I’m the kinda guy who’s fairly easily impressed by others. I may not always say it, or show it to the person in question, but in my heart I know it.
I look up to those people and I try to emulate them. Maybe I’ll start to dress like them, or I try to walk like them, or – just something. As a kid I taught myself how to fake Wayne Gretzky’s autograph, and I put a photo of Wayne over my own photo in my bus pass. When somebody told me I walked like Esa Peltonen, a Team Finland star, I made sure to keep walking that way.
When I was ten, or eleven, and read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, I wanted to be Mark Twain. He’s still my literary hero and one day I will have a mustache like that, too.
It doesn’t always take a lot to impress me. All it takes is a funny joke or an idea I haven’t thought of myself. It can just be somebody’s fabulous hair, or the way that she can wear any hat and always look good. When I was in my teens, I adored a Canadian young lady for her courage when she walked into a pizza place and wanted to talk to the manager about putting up a poster of their Up with People show.
I was so impressed by Heather that the week after I went into the same pizza place and asked to see the manager about a poster, too, even though I didn’t even have one.
(Almost without exception there also comes a moment of disappointment, but that’s another story).
One Friday night about a decade ago, I was sitting in the bar around the corner from the office with my colleagues. It was tiny place, but it was cute and a little weird – and gay – and the staff was nice.
That night, one my colleagues had invited her husband to join us, which was not unusual, and he was most welcome. He was a funny guy as it was, so when we ended up sitting at the same table, I considered myself lucky. Not all of us were, or are, as funny as he.
Now, I thought it was curious that all through the night, he’d taken glances at the wall behind me, but I thought that maybe he was a little shy and didn’t want to look me in the eye. After all, the bar was half-filled with people I admired – for different reasons – so maybe I was a person he admired.
Who knows, right?
A few hours into the night, he – his name was Jonny – suddenly asked the waiter, who was also the bartender, to come to the table.
“How much for the painting?” he asked him.
He didn’t know – and maybe he didn’t care – so he walked back to the bar, and I saw him speak with the other bartender – also the owner. He was wearing glitter pants, or maybe it was just the shirt, but I know something glittered in the night. On the bar there were a half a dozen plastic hearts. Bartender A pushed them aside a little, spoke with Bartender B, and then came out to talk to Johnny.
“So… How much?” Jonny asked.
“The red one?” said the man in glitter pants (or shirt), which I thought was sort of weird because Jonny was obviously pointing at something that was on the wall above my head. I hadn’t dared to take a look at the painting, but even I had understood what he meant.
“Yes, the red one. It’s cool, I like it. I want to buy it … so… how much?”
I didn’t hear what the man in the glitter pants said, but it did kickstart the negotiation process, which took about an hour, with both men walking out on the other, but in the end, they settled on a price. I asked Jonny how much he had paid for it.
“Two thousand crowns,” he said.
That made my heart beat faster, it made me blush, and it made me stutter. Two thousand was a lot of money. It was many procent of my monthly salary. My first car had cost about that much, and even then, I had paid it in two installments.
That, right there, was the coolest thing I had ever seen in my life. I had always wanted to do something like that: Walk into a bar, and then walk out with something I had bought off the wall.
Now, Jonny actually picked up the painting the next day, but I was still impressed.