The other afternoon, my friend Justin invited me to come with him to Al Gore's book-signing at a Borders in downtown Chicago. While I have no strong feelings towards Mr. Gore one way or another, I also had nothing better to do. This was how I found myself standing in a line over an hour long, with no actual intention of buying the book being autographed.
As I slowly inched towards the front of the line, I mulled over what I should do when my turn came. It was then that my unhealthy obsession with Matt Groening's series Futurama proved useful for the first time in my life. As a devotee, I realized that not only did Mr. Gore's daughter write for the show, but that as the 2000 ballots were being recounted, Mr. Gore had provided his voice for a cameo. He had portrayed himself, whilst he and his Vice Presidential Action Rangers protected the space-time continuum.
After running to grab a copy of the DVD off the shelves, I rejoined the line, which continued to creep along like an elderly millipede with 500 separate walkers. As I waited, nearly a dozen store employees and security people went through to check that everyone already had their book and that it was turned to the proper page for efficiency. Each one of them told me that Mr. Gore would not sign the DVD or anything other than his books, but none of them bothered to ask me to step out of line.
As I neared towards the front, I fully expected that at any moment a no-nonsense government agent would cull me from the herd and put my on a list somewhere. To my surprise, I was allowed to approach without interruption. "I really liked your voice-over on Futurama," I told a person who had once been one of most powerful men in the world. Seeing the DVD, he seemed to break out of his polite-but-numbed, repetitive book-signing stupor, saying, "You know there's a movie coming out?"
I told him that I did and asked him if his daughter was writing for it. He informed me that she was not, but that he would appear as his own head in a jar. (In the series, all celebrities from our period appear as living severed heads in jars.) He then cheerfully signed my DVD.
As I went downstairs to pay for disc (my sister Claire had previously bought the entire collection for me a few Christmases past, and I didn't intend to buy another copy until after I got a signature on it), I passed the throngs who were still in line. Many of them were discussing what to say to the former Vice President/possible president when they saw him. Given that the man would sign books for and listen to comments from over a thousand people that day alone, I thought it was doubtful that any of them would make a lasting impression. Still, I think I have pretty good odds that the next time Al Gore sees his daughter, he'll say, "You'll never guess what some little wiener in Chicago asked me to sign for him."
This piece originally appeared on Jack's sister Claire's website, Zulkey.com.