Dispatches | November 08, 2008

Want to get noticed in a good way? Get out there and buy a sled. 

Today I discovered the power of the sled-bearer to bring joy to the masses. Everyone pays attention when a shopper carries a sled through a store. Some people even pause to compliment the sled and speculate as to the amount of fun that will be had with it. Crowds part, allowing more room for the bright new herald of winter to pass. Young and old alike perk up. Almost everyone smiles. 

I bought my sled today at Target, and let me tell you, I feel like a rock star.

When I arrived at the register with my sled, the cashier, who’d seen me coming, was pretty excited.

“Omigod!” she said. “Do we sell these?”

“Yes!” I was confident. 

The cashier then told me she’d just moved here from a really flat place but this one time there was a huge snowstorm and the snow in the K-Mart parking lot all got plowed up into this huge mound and everybody slid down it and even though it was all frozen and sharp it was still fun.

Sled brings joy, provokes thought

A line of customers had formed by the time the cashier finished her story, but no one seemed bothered. In fact, those near the front of the line were nodding and probably thinking, That sounds like fun indeed! If I may, I shall relate to you all a similar sled anecdote. Farther back in line, a small child asked if she could have a sled, too. Suddenly, it was exactly like Citizen Kane — only way cheerier and minus all the newspaper tycoon parts.

It should come as no surprise that the 1941 Orson Welles classic isn’t the only address at the largely unplowed intersection of sledding and publishing.  The response one receives after announcing a new publication credit is largely the same to the reaction the purchase of a sled provokes: approving smiles, congratulatory glances, a momentary spike in attention. Why walk a mile in your favorite author’s shoes when you can walk a few hundred feet, from the back of the store to the front?

There’s also the insight I had as I left the store with my fierce new flame-emblazoned toboggan, which was that its purchase represents one of my totally rare acts of forethought. The last time I had one of those was when I submitted stuff for publication before applying for grad school. That turned out to be an awesome move for me, unlike one I made last winter when I put off shopping for a sled until there was snow.

Guess what? No sleds anywhere.

So listen. It is unwise for the sled shopper to wait for snow. It is also most unwise for the grad school applicant to put off sending out manuscripts until two months before admission packets are due. To conclude the proverb, submit! Get published now! Bring joy to the masses! Enhance your curriculum vitae!

Then, once you’re published and accepted into grad school, all you have to do is remember to keep your head down, try not to fall off, and slide as far as you can.

… If you happen to be on my dissertation committee, I’m just talking about sledding.

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