He's a nice guy. I see him at the YMCA all the time. He's told me his name several times. I'm supposed to know it, but I have a terrible memory. I can't remember his name and I can't ask him - again. I'd be too embarrassed. So I call him chief or pal or buddy, as in "Hey buddy, how's it going?"
He seems OK with it.
He's average-looking - average height, average build, graying brownish-blondish hair that's not thick but not thinning, normal-looking nose and ears. His eyes are … uh … I don't have any idea what color his eyes are.
Over the years, I've learned a bit about him. He grew up in Missouri - in some town near St. Louis. He was a middle child, I think. He never got much attention from anybody, including his mother. He went away to college. I don't remember the name of the college, but it was a small school somewhere in Iowa, or may be it was in Idaho. He studied accounting. Or was it architecture?
After college, he moved somewhere back East and practiced accounting (or architecture) until he got bored and went to work at some company doing something else. The company was in Kansas or some place like that. He was married for a while, I think. When my friend retired from whatever he was doing, he moved to Walla Walla. Or was it College Place?
Now you know all I know.
"So what's the point?" you ask.
The point is this: Every time I see him, he tells me a joke I've already heard, or hands me an article I've already read, or writes down the name of a website I should visit, hoping I'll use the material in a column and give him credit for it.
"I've always wanted to be in the newspaper," he hints.
I guess he ran out of patience, because a couple of weeks ago he stopped hinting and said, "So my good buddy, what do I have to do to get in a newspaper column? I'd like to show it to my friends."
"I'll get you into a column one of these days," I said.
"C'mon, pal, how about your next column?"
"That's pushing it."
"Well chief, what would do I need to do?"
"Something really interesting. My editor insists on interesting stuff."
"I'm already an interesting person," he said.
"I'm sure you are," I replied. "But I haven't seen any evidence of it. When I do, I'll put you in a column."
Last week, he showed up at my locker with a bag.
"Got something to show you, buddy," he said.
He pulled a thing out of the bag. It was made of paper-mache. It was colorful - mostly dirt brown and gray.
"Goodness chief, what is it?" I asked.
"It's art," he said. "Interesting, huh?"
He looked hopeful.
"I made it in fourth grade."
"Sure pal, interesting," I said, not knowing what else to say. (The thing was plug ugly.)
"Good," he said. "You can write about it in your column."
"Sorry buddy, I need something REALLY interesting. That won't do it."
Yesterday he was back with a crumpled black-and-white photo of a guy standing beside a pine tree.
"My wife took this picture of me on Mount Adams back in 1978. Hiked all the way to the top. Interesting, huh? I mean REALLY interesting."
"Sure, pal," I said. "That'll do it, chief. I'm putting you in my next column, buddy."
So there you go.
If you'd like to read more of Sam's musings, get yourself a copy of his most recent book, "Big Appetite."