Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
This is fine
"Only 2 people came to my author signing yesterday." Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
If you’ve been on the Internet in the last 10 years, especially if you’ve been on social media—and especially Twitter—I suspect you’ve seen the “This is fine” meme.
It involves a comic with a dog sitting at a table with a cup of coffee as the entire room is engulfed in flames. He says, “This is fine.”
People like to post it as a commentary on things that are decidedly not fine in their eyes, but that we’re all living through anyway: political stuff, weather, sports teams, the fact that final exams are coming up in college and they’re not prepared, whatever.
Anyway, the creator of the comic that spawned the meme, KC Green, realized it was now a decade old, so he posted about its legacy: "I made it vague on purpose. Like any good piece of art, people interpret it how they want to."
It’s kind of serendipitous for me that we have this anniversary, because I’ve had this image pop into my head repeatedly over the past few weeks, based on an author’s description of a common experience.
"Only 2 people came to my author signing yesterday, so I was pretty bummed about it. Especially as 37 people responded 'going' to the event. Kind of upset, honestly, and a little embarrassed."
Anyway, things worked out for Chelsea. A who’s-who of big-time, successful (wealthy? I think) authors weighed in on Twitter, saying they’d had the same thing happen and even praising her for admitting it to the world:
Cheryl Strayed: I'm sorry that happened to you, Chelsea. I know how awful it feels, as it has happened to me too. Almost every author I know has had this experience at some point in their career. It isn't a reflection of you or your work!
Stephen King: At my first SALEM'S LOT signing, I had one customer. A fat kid who said, "Hey bud, do you know where there's some Nazi books?"
Margaret Atwood: Join the club. I did a signing to which Nobody came, except a guy who wanted to buy some Scotch tape and thought I was the help. :)
Now, Chelsea Banning’s book was self-published, and she would end up hearing agents and publishers as a result of her viral tweet that she likely never would have known otherwise.
For what it’s worth, here are a few of my own sad book signing stories. Most of these had to do with the tour for my book about West Point in 2008. If I had known big-name authors would have come to my side, I would have posted about them then!
Somebody got the idea to put me at a table outside the PX at Joint Base Lewis–McChord. I was between a star wrestler from the WWE who had a book, and the Seattle Seahawks cheerleaders, who had a calendar.
I did a live event on Georgia public television, but there was a big storm, and only two people showed up to a 200-person theater. My speech was fine, but the scheduled Q&A was awkward with almost no crowd. I wound up posing questions to myself.
This one has a happy ending. Nobody showed for my reading at a Barnes & Noble near Boston! Then, just before kickoff, my parents walked in. Then, a handful of guys from my old reserve unit showed up. Eventually, “nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd” kicked in, and the room filled up with passers-by.
I know I’m mixing two Internet themes, and sprinkling it with my own experience. But sometimes life gives you a burning house, or a guy who only wants Scotch tape, or a Seattle Seahawks cheerleaders calendar, and you just have to act as if everything were going the way you wish it were:
This is fine. Then, sometimes it is!
Got more examples? They’re welcome in the comments. And, if you ever see an author putting on a brave face at an empty bookstore signing, remember: an angel will get its wings if you sit down for a minute and listen. You don’t even have to buy the book!
7 other things worth knowing today
Italian police captured their country's most-wanted mobster, Matteo Messina Denaro after a 3-decade hunt, by tracking cancer treatments and then grabbing him on is way to a cafe, where he didn't deny who he was or resist. (BBC)
A passenger on a doomed aircraft that crashed in Nepal, taking the lives of 72 people aboard, livestreamed the flight including the crash itself on Facebook Live. The link I'm providing here does not include the video, which I don't have any desire to watch. (BBC)
More layoffs: Microsoft reportedly plans to cut about 11,000 jobs. It's a smaller percentage than many other companies, though: roughly 5 percent. (Reuters)
Sometimes I have to laugh at the acronyms politicians come up with for bills. Case in point, the Stopping Home Office Work’s Unproductive Problems Act, which works out to the SHOW UP ACT. It would end the right to work-from-home for many thousands of federal employees. (WUSA-9)
Maybe this will get their attention: In the UK, members of the House of Commons voted to add a two-year jail sentence for tech executives whose platforms "deliberately" expose minors to "harmful content." I don't know how likely it is that it actually becomes law, but in my experience dangling a prison sentence often gets people's notice. (ArsTechnica)
Most laid-off Twitter employees who say they never got the two-months severance pay they were promised cannot sue as part of a class action, according to a federal court, which says they signed an arbitration clause when they were hired. (The Hill)
Sometimes, I share an article that just sucked me in, and that isn't the sort of thing I normally read. Anyway: How to grow pineapple houseplants with store-bought pineapples. (Real Simple)
Thanks for reading. Photo via Twitter. I wrote about some of this at Inc.com. See you in the comments.