For a few years, I worked a relatively dead-end job at a custom framing store. Besides getting many things of my own nicely framed, I got a story or two to tell.
The store I worked at had a contract with the San Francisco 49ers, in which all of their framing needs (which were a lot more than you might think) would be done by us. During the football season, autographed photos and memorabilia, along with action shots from the team’s photographer, came through the store on a seemingly endless conveyor belt of red and gold. The store’s owner was more of a guy’s guy than me (as are most men, most photographs of men and most symbols on men’s room doors) and would fawn over each picture with an enthusiasm I couldn’t understand.
“This is so-and-so!” he’d point out. “Last season, he went for a * insert a slew of numbers and yardage that means something in football * and had * some number * touchdowns in only two seasons!”
It got to where I could recognize some of the players by face only, a great feat for someone whose lack of interest in sports as a child was cause for concern over a severe case of sissy-ism to a few relatives. To my boss, these football players and their jersey numbers were as basic of facts as the names of his own kids. To me, there was white guy with the gigantic forehead, black guy with the enormous fingers, ugly dude, really handsome guy that has zero body fat and so on.
Over time, I met several of these players, as well as folks from the business-end hierarchy side of things. To me, they were just people and I treated them like normal people. To be fair, they were always really nice and never came off as prima donnas (no, not Optimus Prime’s younger sister) and really only one stands out to me.
The player, whom I’ll refer to only as B, came in to get some artwork framed for his new McMansion (standard things that so many people feel obligated to hang in their home. That’s right, I’m looking at you, Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss). He stood about roughly 13 feet tall with Paul Bunyan shoulders and a neck that shared the circumference of the Alaskan Pipeline.
As we began discussing color schemes, etc., his ear picked up on the radio that was playing from the back room. “Who’s that song by?” he asked.
“Oh, that’s * whoever it was *,” I said.
Grabbing a piece of scrap paper from his pocket, he asked, “How d’ya spell that?” He wrote it down, then said, “I’m trying to listen to diff’rent stuff. My wife likes music, but I never know what she’s talkin’ about, so I wanna make my taste in musical,… in music songs, ya know, more bigger. I’m gonna download some o’these to listen to.”
After a few minutes, another song came on and B asked, “Who’s that song?”
I told him and he put pen to paper. “How d’ya spell that?”
This went on for a few more songs. He’d hear it, ask what it was, then write it on his list of songs that his wife may or may not listen to.
As he was leaving, he glanced toward the back room. “Who is this song?”
“AFI,” I said.
Pulling the paper back out, he asked, “How do you spell that?”
As tempting as the thought was of this guy going home, logging onto his computer and doing a search for A-Y-E-P-H-E-Y-E, I didn’t have the heart to do it.
He was too nice of a guy and (for the moment, at least) I wasn’t that evil.