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The Panda Ambulance

Photo by diaryofguste | flickr

I got an email from a lady I’d never met wondering if I would be interested in moderating a book club for a group of six fifth-grade girls and their mothers. She suggested each family would pay forty dollars a session, so that would be $240 a month to find and read a book, come up with discussion questions, and meet with everyone. It sounded fun, and I have done much stranger things for much less money, so I gave her a call.

Oh, wait. First I Googled her and read the article about the Japanese-inspired eco-redesign of her four-story San Francisco Edwardian home, scrolled through the accompanying photos of her master bedroom overlooking the Presidio National Park where the skylights were designed with custom German glass embedded with cells that act as solar-powered magnets, and checked out the modern art piece in the living room, a 3-D mural of twenty inflatable see-through plastic pillows. Then I got her husband’s name from the article and Googled him. And then Google image searched him. Then I gave her a call.

Janet and I had an instant rapport that I attributed to both of us feeling very proud of the class divide we were bridging. Pioneers. She said she had read my books so she knew that I had a young child, no health insurance, and a garbage bag taped to my bedroom wall to seal in a mold outbreak until I could afford to have it fixed. She even said that when I came over I could park in her driveway! A couple of weeks later, when I pulled my dented Hyundai Elantra up to the back bumper of her pristine jet-black Lexus, I felt like it was a symbol of the bond we were forging.

Over the next nine months we read books I loved a...