Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Question of Character

Some years ago, I serviced my car at a local mechanic run by two men. The partnership consisted of a younger, soft-spoken, agreeable fellow and an older, coarse, irascible sort. A friend of mine who also patronized these very different—but very competent—grease monkeys got along swimmingly with the youngest member of the team, but loathed with a passion the more wizened and strident half.

When I informed my friend that I got along swimmingly with, and actually liked, Bill (that was the blowhard’s name), he was flabbergasted. What can I say: I found the man’s antics entertaining. While paying my bill one day in the garage’s modest office to the man himself, the phone rang. The call was for his partner, Marty. But rather than get up, walk a few steps to the doorway, and open the door, Bill remained seated and bellowed at the top of his lungs: “MARTY!!! TELEPHONE!!! MARTY!!!”

If my mechanic and I were cartoon characters, I would have somersaulted down wind of his super-high volume. It’s as if the garage became a sitcom stage at that moment. While many of the business's patrons found Bill boorish and unnecessarily antagonistic, I saw him as a true original. My aforementioned friend—a vocal anti-Bill critic—once told me, “You turn everyone into characters.” Perhaps I do. But if, as Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage,” then we are all characters, most especially Bill the Mechanic and the countless others who might otherwise be very annoying indeed.

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