Last weekend, I attended a large convention for book nerds called BookCon for free, courtesy of my employer. There were book giveaways, author signings, and more free tote bags than any one person could ever tote. But my favorite part of the convention was the author talks: I watched Neil Patrick Harris banter with Lemony Snicket; I learned about writing from Emma Straub and Rainbow Rowell; I listened to wisdom pour out of Margaret Freaking Atwood.
And yet, at the end of it, I found myself in tears, because I missed Mr. Feeny.
I’m referring of course to William Daniels, better known to 60s kids as Benjamin Braddock’s father in The Graduate, 80s kids as K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider and Dr. Mark Craig from St. Elsewhere, and 90s kids as Mr. George Feeny from Boy Meets World. And as I have documented on this blog and throughout my everyday life, my love for Boy Meets World has always been what one might call extravagant.
So when I found out that the one and only William Daniels was going to be at BookCon doing a signing for his new book, my mission was clear. Though I only had a few minutes after a session to catch him before his signing ended, I was confident that the skills I acquired in my college-level Nordic Walking class would not fail me in my moment of need. As I raced across the colossal Javits Center, I pondered what I would say to him. The truth is, I kind of hate book signings. I typically avoid them, citing long lines as an excuse, but I would be reluctant even if I didn’t have to wait. It’s not that I have nothing to say; I have nothing new to say. Nothing important. “I really loved your book.” HOW ORIGINAL! They haven’t heard that one eighty times in the last hour. So maybe instead I will ask a deep, thought-provoking question, one that requires them to really engage. Because nothing says “I’m a worthwhile human being” like pissing off the eighty antsy people behind you by interrogating the person with the sharpie.
So as I wove through the crowds of people like Cory chasing Topanga through the throngs at Disney World, I had no idea what I would say. Suddenly, the sea of tote bags parted and there he was, sitting at a signing table. And even though it’s crazy, even though my grip on reality is slightly stronger than this moment would suggest, it felt like I was coming face to face with someone I’ve known my whole life: a trusted confidant, a wise neighbor and teacher and principal and professor.
I could have sworn I was looking at Mr. Feeny.
Look, I get it: he’s an actor. The characteristics that I associate with him actually belong to a character that he portrayed on television. The fact that I’m having trouble breathing and am rooted in place like the flowers in Mr. Feeny’s fictional garden is not a reasonable response to seeing a man whom I’ve heretofore only even seen through a television screen.
I stared from a short distance away, while bolder fans than I got their books signed and their photos snapped. And just as I was working up the nerve, just as I began to take a few necessary steps forward, he walked away—from me, from the table, from his duties at the convention. It was, indeed, three o’clock: the end of his signing time. And just like that, he was gone.
After a few minutes of trying to convince myself that it’s totally fine not a big deal this is not something that it makes any sense to be upset about, I acknowledged to myself that I was upset. I went outside to get some air, and by “get some air” I mean “sulk about it.”
The bright sunlight overwhelmed my vision as I tried to find a place on the sidewalk to pout in peace. I stood there, definitely not crying, for a couple minutes before pulling out my phone to call my husband, when, not ten feet from me, a black SUV pulls up and Mr. Feeny—I mean William Daniels—gets inside with his wife.
“Hello? Hello? Did you butt dial me?”
The whole time. The whole time I was standing there sulking, he was waiting to get picked up, just on the other side of these two people with their stupid tote bags, blocking my view. The whole time, I could have talked to him. I could have said, “Hey, are you William Daniels? I’m sure you get this all the time, but I really loved you on Boy Meets World. In fact, it’s still my favorite TV show. Do you think I could take a picture with you?”
It would be unoriginal and it would also be the best moment of my day/week/month/life until I get to meet Tom Hanks.
“Cath, are you there?”
I found myself waving like an idiot as Mr. Feeny drove away from me forever.