Last night I helped out with a major author signing at work: former President Jimmy Carter autographed his new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. I spent most of the evening less than ten feet away from the president and never got to say a word to him because I was so hard at work.
My job was to take the to-be-signed books out of their owners' hands, flip them to the full title page where Mr. Carter would sign, and hand them to another co-worker, who handed them to Mr. Carter's aide, who handed them to Mr. Carter. Lest this sound impractical and/or redundant, let me just tell you it was hard work. We were actually down another person in this assembly line because the Secret Service somehow failed to get him security clearance. The president's aide kept shooting me evil looks because I was too slow -- I refused to be mean and shout at customers just because they weren't on the ball with their books ready. I said thank you to every person whose books I snatched away, meaning I probably thanked close to 1000 people. Tonight I'm so tired I don't feel like thanking anyone for anything for quite awhile.
The security for this event was the heaviest I've seen in 20-plus years of bookselling. In addition to the Secret Service agents, who were everywhere (I had three of 'em stationed right next to me), there were also uniformed LAPD and Pasadena police officers throughout the store and out on the street. I guess the controversial nature of Jimmy Carter's new book warranted it. Aside from some Carter supporters and protestors screaming at each other outside on the front sidewalk, there didn't seem to be any trouble. But the Secret Service was prepared: among many other precautions, they handed out bomb threat forms to managers all over the store. This form is a list of questions one should be prepared to deal with if someone calls in a bomb threat. Some of them are obvious, like trying to describe the caller's voice (cracking voice, nasal, deep breathing, crying, slurred, etc.) and background noises. Others are a little odder, like trying to get the caller to tell you his or her name and address. I wonder if any would-be bombers ever slip up and give out this information?
I am almost done with Michael Crichton's new book, Next. It's pretty terrible, but not nearly as bad as his previous two novels. I find even his worst books compelling.
I added a site meter to our bookstore blog and I love to check "referrals" to see what searches bring people to our blog. The number one thing people are looking for is Horrified B Movie Victims action figures. The number two search (and apparently the most disappointing, based on the briefness of visits) is for bad girls.