GateHouse — Have you ever been stuck in line somewhere behind a hypercaffeinated 11-year-old? They are astonishing creatures, boppy and boingy and like little fizzy hobbits, except hobbits will, at occasional intervals, cease talking for a second to breathe in, because otherwise they’ll keel over and turn purple. Eleven-year-olds do not have this physiological concern. They don’t stop on regular days, and they don’t stop while waiting for the last and final Harry Potter book at 10:30 on a Friday night. This is where I find myself behind an 11-year-old, and I am not just saying this here because she’s slaughtering me at Harry Potter trivia.
Address of the Order of the Phoenix? She nailed it. The name for a wizard who can transform into an animal? Pfft. The secret password required to view the Marauder’s Map? She was answering that before the question was over. Seriously, this girl was like the Good Will Hunting of Harry Potter.
Partly she was overstimulated to the point that I sort of worried her head would, at some indeterminate point, pop off of her head, perhaps accompanied by the sound that occurs when you place a finger on the inside of your cheek and pop it out of your mouth, fly around the room a few times to check things out, and then return to her neck, where it would continue talking at its current pace of approximately 700,000 words per minute.
But this was standard issue behavior at just one of last Friday’s 7 million book release parties, events, celebrations, throwdowns and riots, all unfolding under the pleasingly quaint reason of the release of a book. Here at a bookseller that shall remain nameless but rhymes with Carnes and Blobel, 90 minutes before showtime, the mood is lively, the coffee is flowing, the kids are bleary-eyed and fighting their damnedest to stay awake, the adults are more in costume than you might imagine, the scars are omnipresent and the eventual book dispersal is operating under a very effective and logical system of color-coding, which is much like the threat color-coding system employed by the federal government except it hasn’t been used to arbitrarily frighten people on particularly low poll-number days.
My party consists of my brother and his wife, the latter of whom is the only one who had her stuff together enough to actually pre-order the damned thing. My brother and I are doing the thing where we’re pretending to be there ironically, just to check it out, while secretly I’m plotting which of the weaker children I could body-slam for a book if it came down to it. (It’s not my trivia arch-nemesis, who, though small and in the fifth-grade, probably possesses a dark side and looks as though she probably has a pretty nasty left hook.)
So we’re killing an hour and a half before the book goes on sale, which we do partly by wandering around the store listing the books we’ve never read but think that we one day probably should, listing the books that we told our professors we read in college but didn’t, postulating on what could possibly be the plot of the apparent new best-seller by Danielle Steel, “Bungalow 2,” and telling the same jokes as everyone else in a bookstore on Harry Potter night, such as waiting until 11:30 and going, “So, you guys ready to go?”
But time flies when you’re surrounded by caffeinated pre-teens and adults in robes, and when it came time to line up, things got a little lively (I particularly enjoyed the every-15-minutes announcements that went like this: “No, really, if you have ANY OTHER PURCHASES TO MAKE, PLEASE BRING THEM UP NOW”). But they were also terribly orderly, and efficient, and when it came time to queue up the Browns, my sister-in-law started – and I’m not a doctor, so this may not be the actual medical term here – yipping a little. So did I, frankly, but I was just jealous that I didn’t have a book ordered. And we got up to the counter, and she got her book, and out we walked, all three of us, no one daring to look at it, open it, glance at so much as a chapter title for fear of ruining one of the rare few chances any of us will ever have to be surprised by something this long in coming. When I get around to it, that is. First I have to finish “Bungalow 2.”