I’d been–accidentally, I swear–the last person to deplane in Baton Rouge because I’d stayed to help a sweet old lady on crutches make it off the plane. (Hahahaha, NO. Actually, I’d been reading a book, waiting for the crush to disperse when I looked up and found the plane entirely empty and the stewardesses glaring at me). I shot out of my seat and and ran but no amount of rushing could make up for the fact that even the baggage claim area had already cleared out.
I spotted a kindly older gentleman hopelessly scanning the area. He’s probably looking for me, I thought. The lovely folks at the Lousiana Book Festival had arranged a driver to take me to the hotel.
When I approached, the man asked, “Are you Miss Roberts?” Then he shook his head and muttered, “No she’s already in the car.”
I told him my name and he looked very relieved. Following him out, it occurred to me to ask, “You ARE with the Book Festival, right?” He laughed. “Yes, ma’am.”
He led me to the other side of the car because, “Miss Roberts is on that side.” I climbed in and realized that the “Miss Roberts” he kept referring to was none other than Cokie Roberts–journalist, author, TV news analyst and contributor to NPR’s Morning Edition. She gave me a big smile, held out her hand, and said, “Hello, I’m Cokie Roberts.”
I may have mumbled, “I know!” before clearing my throat and saying my name. We chatted briefly about Louisiana and the book festival and then she said–as polite as could be–“Please excuse me, I need to finish watching this because I’m going to be interviewed in a few minutes.” She plugged in earphones and resumed watching a video. I gave her ipad a quick side-eye to see what was playing but I could only detect talking heads. I was dying to ask who was going to interview her–NPR? ABC? CNN?–but I didn’t.
When she finished, she resumed the conversation, as personable as could be–asking me about my books and where I was from and so forth. So warm and charming! When we exited the car at the hotel my silly fan-girl self emerged and I shamelessly asked for a photo with her. She smiled. “Of course!”
Later, I decided to walk around downtown Baton Rouge because it was a lovely, blustery day. Looking for bottled water, I popped in the only store in the area, which just happened to be a liquor store. I was reaching for said water (I swear!) when in walked Ms. Roberts herself. She marched up to the counter and said, “I was told you sell charge chords here.” The man nodded and pointed to a plastic bin filled with them. As she reached in, I argued with myself, “Should I say hello? Am I being intrusive? Is it weird that I’m in a liquor store with Cokie Roberts in Baton Rouge, Louisiana?”
In the end, I told myself to go for it. “Hi, Cokie!” I said getting in line behind her. “Oh hi, Vicky!” she said. (Yes, she remembered my name!) We laughed about finding ourselves in a liquor store. We ended up walking back to the hotel together.
“You know,” I said. “I called my brother to tell him I’d met you and he says he interviewed you years ago when you were in Atlanta.”
“Oh?” She sounded a little wary.
“Yes, he said he tried to stump you and failed.”
She laughed. “How?”
“He asked if a woman were president, did you think we would ever see her involved in a sex scandal?”
She laughed again. “I got that question again recently,” she said. “My answer is always, ‘No. She’d be too busy.”
“Right?” I said. “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” I added, referencing the meme of the irrepressible Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins who immortalized that phrase on TV.
Cokie Roberts laughed!
“Just out of curiosity,” I asked. ” Was the other person who asked that question also a man?”
“I have a theory that only a man would even think to ask that question,” I said. “I suspect that it’s because some men conflate power with sex and they would be tempted to use their power to get more sex. Whereas women, I think, would be way too concerned with keeping control of the political situation to even consider risking it all for a fling.”
“Absolutely,” she said. “Way too much at stake!”
By that time, we’d made it back to the hotel and we said our goodbyes. The next day, my signing took place at the same time as hers. Cokie’s line of fans snaked out of the signing tent. I signed a handful of books then watched her work her charm on every single person that came up to her.
When everyone had gone, I asked her to sign her books for me–Founding Mothers and Ladies for Liberty. Again, she greeted me by name.
“I have grandchildren the right age for your books,” she said. “I want to get them and have you sign them.”
Fortunately, I did not pass out though the squeeing inside my head was so high-pitched it would’ve shattered the glass chandeliers in all of the hotel lobbies within a three-mile radius.
When she had my books in hand, I asked for a second photo. The one of her holding my books which she had just purchased for her grandchildren!
Geek heaven, am I right?
Still, what impressed me the most about Cokie was how genuinely warm and gracious she was–it was not an act. She seemed curious about and interested in the people around her, which makes sense, given her work.
All I can say is, thank you Louisiana Book Festival for arranging the ride with Cokie Roberts and for putting on one heck of a book festival!
Also thanks for the opportunity to meet and mingle with old and new friends such as Kendare Blake, Kristin Tubb, Ruta Sepetys, Ellen Kushner, Tessa Gratton, Natalie C. Parker, Julie Murphy; and my fellow co-panelists, Rachel Harris and Sarah Guillory.
Who knew the writing life would be so cool?