(update at end of post)
I chugged out of NYC on Friday to attend Malice Domestic, a lovely reader convention that is now the place I catch up with old friends, make new ones, and generally am reminded of why I love this crazy industry.
For example, I attended a panel on sleuthing duos where one panel member mentioned the Hardy Boys as his favorite duo. He stumbled on the name of the first Hardy Boys mystery, offering up The Secret of the Old Clock. A dozen or more members of the audience shouted out "no, that's Nancy Drew!"
You've just gotta love a group of readers at 10am who have read all the books you too loved as a kid.
But something interesting happened later in the day that I'm interested to see how you would have handled.
I was in the lobby (sadly, bar and liquor free) enjoying a sprightly conversation with two writers whose work I've loved for years. We didn't have our heads bent over the table in a clearly intimate conversation, but we were facing each other, and clearly talking to each other.
A man who was probably in his late 70's walked up and said very cheerfully "Ladies, tell me about this mystery thing you're doing."
There was a moment of dead silence.
I said "are you a mystery reader?" and he stumbled over the answer (which meant he wasn't) and then one of the other women in the group (ah, right, I forgot to mention, three WOMEN were talking) gently explained a little about Malice Domestic. He wandered off a couple minutes later.
I realized I was furious.
And while the other women weren't furious, they were irked indeed.
We all commented on the idea that this man, whom I'm sure is perfectly nice, had not a single clue that he was incredibly rude. He interrupted a private conversation, to ask about something he wasn't really all that interested in, had no pressing need to know, and the subtext was that we should stop what we were doing to attend to his whim.
The sales person in me says never miss an opportunity for a sale.
The feminist in me says shut this man down in a way that he might actually have a moment of insight.
What I wish I'd said was "You're interrupted a private conversation. If you need more information, google the name of the conference."
What I wanted to say was "get lost buddy."
Given I'm sure I'll run across this situation again, tell me what you'd say. And if you've been in this situation what did you say (and what did you really want to say instead?)
After reading the comments (oh man!) I realize I left out four key pieces of information:
1. None of us were wearing name tags identifying us as Malice Domestic attendees.
2. We were sitting down, not standing up.
3. The man's wife had walked by about two seconds before he interrupted us.
4. The registration desk with mystery books on display was 20 feet away and visible.
This comment thread has been very informative, even those of you who thought my reaction was off target.