“Hi, I’m Jessie.” I exaggerate my long Midwestern “I” and type into the computer straddling my lap..
“Oh. I’m Camille. You said you are… Jerry?” She squints at my name badge, which has been flipped around backwards since I got on the conference center elevator and bent over to tie some kid’s shoe.
“Lisa actually. Lisa Kudrow.”
The woman directly behind me develops a coughing fit.
“Oh hello, Lisa. I thought you said… Jerry.” She squints at the badge again. Up front, the speaker has laid out a computer beside the box of donuts she’s offering the room, but she shows no sign of beginning her presentation.
“That’s my middle name.” I stare harder at my screen and type.
The woman behind me makes choking noises, and Camille turns to her. “Do you need some water?” she asks.
“No,” the woman says. “I’m fine.”
Camille faces the front again. “Well, as I was saying, I’ve won twenty short story awards.”
“I won some business cards one time.”
The choking woman had started to subside, but now she breaks out into a fresh fit of snorting coughs. Camille turns to her, no doubt to ask again if she needs water, when the back door bursts open to admit a small boy and his heavily laden mother. “Come on Grant,” says the mother. “Let’s sit in the back.”
Camille says, “I thought children weren’t allowed.”
“Sorry, my sitter cancelled.” The mother thumps down her conference bag, another bag brimming with toys, and an overstuffed purse. “He won’t be any trouble once he settles in.”
As if in direct response, the little boy zooms forward. “Hey, Shoe Lady!” he greets me.
“Hey, Shoe Dude!” We high five.
“Whatcha doing?” He glues himself to my elbow and stares at my screen.
“Is that a game?”
“Grant, sweetie,” his mother calls, “Come sit with me.”
“No! I want to sit with Shoe Lady.” He’s nudging the laptop out of his way to climb up in its place.
Camille says, “Really, a conference like this…”
I speak loudly to drown out the rest of her sentence. “I think my son forgot his trucks in my bag this morning, let’s check.” I push the laptop onto another chair and put Grant down so I can get to my conference bag.
“TWUCKS!” Grant produces three of Sam’s beloved Hot Wheels in two little fists.
“You want to drive them here in the aisle?” I get down and demonstrate my own voice-motor technique. Camille sniffs. I wave to Grant’s Mom as I stand. “I’ll scoot down so you can come sit by him.”
With an eye to Camille, Grant’s Mom collects her bags and walks forward. As she settles in beside me, the speaker taps the microphone and stands up.
Camille says, “I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name.”
The woman behind me leans forward and lays a hand on Grant’s mother’s shoulder. “Don’t you recognize her? That’s Jennifer Aniston.”
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.