Throwback: the most original present ever.

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In April of 2001, I made a trip to the HarperCollins warehouse in Scranton, PA. I was in the midst of a book tour, and since I was in the neighborhood, someone from the warehouse called and asked me if I would come by and say hello. I was to shake a few hands and sign a few books. Of course I said yes. I was unprepared for the welcome I was about to receive.

William Kowalski at the HarperCollins warehouse
The cake.

What you see in the image above is a cake that the warehouse folks had made specially for my visit. I couldn’t believe how much trouble they’d gone to. I wish I could remember the names of the people in this photo, but they were incredibly kind and welcoming. Notice the small posters on the wall, which they’d also had made specially. Turns out they don’t get a lot of authors at the warehouse. What you don’t see in this image is that practically the entire staff were standing on the other side of the camera. Everyone turned out to welcome me. It was amazing. And the cake was delicious.

Here I am being instructed in the finer points of warehousing books.

I also received a tour of the warehouse. It’s massive. They have a lot of books. Beyond that, I can’t speak intelligently about it, but I remember being impressed.

Me and my belt.

But the piece de resistance was this: my own forklift operator’s safety belt, embroidered with my name and the HarperCollins logo. I couldn’t believe it. They had really thought this through. The only other person in the world to have received one of these belts, I was told, was celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. If I ever bump into him, I’m going to ask him if he still has his. I still have mine. It hangs in my closet. Since I don’t have my own forklift, I never get to wear it. Maybe someday.

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