It’s a hot August afternoon in 1993. There’s two guys approaching their mechanic’s shop, each of them, on foot, ready to pick up his car. One is 30. One is 82. The one who is 30 thinks the one who is 82 is going to be a slow poke if he gets to the counter first. The one who is 30 does not want to have to wait for the one who is 82 to take his sweet time at the counter. The one who is 30 has places to go.
So the one who is 30 steps up his pace as he walks across the service station asphalt. “I’ve got to get in there first,” he thinks. “I don’t want to get stuck behind some old guy.” The 30-year-old reaches the door to the office a few seconds ahead of the 82-year-old. The 30-year-old enters first, holding the door behind him for the 82-year-old.
The office is momentarily empty until the mechanic comes in and asks, “Who’s next?”
The 82-year-old declares wryly, “It appears this man has won the race.”
The 30-year-old feels like a heel. Did he really just all but elbow out some old guy so he wouldn’t have to wait an extra two minutes to pick up his car? Oh brother. If there’s an on-ramp to the high road, he’s determined to take it.
“No,” the 30-year-old says to his elder, grasping for magnanimity. “You go ahead.”
So the 30-year-old waits. And it doesn’t really take very long. The mechanic gives the 82-year-old his bill and his keys and asks, in the process, “Are you going to announce the Giants games again this year, Mr. Sheppard?”
“Mr. Sheppard?” the 30-year-old thinks. “The Giants? That voice…hey, that’s…”
“The preseason’s already begun,” the 82-year-old tells the mechanic. “We’ve already played two games.”
“Hey,” the 30-year-old realizes as he listens a little closer to the conversation, “that’s Bob Sheppard! The Yankees’ PA announcer! That’s right, he does the Giants games, too, doesn’t he? And I was about to run him over just to save two minutes?”
The 82-year-old settles his account. The mechanic asks, “Mr. Sheppard, do you want a Giants water bottle? We’re giving them away with every oil change this month.”
“No, that’s all right,” the 82-year-old smiles. “I have plenty of those.”
The 82-year-old drives off. The mechanic turns his attention to the 30-year-old. “That was Mr. Sheppard,” he says. “He announces the Giants games at the Meadowlands.”
“Yes,” the 30-year-old says. “I know who he is. He does more than the Giants games.”
Upon completing his transaction with the mechanic, the 30-year-old has learned more than he would have expected from picking up his car.
• He has learned a valuable lesson about assuming older people are going to be a drag on any given retail situation.
• He has learned that he is capable of shame for acting as if he can judge books by covers and as if he’s not going to age himself.
• He has learned that he shares a mechanic with a certified celebrity who lives in the same general area he does, and even if he never runs into him again (which he won’t), he gets a kick out of telling people when the name comes up, “Bob Sheppard and I take our car to the same garage.”
• He has learned that not everybody necessarily identifies Bob Sheppard for his association with the Yankees, which makes him happy since he’s kind of liked Bob Sheppard despite that association ever since he heard him give an interview to Howie Rose a few years earlier and thought Bob Sheppard sounded not so much like the “Voice of God,” but an incredible mensch.
• He has learned that with an oil change in August 1993, Mobil stations are giving everybody a Giants water bottle. He already has one from the last time Mobil was running this promotion, but unlike Bob Sheppard, the 30-year-old has decided it wouldn’t hurt to have an extra.
Farewell, Mr. Sheppard. I’m sorry I didn’t hold the door for you in front of me.