Sunday, October 11, 2009

Humility in a Waiting room

I worked for a pharmaceutical company for 30 years, 1972 to 2002. For pretty close to 20 years I carried a bag as a detail man. I called on physicians in their offices. Accessing physicians in 1972 was much less challenging than 2002. That is why I moved to the Public Affairs sector of the company as a Government Affairs Manager along the way. Anyway as you can imagine I spent a lot of time in physicians waiting rooms hoping for access to the prescriber. I facetiously used to tell people that I was a professional waiter.

I was waiting to see Dr. Rick Damron at what became Medical Group of North Florida. It was 1986 in October. The fall baseball classic was underway. It was right around 5:30 in the PM. I had been waiting about an hour. There was an old man sitting across from me so I struck up a conversation with him. He seemed old to me. I was 40 years of age back then.

The subject quickly turned to baseball. The Mets and the Red Sox were in the Series. The night before a Red Sox player, Bill Buckner, had allowed a ball to roll between his legs allowing the series to go to the 7th game. The Mets would ultimately win the Series. Buckner has been the subject of derision and vilification ever since that night. I was a Winthrop Park Little League head coach at that time. I was careful not to draw the old man too tightly into analyzing the elements of the previous night. He was out of his league. After all I was a head coach. What was he? I was soon to find out.

The old man had been sort of quiet as I shot my baseball accumen across the room to him. He was responsive and seemed to be interested in my observations. I could also tell that he has preoccupied with his wife being back in an exam room. As I continued to blather on, the door to the hallway aligning the exam rooms opens and out comes Dr. Damron.

I thought he was coming out to give me a couple of minutes to pitch my latest product. Instead he moved directly to the old man. This is what he said: " Mr. Barber, I read your column all the time. I have even listened to games you have broadcast back in my youth. Could you possibly give me your autograph for my father? He is a big fan."

Dr. Damron then headed back to the exam rooms. As he exited he turned to me and said,
" Sorry I can't see you today. I am running behind." I bid farewell to the old man and in a complete state of embarrassment I was happy to get out of that medical complex. I am not the quickest study on earth but it dawned on me finally who the old man was.

He was Red Barber. He was one of the most respected baseball minds in America. He had been the broadcaster for the New York Yankees for a little better than 10 years. He also did the same job for the Phillies and I think the Dodgers. He wrote a weekly column from right here in Tallahassee called From the Cat bird Seat. That column was syndicated and appeared weekly in major newspapers all over the country. Some 6-7 years later as I was working in my front yard an ESPN news crew stopped in front of my house, while I was doing some edging, and asked how to get to a particular address. I asked them where they were heading and they told me to Red Barber's house. Red Barber had just passed away.

I reflected back on my earlier experience with Mr. Barber. He had been so kind and patient with my infantile observations about the baseball game. Had I been in his shoes I would have curtly dismissed someone like myself. Imagine the restraint I would have had to have suppressed were I him speaking with someone like me. " Do you have any idea who I am? Do you think that I am intrested in your weak opinion about the World Series? Why I have been the play by play announcer in several World Series games."

I was humbled and he was a perfect example of humility. That lesson taught by example has stayed with me to this day.

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