Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My Meeting with Wayne

During the summer of 1988, I worked as a waiter at Mr. John's, a no-longer-extant truck stop on Ellerslie Road. The restaurant was connected to a convenience store/gas bar, and I would occasionally work shifts at the counter rather than serve tables in the restaurant.

During one such shift, a lanky, scruffy-looking guy a little older than me approached the counter with a few bags of Old Dutch chips and asked me if we had any dip. For some reason my mind drew a blank and I pointed out the nacho dips, which aren't exactly well-suited for plain chips. The man looked a little annoyed, but shrugged and said "That's okay." He paid cash. I don't think we stocked conventional chip dip anyway, so I shrugged and stuffed the bills into the till, handed the man his change, and watched him walk out the door.

When I returned my gaze to the store, I saw to my surprise that the place was suddenly crammed full of people, customers and staff alike, appearing like wraiths from behind the shelves to goggle at me. Apparently they'd been watching this common exchange as if it were some kind of special event.

"Do you know who that was?" one of my coworkers asked, his voice pitched about three octaves higher than normal. "That was Wayne Gretzky!"

"Wayne Gretzky eats potato chips? With dip?" It seemed counterintuitive, but I quickly reasoned that playing hockey must burn a ton of calories. In any event, I hadn't recognized the Oilers hockey star, then at the height of his powers.

Nonetheless, I was the toast of the staff for the whole shift. I only regret that my apathy about sports prevented me from participating in the excitement with more sincerity. I felt bad, and still do, that something that meant so much to everyone else meant nothing to me. If you're not a sports fan, you sit pretty far away from mainstream society. Usually I'm fine with that, but on that day I felt like I was letting my team down...sports metaphor intended.

2 comments:

Stephen Fitzpatrick said...

That's a cool story, especially when you consider that another, perhaps less empathy-driven individual, with a similar disinterest in sports might sneer and go, "So? I don't care about that stuff." I don't think you needed to feel bad, but the fact that you did says a lot about your character.

I have to wonder if this encounter had transpired a year later if you might have said, "Excuse me, you look familiar...did you host an episode of Saturday Night Live?"

Totty said...

I know you, you were on General Hospital.