Six weeks ago I went to a masters swim meet in Long Island. About halfway through the meet I noticed that the Olympic champion and NBC commentator Rowdy Gaines was there. A lot of people were approaching him to have their pictures taken with him. He graciously posed with all of them, his arms around their shoulders.
I would have felt foolish approaching him like that, but about half an hour later, I was talking to a young woman who evidently knew him, and she called him over so I could meet him.
I quickly thought about what I should say to him, and decided on, "I'm 60, so I remember your glory days quite clearly. I remember how absolutely astounded I was when you went that 42.3 for the 100 yard free, and that 1:34.5 for the 200 free, and also your long course records of 49.1 and 1:48.9. I just couldn't believe that anybody could swim that fast."
I figured he didn't meet many people who could just recite his times, so he might get a kick out of it.
After we shook hands, I said, "I'm 60 years old --" and he quickly interjected, "No way! You're 60?!" He pointed at his own forehead and said, "Hey -- what happened? You forgot to get wrinkles!"
He said all this in the kind of ultra-sincere tone that seems second nature to a certain type of Southerner. He then added, sotto voce, "You have got to give me the name of your dermatologist."
By this point I had totally forgotten about the little speech I had prepared, though I did manage to say, to the young lady who introduced us, "Listen to this guy -- he's just as charming in person as on TV."
(He's actually more charming.)
At that point some other people approached Rowdy, asking for pictures, so I made my exit. After I had walked away, I remembered what I had meant to say, and it occurred to me that he must have thought that I had told him that I was 60 simply to fish for a compliment -- which he then obligingly delivered.
He probably hardly gave the matter any thought, but that really didn't make me feel like any less of an asswipe.