Friday, November 20, 2009

15 Things I learned when I spent a day with Buzz Aldrin.

1. Everybody wants a piece of Buzz Aldrin. People want to touch him, shake his hand, have their picture taken shaking his hand, get their picture taken clapping him on the shoulder, and generally make physical contact with him as much as they can—and get photographic evidence that they have done so, if at all possible.

2. Everybody wants to tell Buzz Aldrin where they were and what they were doing while he was walking on the moon. These stories are almost uniformly uninteresting, as stories about watching TV tend to be.

3. Buzz Aldrin nods and smiles politely at these stories. Telling one of these stories, a person will start to realize how idiotic he sounds, telling Buzz about where he was watching TV one day in July of 1969. Buzz Aldrin is so patient with these stories it’s easy to forget that he has been listening to them FOR FORTY YEARS.

4. It's not as common as you might think that someone actually challenges Buzz Aldrin in person about whether the moon landings were faked. I saw Buzz Aldrin meet about 350 people and witnessed zero confrontations. (I know— I was disappointed too.)

5. Every time a suspected lunar hoax conspiricist approaches Buzz (and by "suspected lunar hoax conspiricist" I mean a white man, 25-45 years old, with poor hygiene and/or fashion sense), everyone becomes quiet and listens carefully until the man starts to tell Buzz where he was and what he was doing while Buzz walked on the moon.

6. The things people ask Buzz Aldrin to sign are many and varied. Old yellowing newspapers from 1969 with Buzz’s picture, various Apollo-era souvenir books, a moon-shaped nightlight, a couple of garments, zero body parts. (It’s just not that kind of party, I guess.)

7. When a suspected lunar hoax conspiricist approaches Buzz Aldrin holding nothing in his hands but a hunting jacket, draped entirely over his arm and covering his hand and any possible firearms he may be carrying, everyone will freeze watchfully but no one will throw herself in front of Buzz Aldrin or attempt tackle the man.

8. I was thinking I really should throw myself in front of Buzz Aldrin if the suspected lunar hoax conspiricist got any closer. I mean, how cool would it be to save Buzz Aldrin’s life? But I didn’t, and neither did anyone else, and the guy would have had a clear shot at him. As it turned out, the guy wanted Buzz to sign his hunting jacket because he didn’t have a copy of the book. Buzz declined to do so.

9. Some children are genuinely excited to meet Buzz Aldrin, and this is quite dear to observe. But some children don't really understand why they should be excited to meet Buzz Aldrin, and become shy and confused, and when that happens, there is a tendency to for people to try to get the child excited by saying to him or her, "You know Buzz Lightyear? Well, this is the REAL Buzz!"

10. I wouldn’t have guessed it, but it turns out that I am one of these people. I heard myself say “This is the real Buzz!” to children several times.

11. Buzz Aldrin's Twitter name is "The Real Buzz."

12. Buzz Aldrin will be happy to sign a Buzz Lightyear action figure for you. He even carries a permanent marker that writes nicely on the plastic.

13. After I introduced Buzz Aldrin at his reading, as I walked off the stage, he said to the crowd, “Now that’s a special lady.” This is a moment that I expect to see flash before my eyes in any future near-death experience.

14. Buzz Aldrin's business card identifies him as “astronaut” and “rocket scientist.” I am thinking of having those titles put on my business card too, even though in my case they would be lies.

15. When Buzz Aldrin recommends a book (as he did mine at the beginning of his talk) a number of people will dutifully buy it. God bless you, Buzz Aldrin.