Have you ever played the “What would you say if you ran into…?” game?
For example, what would you say if you ran into the first boy who broke your heart:
“Oh hi X, has it really been 15 years? Time just flies by, especially as I am a very busy Pulitzer-winning journalist and astronaut.”
The Primrose Hill residents amongst us are of course quite accustomed to running into famous people. And we know the drill. Keep it casual, don’t make lingering eye contact and don’t say anything that lets on you read about them in Grazia this morning.
My brother-in-law is an actor and in the early days of his career he used to invite us backstage to meet his fellow cast mates. My husband and I would be introduced and despite intensive coaching from my brother-in-law, we simply could not carry a conversation with these artistes.
It’s not that we were star struck, half the time we did not realise the stars were stars. We found it hard to say (as we had been instructed): “Love your work” (when we did not know their work); “What a powerful play” (when we thought it was pants) etc. Even when we did love their work or we did think the play was powerful, the pressure to spontaneously articulate this without sounding like a crazed groupie rendered us mute. Needless to say my brother-in-law stopped asking us backstage.
I was reminded about the “What would you say…” game because last night I watched a documentary about Michael Kirby, one of Australia’s greatest judges and defenders of human rights. As a law student I interviewed him once for our law school magazine. I was so nervous and excited about the interview that I could not eat all day. By the time the interview started, the heady combination of hypoglycaemia and adrenaline had me more vacuous and verbally dyslexic than usual, and I was so hungry that my stomach grumbled the whole way through. Thirteen years later, in 2008, I saw Justice Kirby at JFK Airport. I was so excited I nearly jumped the Immigration queue and ran over to him, desperate for him to autograph my passport.
Thankfully I saw the armed guards in time and self-preservation prevailed. Getting gunned down in front of Justice Kirby and being posthumously represented by him in Duck v Bush & US Airport Authority in the subsequent racial profiling/wrongful death case, is not how I intended to introduce myself to the great man.
If I ran into Justice Kirby I would want to say:
“Justice Kirby, you taught me that the law must be empowering, it could be transformative and it should be kind. You inspired me to reach out for a career that I might otherwise have been too afraid to try. I wanted to say thank you.”
However, if I ran into Justice Kirby (and I firmly believe that one day I will), I would probably just say:
“I, um, I, um, I love your work.”