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If you ever want unwarranted sympathy, go on a lecture tour. “Oh, my God,” people will say, “I just feel so awful for you.”
No one offered me any pity when I was moving bricks in a wheel barrow, or washing dishes in 100 degree heat. All I ever heard back then was “hurry up,” but stand at a podium for an hour and a half, or sit on you ass at a book signing table and you’ll never hear the end of it. “You poor thing, you must be exhausted.”
“Well actually…no,” I most often say. “To tell you the truth, I’ve never felt better.”
This tour, though, is proving more difficult. What’s doing me in is the weather. When Wednesday’s flight from St Louis was cancelled, my agent contacted a car service. The driver arrived at noon, and I spent the next six and a half hours folded into his back seat, watching and re-watching the same two episodes of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” on my iPad. Three times we had to pull over due to the rain, which was Biblical. The Des Moines show was to start at 7:30 and I arrived at the theater, unshaved and wrinkled, forty minutes before curtain.
The following day The Register ran a short article headlined, “Humorist Sedaris Loses Power.” A casual reader might mistake this for a review, but the reporter meant it literally. Just before I walked on stage the electricity went out. The crew rigged up a generator and though it went dead a couple of times, forcing me to read by flashlight and shout at the top of my voice rather than use the microphone, in the end I thought it worked out okay. This was due in large part to the audience-terrific sports every one of them, and patient.
Again the following morning my flight was cancelled, so I went to Louisville on a private jet, the sort that’s like a limo with wings. This has happened once or twice in the past. The planes leave not from the normal airport, but from what always resembles a club house. In the bathrooms there are tooth brushes and disposable razors. There are cookies and peanuts, all yours for the taking. Wow, you think, free stuff! But it’s not really free. In fact it’s very far from free. $10,000 far in this particular case.
I’ll take that pity now.
The day after Louisville I was to fly to Dallas, and then on to Wichita. From there it would be a ninety minute drive to Salina, a town I had never been to before. When the first of my two planes was delayed, I grumbled and cursed, but only because everyone else was doing it. An extra fifteen minutes wasn’t going to kill me, but then they delayed us by another fifteen minutes. Then they delayed us by five hours and I had to admit defeat. It’s the first time since 2003 that I’ve had to cancel a show, but there was nothing I could do about it. Rather than spending the night in Louisville, I took a 6:30 flight to Memphis, that way I could wake up in the city I’d be performing in.
“You poor thing,” said the desk clerk when I checked into my hotel. “You must be exhausted.”
“I really am,” I told her.
“Nobody likes a cancelled flight.”
“Make that three,” I said.
“Well, we’re glad you’re here.”
“Plus my back hurts,” I told her. “My knees do too, and I’m thirsty.”
“We’ll just get you upstairs so you can relax.”
“My fingers are too sore to push the elevator buttons,” I said.
“Don’t worry,” she assured me, “I’ll get someone to do it for you.” No amount of sympathy feels like enough and I plan to stay this way at least until Charlotte, if I ever make it that far.
**Crocheted owl made by and presented to me by Becky Muehling of Cordova Tennessee