When we were waiting to clear customs, a young girl came up to me and told me how much she loved my work. She asked me if I'd take a picture with her and her drill team, who were there for a competition or something.
I did my best to be patient and kind, but I told her that I was exhausted, and I looked and felt like hell. She was visibly disappointed, but said that she understood and apologized for bothering me.
"You know," Anne (who had been barfing her brains out the entire flight, and surely felt worse than me) said, "that girl was really excited to meet you, and even though you're exhausted, it only takes a minute to give her a good memory, or a lousy one."
This began a pattern of Anne being right, and me saying, "You're right."
I found the girl, who was with her team, and I told her that I was really sorry for blowing her off. I told her how exhausted I was, but I really appreciated her kind comments about my work, and if she was still interested, I'd be happy to take a picture with her and her team.
She blushed, her friends giggled, and I ended up posing for pictures with most of them individually, all of them as a team, and signing a few autographs. It ended up being really cool, and was a moment that profoundly changed the way I dealt with that "celebrity" thing that I was never really comfortable with: though I always thought "celebrity" was bullshit, it was one of the first times I realized that, even though I didn't think of myself in those terms, there were some people who did, and with that came a certain amount of responsibility.
It's . . . interesting . . . to me that I have that moment so clearly burned into my mind. I wonder if those girls even recall it, or if they even have those pictures. But I'm pretty sure that if I'd just gone to my hotel and taken a nap, they would recall that time I was the asshole, and I wouldn't recall it at all.
I know that there were lots of moments in my teenage years and early twenties when I really was the asshole. There were times when I was extremely selfish, immature, unhappy, and uncomfortable in my own skin. These were not good times to meet me, and though they are over a decade in the past, I occasionally recall some dick move I pulled somewhere, and I seriously want to find some way to apologize and make whatever dick thing I did right.
I know that I can't travel back in time to change those things I did that I regret, but as I've written before, I really like who I am now, and I have a wonderful, wonderful life. Like Picard said in Tapestry, "There are many parts of my youth that I'm not proud of... there were loose threads . . . untidy parts of me that I would like to remove. But when I pulled on one of those threads . . . it had unraveled the tapestry of my life."
Wil, you frackin' rock, dude.
There's lots of reasons we geeks from and around your age group look up to you, and this is one of them. It takes a lot of guts to even turn the human perception inward and discover, acknowledge and eviscerate our own faults, but to do it in a public forum takes guts.
From having worked in the high-ticket security industry and from having met many celebrities through work, I can say with some small authority your humility and down-to-Earth nature are rare.
That's why you frackin' rock, Wil.
Thanks for bringing your insight and wisdom into the lives of lowly geeks like us.