Did I ever tell you about the day I may have met Ray Bradbury? No, I suppose I didn’t. It happened on 22 August 2010, which I remember because this particular incident occurred on Ray Bradbury’s birthday. In fact, this particular incident may have been ignited because it was his birthday. You be the judge.
This took place, as most interesting things in my life do, in a bookstore. I was working, of course, at Diesel in Los Angeles at the time. It happened to be a slow afternoon, so my co-worker and I were chatting (about books, probably) when an old man with wild white hair approached me with a mean look in his eye.
‘Do you know what today is?’ he asked.
For a split-second I thought he came to kill me. That didn’t stop me from answering back, ‘Monday?’ (even though I’m pretty sure it was Wednesday or Thursday).
The man, already fed up coming in, said, ‘It’s Ray Bradbury’s birthday.’ Then he turned his head in both directions before returning to me. ‘Why aren’t you displaying his books on his birthday?’
The measured hostility was now starting to bother me. I told him I didn’t know it was Mr. Bradbury’s birthday. I hardly remember my friends’ birthdays (which was a lie). Then he asked: ‘Do you even know who Ray Bradbury is?’
‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘He’s a writer, isn’t he?’
The man didn’t like that. He shook his head, turned around, and walked slowly out of the store. My co-worker and I looked at each other, trying to somehow make sense of the bizarre encounter.
‘Maybe,’ she said, ‘that was Ray Bradbury.’
‘I thought Ray Bradbury was dead.’ I’m glad I didn’t say that to the old man, especially if he really was Ray Bradbury.
We hopped onto the computer, first to verify that he wasn’t dead, and then to pull up pictures of him. The two of us stood in front of the computer screen for probably about four minutes, trying to decipher whether the man who came into the store was the man in the pictures.
‘It looks like him in that one.’
‘But not in this one.’
So what’s the moral of this story? Make sure you know the birthdays of living sci-fi writers, especially the famous ones, because you’ll never know when one of them might show up and quiz you on it.