The People You Will Meet When You Table

The explainer: comes over to your table to tell you (unasked) that you are absolutely using the wrong varnish, priced that shirt too high, are tabling at the wrong event, should have gotten a table along the wall, and so on.

Will almost never buy anything. Will push for a discount.

But one in twenty, usually an older woman in clothes that are…unconventional, is caring, insightful, and truly eager to help out. Those few can give tips or help you make connections that are such gold that they make all the others worth it.

The lonely lingerer: probably knows almost nothing about the subject, wants to talk endlessly, and almost never actually never cares about what you’re selling. They’re lonely, socially impaired, and really just came for the first chance in weeks to have somebody better to talk to than the person sitting next to them on a crowded bus.

Sad, earnest, and you will quite possibly need to pass your normal standards of politeness to get them to finally go away and let you get some business done. Especially since, sure as shooting, they’ll be loud and will block your table and may even insist on chatting up other people who are actually there to buy things.

The mourning maven: truly knows the subject, loves what you’ve got, will stand at a distance looking at stuff, eyes moving piece to piece, wants to buy, usually has no money at all. These people , too,can be sad and annoying. But if you can find a viable way to trade them something you want (such as “could you hold the loading dock door for me when I’m unloading our second table?” or “I’m here alone today, could I give you some cash and have you grab me a sandwich?”) for something that they want you can both come away happy. One such person can utterly make your day.

The long lost friend: omigod! It’s been ages! What are YOU doing here? How are you doing?? These can be great and can be terrible. What they always are is a challenge to your focus.

The Searcher: This person is almost always silent. They will come, look things over intently, ask very few questions and those directed and specific as all getout. Give them their space. Give them good answers. These are some of your best bets for the person who will come back and later and will in fact, buy some of the best stuff on your table. No discount asked for or expected.

Your new best friend: tabling next to or across from you, this person is kismet. How have you never met before? You’ll joke about the passing crowds, help each other load and unload, trade twenties for ones at just the right time, and like as not you’ll discover that you know people in common, loved the same obscure novel, and in one way or another seem to have found this deep and wonderful bond.

Enjoy that time together. You will almost certainly never see this person again. If you call them a few weeks later at the number they gave you, they’ll have trouble remembering who you are and will respond to suggestions of meeting for lunch with an awkward silence.

The raging racist: Why is it that some people at such events, fellow tablers or attendees, seem to treat these events to finally let out their long lingering hatred of some ethnic group, profession, or even just the people from some nearby state? Some minor thing will set them off and away they go. And most of these people look so normal!

There is nothing to do with them. Smile if you have to. Disagree whenever you can. Nod as you must. Your real priority is to get some distance and move on as soon as you possibly can.

The Great Tycoon – Any Day Now: Comes by your booth, asks increasingly transparent and directed questions, and then finally gets to their real point. “You should publish my book. It’s going to be a best seller.”

They are trolling the show, usually walking booth to booth, caring little if at all about what those tablers sell or how or why. This day is all about the greatest chance of your life, your chance to meet them. Bursting with Dale Carnegie emphasis and pyramid scheme recruiting buzzwords, almost always mortally clueless and entirely without experience in the field. They listen barely at all, brush away any criticism with an imperial disdain, are filled with practiced speeches, spent weeks psyching themselves up for this day, and will quite likely walk off in a huff when you explain that your company which does only cooking guides is not actually the right place for a science fiction novel about the secret magic powers of the accountants of Cincinatti.

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