Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

An Encounter of the Stein Kind

Celebrity spotting can be fun and definitely livens up conversations as people trade their “I saw —- at —–,” quips and crows.  Spotting is one thing, encounters are another.

Encounters are where you actually get to have a conversation, or spend some time with the person of celebre status. For instance, I’ve spotted Viggo Mortenson signing autographs at an art gallery showing (promoting his North American photo art), the Portland Blazers at the airport (wow–they are tall), Ralph Nader giving a speech, but never conversed with them, hence no encounter checkmark.

Ralph Nader, speaking at BYU's Alternate Comme...

Ralph Nader (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fotografía de Viggo Mortensen en la presentaci...

Viggo Mortensen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This summer while vacationing, The MEPA and I were walking in a park and I tend to get annoyed when the people in front of me are moving too slow.  I would not be a good candidate for Disneyland action in summer. I am about to pass this older gentleman in front of me, when I hear The MEPA speak up, “Would that be the famous Ben Stein?” and I do a double-take when I hear, “Yes, it is.” And it IS Ben Stein! I think, “Cool, Ben Stein,” and begin to give him his space, because it must get tedious to have the public pester you just because you are famous. But then he starts talking to us and not wanting to be rude we match stride with him and before you know it I’m walking next to Ben Stein around the park.  Here’s what I basically remember:

Ben: And what do you do for a living?

Me: I’m a teacher (this is where he got interested)

Ben: Really? What do you teach?

Me: Freshmen English and Senior AP Literature (then he got really interested)

Ben: I would love to come to an AP English class. Could I come to your class? What would I have to do? (he was serious!)

I then explained about security measures, about how he would have to let the high school knowing he is coming and how he would have to sign in, and at this point I’m thinking “Do I really want Ben Stein watch me teach?” It’s a bit intimidating, if you think about it.  Here is one of the most famed teachers (at least of popular culture) asking to drop in on my class:

As we continued to walk Ben expressed his concerns about students and literature:

Ben: I don’t think kids today read enough. Do you teach The Great Gatsby?

Me: Actually, that’s taught at the junior level.

Ben: Do the kids like it?

Me: I think they like it better since Leonardo di Caprio is in the new movie.

Ben: Have you seen the movie?

I replied I hadn’t, explaining it looked a bit too hipped up for my taste, and considering I didn’t like  Baz Luhrman’s version of Romeo and Juliet I didn’t think I would be seeing his version of Gatsby anytime soon.  Ben agreed he didn’t care for Luhrman’s R&J either, but floored me by saying he’s seen The Great Gatsby thirteen times! Thirteen times! I didn’t even watch Star Wars more than five times when it came out in the theaters (yes, my age is showing again, darn it).

Our walk ended because we were continuing on and he wanted to return and walk back to the park entrance. Since that encounter I wonder if I will ever get a phone call from our principal saying Ben Stein is in the office and says he is ready to be my guest for the day.  I’ve decided to create a Ben Stein lesson plan should the event arise.

First of all, I can’t resist attendance. I go by class seating not alphabet.

“Bronson, Taylor, Reynolds–oh, Stein. Yes, you must be new. Welcome to class.”

Of course, there would be introductions: “Class, this is Ben Stein. He is interested in AP Literature. Mr. Stein, I believe you were a teacher once?”

Maybe I would turn the class over to him.  As long as he didn’t talk about economics, I think my students would be interested in what he had to say.  Maybe he would talk about The Great Gatsby. This could actually have possibilities.

So, if you are walking in the park and have an encounter with Ben Stein, could you please tell him I’ve got the lesson plan ready?

English: Ben Stein speaking at Miami Universit...

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