I wrestled my way out of the car in the too narrow parking slots, cursing the greed of the city council. I would probably need a can opener to get back into my car at the end of the day. Underground carparks always have the same smell – sort of diesel and concrete. And the provide a sheltered playground for the arctic eddies that were cavorting around my ankles.
To my delight, I found that the exit closest to my car led straight into the lower foyer of the Aotea Centre, so I wouldn’t have to risk an imminent downpour pooling at the bottom of the treacherous concrete steps that always carry the stench of homeless men’s nightly activity.
Bundled in my K-Mart jacket, I sort of walked, sort of ran to the automatic doors. I waited for my presence to trigger their movement. Nothing happened. Feeling unimportant I slunk to the manual door and pushed it open. Maybe it was the jacket.
Once inside, I stopped breathing. A hallowed atmosphere pervaded the building. I almost unstrapped my shoes in reverence. The foyer, although cavernous, was wonderfully warm. Arty black leather couches graced the space – beautiful to look at but unfortunate in their design. A few gold-encrusted older ladies, not in K-Mart jackets, were trying to repose on them. In essence, they were simply attempting not to slide off, their pained faces making a pretence of pondering the programme.
Walking upstairs to the main foyer was like entering an alternate reality. A hundred and seventeen Harry Potters confronted me – some queuing for autographs, others chasing each other. It was hard to tell which was the real one. Obviously it was not the one running into the wall hoping it would swallow him.
The energy in the place was palpable, the excitement infectious. People of all ages planning and sharing the experiences of the day. I just stood still for a moment and allowed it to envelop me. Then I took a deep breath, joined a queue and began my day of listening, laughing and being inspired. I chatted to friends, strangers, anyone who looked at me.
By the end of the day I was exhausted, but exhilarated. With my book signed by Dame Fiona Kidman, I headed out into the carpark. This time the automatic doors opened for me. I had become one of the literary elite.