Have you read Part 1 yet? If not, stop! Go back! Read it! It's right here.
I promise I won't get political on you.
This encounter was probably the least hilarious of all my celebrity-meeting encounters. However, if three-part episodes of the Simpsons and Family Guy have ever taught me anything, you always put your weakest story in the middle. So, here it is.
I work for a government-funded not-for-profit company in Ottawa. Since I swear a fuckton and occasionally discuss my political affiliation and I write about dildos and zombies (and probably, eventually, zombies using dildos - new post idea???), but I also like having a job, I'm not going to tell you who I work for. However, that poses a complication: for this next section, I'm going to need to tell you a little bit about an event I attended through work. I work for an advocacy group, and we occasionally sponsor events and things, and these events and things are often funded in part by a particular department of the Canadian government. When I met the politician, it was at an event on Parliament Hill for one such event.
So we're going to play pretend! From here on out, I will tell you that I work for an advocacy body called the Fantastic Mustache Supporters of Canada, or FMSC. We support every Canadian's right to have a fantastic mustache, regardless of income level, religious affiliation, age, or gender. (...I guess our knowledge of biology is a little flawed.) We occasionally sponsor mustache-related events, and on this day in question, we were at a reception on Parliament Hill hosted by the Canadian Department of Mustaches to mark the end of a weeks-long mustache growing competition.
I knew that at this event, I was going to meet the Minister of Mustaches* along with some other committee chairs and important people and a few lesser Members of Parliament. There were also some bigwigs from some of our non-profit partners within the mustache advocacy community. It was sort of fun; it was a wine & cheese in the middle of the day, which was a nice break, and I always like an opportunity to dress up and be fancy and impress my boss. He and I were the only two people from my office in attendance, and he was introducing me to some of our mustache partners.
Then, in the middle of the event, while my boss and I were chatting up an official from a fellow sponsoring organziation, in walks Jack Layton.
I told you I wouldn't get political on you, and I won't: this isn't going to be about why I greatly support the NDP. All you need to know is that I do, in fact, happen to greatly support the NDP, and therefore you can imagine my excitement. I am about 72% sure that my eyes cartoonishly burst from their sockets and were replaced by big shining orange stars.
Everyone else was clearly just as surprised as I was to see a federal party leader just waltz into the room like it ain't no thang; all the MP's had of course been invited, but the big important ones don't usually attend this sort of lowly mustache event. I gaped for a few seconds before I managed to catch my boss's eye and I mouthed "Jack Layton!" at him, which in retrospect, probably insulted his intelligence.
He played it cool as always, nodding his approval. He is not a man who discusses his own politics, and for all I know he could be a Tory, Grit or a Dipper, but he was obviously pleasantly surprised to see Layton step into the room.
Jack Layton worked his way around the room, shaking hands and being politiciany, with his trademark handsome grin and hearty laugh. It was very soon that I saw him approaching our group and all that I could think was "don't be a moron, don't be a moron, don't be a moron."
Imagine this, guys: you're at an event, totally unprepared to meet a national celebrity. And there he is. And you know that you have to try and be calm, because this is is different from the autograph signing with Green Day (again, go read Part 1) for two reasons. One, you are with your boss and you have to not be some giggling teenager. You have to keep a cool head because you are representing your organization, and you have to make that organization proud, especially in a room full of people working for the Department of Mustaches that might be able to increase or cut off your office's funding. And two, you did not wake up that morning knowing you were going to meet Jack Layton; you are totally unprepared for this.
So, what I'm saying is, pressure, guys, pressure.
Jack Layton approched our group. He met everyone, shook their hands, and smiled humbly as they all blurted out their names and the organizations they were there to represent in tones that were far too loud and excited, far too soft and shy, or some viciously awkward combination of the two. It seems as though that's how it works at these events: you say "Hello, First Name Last Name, Organization," and you do it with the appropriate level of humility (read: difficulty) according to who you're meeting.
Then he turned to me. To me. Jack Layton turned that awesomely mustachioed face in my direction, stuck out his hand, being his impressive but "everyman" self, and his hand touched my hand and shook it and he said "Hello, I'm Jack Layton." Like, fucking duh. But I just grinned back and said in my most quavery voice ever, "Hello, I'm the Social Caterpillar, and I'm here with the Fantastic Mustache Supporters of Canada."
This moment must have been every politician's nightmare. Because it could not have been clearer that Jack Layton had no goddamn idea who we were. He had never heard of us, but that's not a slight against him; our organization is sort of well-known in the "mustache advocacy" community, but it's not so famous that it's on every Canadian's radar. I don't think I've ever told someone outside our industry who I work for without having to give an explanation. But Jack Layton is a politician. And politicians have to keep up appearances and be gracefully supportive of the greater Canadian public. So, after a few moments of visible pondering, he just nodded passionately, waving his hand in a circular motion that I assume means he's thinking fast, and said, "Well...I am a Canadian...who supports fantastic mustaches!"
He moved down the line to my boss, who pretty much just repeated me with his own name, and seemed satisfied that I hadn't puked red wine all over Jack's nice suit.
That was it, and we had no further interaction with Jack Layton for the rest of the day. But we got back to the office and I jammered all over my co-workers, saying "Jack Layton was there! OMG! Jack Layton!"
I was pretty pleased with the encounter, actually. I really thought that I would have horribly embarrassed myself, my boss, my company, or the whole mustache advocacy community. But when you work for the FMSC, and one of Canada's most famous mustache-havers is touching your hand with his hand and moving it up and down in an international symbol of respect, well...you know you did good, and you had a good fucking day.
Next week: The Celebrity Who's Not That Famous!
*does anyone else really, really wish there was a Minister of Mustaches? I tried to think of someone** I would nominate, but I have no idea.
**Surprisingly, there is no Wikipedia page for Canadians with awesome mustaches. What the fuck, Canada?
UPDATE! We have some candidates for the Minister of Mustaches! And our Mr. Layton did indeed make the cut. http://canadianfermentation.wordpress.com/2009/02/21/great-canadian-moustaches/
h/t to Stephanie for the link!