Park. I had my list and was going down the aisles filling my cart, lost in thought.
As I was looking down the cookie aisle, trying to figure out if lemon cookies or lemon snaps were cheaper, I saw an elderly woman out of the corner of my eye. She seem to examine me from a distance.
She came closer, stopped, and looked at the food I had in my cart. Then she gazed at me from all sides like I was some of a human oddity. I wondered if I had a rip in my pants or if my fly was down.
Finally, she spoke up. “I was reading this 'To Be or What' column on the Patch, and your face looks just like the guy that wrote the column about Food Network.”
Surprise is not the word for what I felt. I found my first live local reader of my work. I was speechless—and I am never speechless, ever! People have tweeted and Facebooked my columns, and others have commented about what I've writen, but this was different: a real person said that they had read what I wrote!
How was I to reply? I did not want to seem cocky or crass. A simple “Yes ma'am, it's me,” fell out of my mouth.
“From what you said, you must really like those food shows," she commented. I nodded wordlessly. “So how did you write this piece in the paper?”
“I just put down my thoughts on paper,” I said.
I waited to hear this fan tell me that she liked my writing (maybe I just needed a pat on the head to know I had done good work). Alas, it was not to be.
"Is that all it took?" she said to me. "I thought you needed to be special to be printed in the paper.”
Trying not to be cocky, I replied, “I am special, and you are as well, ma'am.”
She looked at me. “If you say so! It was interesting, what you wrote. I did not like it, but it was interesting.”
My mind raced. She didn't like the column I wrote. Why was she seeking me out? The answer eluded me.
“I've never met anyone whose picture was in the paper before," she said.
“And now that you have, what does it feel like?” I asked.
“You don't seem something special, like I think people in the newspaper are special!” she replied.
A plastic smile formed on my face. “Thank you, ma'am," I said, not really meaning it. “Have a good day.”
I walked away to continue my shopping.
Two aisles over, I could hear the same woman loudly talking on her cell phone: “Doris, I just met a famous writer from the newspaper in the supermarket. They are as real as we are.”
I just laughed about my first real "claim to fame" moment.