Until my first novel was published, I didn’t know how heavy words could be. Literally, I mean. My novel weighs 9.6 ounces, not even a pound. But those words add up. A box of 20 weighs 12 pounds. Combined with the weight of the box, call it 13 pounds.
Traveling alone last weekend, I arrived at the Decatur Book Festival ready to deliver my box of books. Trying to get close as I could to the action, I pumped the parking meter with the quarters I had on hand and bought myself 24 minutes to transport my books to the right vendor area. Although early, the morning was already stifling and as I tucked my 13 pounds of words under my arm, I realized I am not the Diane Nyad of long-distance book carrying. Plus I had no idea where my actual destination was.
I spotted a volunteer, a woman about my age, wearing a brown Decatur Book Festival tee-shirt. I asked her how to get to Pavilion “E” and explained I was on the clock.
“I’m not sure, let’s find out,” she said in a calm and reassuring voice. She grabbed a map, looked up the location of the Pavilion, and pointed towards a spot neither of us could see, a place beyond a sea of tent tops. She tried to explain how to get there. I was clueless. Perhaps seeing my expression of complete bafflement, she said, “Why don’t I take you there?”
“That would be perfect,” I said. I followed her as we headed past a row of tents where book sellers were setting up. As we walked and talked, I breathed hard, sucking in the heat and humidity.
“Would you like me to carry some of your books?” she offered. Boy, would I! I popped open the lid and handed her eight books. Immediately my load felt lighter, and the distance seemed doable.
About five minutes later when we arrived at the check-in
area, there was a long line. I sighed.
Certainly my meter would run out and I’d get a parking ticket. And I’d have to
stand there holding my box of books alone.
“Would you like me to wait with you?” the volunteer asked.
“If it’s not too much trouble,” I replied.
“Not at all,” she said. While we waited, we talked. I learned her name was Brenda, and she had volunteered before. Like me, she was a big reader. She listened patiently as I voiced my worries that I would not make it back to the meter before I’d get a ticket. Finally it was my turn to sign in. I handed over my books and turned around to try and find my way back through the maze of tents and people. Brenda offered, “Let me walk you back to where you came in.”
As we walked, I told her that I really appreciated her help, that I would never have found the right tent without her assistance.
“You know, I think your being there for me is one of those God things,” I said.
“I know,” she said. “There’s a book about that. ‘When God Winks at You.’ It’s all about coincidences,” she said.
“Like you helping me," I added. When we finally reached the festival entrance, she pointed me towards the area where I had parked my car. I thanked her and said goodbye.
I arrived back at the meter with a minute to spare. Free of the weight of my books, I could park my car in a long-term spot and walk back to the festival at a leisurely pace. I was off to a good start, all thanks to the kindness of a stranger who offered to help, and to one of those winks from above.