Thursday, September 13, 2007

My 15 Minutes of Celebrity

The iconoclastic artist Andy Warhol was once quoted as saying, "In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes."

Well, I got my fifteen minutes, if not exactly fame then a taste of what it is like to be a celebrity. It happened in Thailand, an amazing and beautiful country with some of the nicest people in the world.

DH and I were doing a 'self tour' of the Summer Palace which is a short boat ride up the river from Bangkok. The palace is actually about a dozen different buildings on extensive, beautifully landscaped grounds. I was walking by myself across a pretty little stone bridge over an ornamental pond, when I heard a huge group of school children approaching. There must have been a couple hundred of them, around ten years old and wearing crisp blue and white uniforms. Undoubtedly they were on a field trip.

I scooted out of the way, and stood with my back against the low stone railing of the bridge to let the big noisy group pass. As the first dozen kids walked by me, they all stared (I was probably one of the first if not THE first American they'd ever seen live and in person). Then, one bold youngster shouted out, "Hello!" To which I answered, "Hello!" This brought a gale of nervous giggles, followed by a raucous chorus of hellos.

After a few dozen more kids, all chirping out "hello" like myna birds, scurried past me, one little boy got brave and stuck out his hand while exclaiming, "hello." I obligingly shook his hand and said hello back. Well, that opened the flood gates! Next thing I knew, about a hundred enthusiastic kids were crowded around me, all shouting hello and grabbing for my hands.

YIKES! It was more than a bit scary! All those eager little bodies pressing around me could have easily sent me over the railing and into the pond. Dozens of them might have fallen with me! Fortunately that didn't happen. I kept smiling, shouting hello, and grabbing as many outstretched hands as I could, while the teachers herded the kids the rest of the way across the bridge. They also smiled and bobbed their heads in thanks to me.

The whole incident lasted maybe ten minutes, but it felt like a lot longer at the time. When I got back to the DH, I collapsed onto the shady bench beside him and said, "Now I know how Michael Jackson feels."

And I can just imagine the discussions in the school yard days later. While one kid brags about his adventure, another kid whines, "No fair! We didn't get to shake hands with an American tourist at the Summer Palace!"

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