Sometimes I wish the world was a lot smaller or life was a lot longer. As it is now, there are too many interesting people to meet in one lifetime. I miss the ones I've left behind and mourn for the ones I'll never get to know.
There was Waldo, for instance, one of the most colorful characters I've ever known. His real name was Walter, and he was from South Boston. He had a thick shock of black hair and would fake a British accent and get into nightclubs by passing himself off as Paul McCartney's brother.
One night as we were getting ready to go out for the evening, I admired the shirt he was wearing; he promptly took it off, handed it to me and said, "It's yours." He wouldn't take it back.
Another time, he bought a vintage Alfa Romeo from a friend who had spent months restoring it; it wasn't long before Waldo had sawed the coupe's doors off at the hinges because he thought it looked cooler that way.
I used to work with a guy who came in every day telling wild stories about things he had seen and people he had met. I never believed him until we got into a wild adventure one night that began when angry rednecks used their jacked-up pickup to pin a mutual friend up against a chain-link fence. I believed his stories after that.
Going far back to elementary school, our class bully was Bud, a well-dressed, pleasant boy who took his bullying chores as a curse as well as a blessing. He was well behaved most of the time, but he kept track of who needed to be punched or wrestled and he found that day's victim on the playground. Whenever I saw him coming, I took it stoically because I knew he enjoyed it no more than I did. It was a job, and he was good at it.
Years later, I lived in the same building with a guy named Valenzuela. When he was bored, he would put on his ice skates, tie a towel around his neck and skate down the wooden floors of the Navy barracks, claiming all the while to be an invincible superhero.
His super powers apparently prevented him from growing facial hair, though, so he once ordered fake sideburns from a magazine ad. They looked like a cross between felt and rat fur, but he wore them proudly on his crimefighting missions.
While in college, I also worked night shift in a carpet mill, and there I met a young man who took everything literally. Whenever co-workers goodnaturedly called him a name that questioned his ancestry or parentage, he began swinging fists. I've never known anyone else like him. Although his name escapes me, he still sticks in my mind.
At another college job, I worked with a fellow Southerner who had been reared by a British nanny. He spoke in a drawl during the day, but after getting a few drinks into him at parties, he unconsciously took on an English accent that he couldn't shake until he was sober again.
There are so many more unforgettable people I have met but not enough time to remember them all. While reflecting on this several years ago, I told a co-worker that I had decided to become eccentric, too.
"How would we know the difference?" she asked in amazement.
If that's the case, and I am a bit eccentric, maybe my name pops up whenever long-past acquaintances around this big world remember their most unforgettable characters.
Reach Glynn Moore at (706) 823-3419 or email@example.com.