The conference was great. It had been sponsored by CSICOP (the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal) and its title theme was “Controversies in Science and Fringe Science.” Sagan spoke in his usual engaging and enlightening manner, suggesting that skepticism had an important role to play in evaluating the words and policies of our political leaders, as well as judging controversies in science. (Oh, Carl, if you could see how things are today!) James Randi gave a presentation at lunch. Penn & Teller had provided the after-dinner entertainment on the second (and final) evening. A good time was had by all.To read the whole account please visit Halfway There.
I was staying at the Pasadena Hilton, which was within easy walking distance of the convention center where the CSICOP meeting had been held. Ending the conference with the perfect tired but happy cliché, I caught the elevator to head up to my room. The elevator doors opened, and there was Carl Sagan.
He was in his trademark turtleneck and blazer, looking calm and relaxed. Next to him stood a young boy who looked like Carl's clone, complete with matching turtleneck. I assumed it was his son.
I gave a small, nonchalant smile (at least, I think that's what I did) and stood to one side in the elevator car as it rose in its shaft. Although I was pleased that I was not acting goofy and gushy (at least, I didn't think I was acting goofy and gushy), it wasn't like I was going to get many more opportunities to spend time in the company of Carl Sagan. I made up my mind to seize the day. Or the moment, at least.
“Dr. Sagan, it was a pleasure to attend the conference and hear your speech. I came down from Sacramento for it. I told my boss you were going to be the keynote speaker, and you might be amused to learn that she said, ‘Who is Carl Sagan?’”
I don't know if Carl was actually amused, but the boy appeared to be on the point of convulsing with laughter. Carl's expression, in fact, was nearly as blank as Laura's had been. He considered my remark for a long moment, and then gave a small smile. In his roundest oratorical tones, Sagan said, “Please give my best to your boss.”
I have no idea what I said in return. I hope it was something cool like “I will indeed” or “It will be my pleasure,” but I don't remember. The elevator stopped at my floor and I got off. I presume I gave a polite and dignified nod as I stepped off. I'm fairly certain I would have remembered if my exit line had been, “Oh, golly gee, Dr. Sagan, you bet. I will for sure. Gosh. Thanks! Good night.” And somewhere halfway through all that the elevator doors would have closed between us and I'd be babbling at a blank wall. Pretty sure that didn't happen.