What becomes a legend most? I have no idea. I’m not the legend type. But, earlier this week I received my first fan letter. I have had a few brushes with fame—by now, perhaps an hour’s worth. But, as always these strange encounters come in fits and spurts and without fanfare I quickly recede back with the rest of humanity.
Recently, as many of you know, I became the de facto poster boy for the furloughed Federal worker. First on Washington, DC’s Fox affiliate, then in a news story CBS News beamed to its affiliates across the country and world, then The Washington Post and finally a Swiss weekly and French public radio.
I should thank my agent for all the exposure but I don’t have one. I was discovered by my Tweets. Facebook will never make you famous, but Twitter could, at least for a few minutes. Take last week’s célébrité du jour Tom Matzzie. While riding an Amtrak train Matzzie suddenly recognized an important phone call going on a few rows ahead of him. Former National Security Agency director Michael Hayden was being interviewed by a journalist on the other end of the line. And, like all good social media wonks, Matzzie immediately began live tweeting a running commentary. The event was covered in real time by the Post and other news outlets.
Trains are wonderful places for voyeurs like Tom and me. In fact, I’ve been chronicling my fellow commuters in a series called The Theatre of the Barely Socially Acceptable that documents phone conversations I’ve overheard on DC’s Metro. People have lost all common sense about their personal space, talking about anything in front of anyone. I don’t mind. It makes my commute that much more exciting. And Matzzie’s running Twitter stream was a jackpot handed to him by the former head of the NSA! Irony is not dead. No way.
But enough about him.
Both CBS and The Washington Post contacted me after seeing my own government shutdown Twitter stream. But, unlike others who have confused public for personal spaces, I was very aware of my surroundings. Setting my conditions for an interview I stated at the outset, “I will not talk politics.” If they were looking for soundbytes from “Furloughed Joe Average,” that’s exactly who’d I’d be. Not that some didn’t try. Oh, you Media! You can be a cagey lot.
I spent a good deal of my furlough on social media. As my private self, I had no qualms about stating my opinion. And because of a comment I left on a Post article about Matzzie and Hayden, I discovered I had a fan.
Jeff, I was thrilled to come upon your site. Your writing, your range, your obvious intelligence…. I have subscribed and look forward to many hours of sharing your meta-ness.
“Your writing, your range, your obvious intelligence….” Wow. I was immediately suspicious.
I had just been pranked by friends of my daughter’s new boyfriend. We got a phone message the other night in which a father’s voice stated “This is Henry’s father. Would the parents of Lily Gates please call me at….” Was this going to be one of those Romeo and Juliet calls? Were my daughter and her boyfriend destined to be apart forever? I dutifully returned the call only to find it was a bunch of high school friends playing around.
So, just who was this fan? Some crazed nutcase who’d stalk me, forcing me to get a restraining order? I was born in Hollywood and inherited the drama that goes with. I did a little sleuthing, relaxed, and by the time I’d gotten to work, she wanted to friend me on Facebook.
My “15 minutes” was going in all sorts of unexpected directions. And this could start to become a problem. It’s been almost two weeks since that Post article appeared. My wife was just recognized at the grocery store. One person wanted my autograph (I’m sorry but those 15 minutes are way long gone). And strangers continue to tell me “I saw you in the Post.” I honestly don’t know how to react. So I default to “Oh, yeah, that.” Very polished. But all of this has gone on much longer than my previous encounters with fame. And, if it continues it will start to cramp my style. I’m a lurker. I watch and listen to people because I’m invisible. I get my best ideas this way. If people “see” me I’ll be lost and my artistic muses will evaporate.
I’m counting on you not to let that happen. Look! A squirrel!