I think it’s fair to say we all like a little bit of attention. We post pictures on Facebook or Instagram and we enjoy getting “likes” or “thumbs up.” It makes us feel good. It makes us feel as if we are noticed by others and they pay attention to us. But can it cross the line to a self-admiration that inflates our ego?
I imagine, as much as we try to stay humble, we all can fall into being egotistical once in a while. It happened to me before. At the time, I was filming a video series for Popular Woodworking. It was called, “I Can Do That.” We were into our third season of the show, and it was becoming more popular with the viewers.
The show required me to film three or four times a year. That meant, every couple of months I would go to Cincinnati to do more episodes. PW put me in the same nice, top floor, hotel each time I came into town. After regularly frequenting the same place, I got to know the employees rather well.
One morning I was on the elevator going down to have breakfast and a man got on the elevator with me. He began looking over to me several times. It started to feel awkward like maybe I buttoned my shirt wrong, or my fly was open, but finally, he said, “Do I know you?”
I glanced at him, seeing if he looked familiar to me, and then replied, “I don’t think so.”
For a quick second, he accepted the answer. But he still couldn’t seem to shake the thought that he knew me. He asked again, “Are you sure?”
Trying to come up with a reasonable answer I said, “Well, I come to this hotel fairly often. Maybe you have seen me here before.”
“No that’s not it. This is my first time here,” he replied. With slight apprehension, he asked, “Are you perhaps a celebrity?”
That was not the question I would have imagined hearing from a total stranger. But then I thought, to myself, why not? After all, I am here filming a video series. I thought to myself, “Wow, I was noticed.” This was a rather unusual experience for me. Occasionally after a lecture or class, someone might ask for an autograph or a signing of a book. But to be noticed out in public, this was quite a sensation! I felt like a rock star!
I figured he was a fan of the show. I thought about how I would tell him who I was and it would make his day. I imagined he would go home and tell his wife at dinner, “Guess who I saw today?!!” This was my opportunity to make a memorable moment for him!
I composed myself quickly and with a timid smirk on my face and with a presumptuous tone, I replied, “I see you must enjoy woodworking.”
The man stared at me almost as if he was in a trance and was nodding his head up and down. It was as if he was putting all the pieces together. Any second he was going to state my name in amazement and be thrilled to shake my hand. Finally, he answered, “Yeah, I’ve never been into that.”
Shocked by the reply, it never occurred to me that he wasn’t a fellow woodworker. Now I was the one staring back in a trance trying to comprehend how much I felt like an idiot. How does the conversation go forward from here?
Without having to figure out my next move, the man did it for me. He followed up by asking, “Are you someone important in that field?”
Looking down at the ground and hoping that the elevator would suddenly drop to my death, I replied in a mildly humiliated tone, “Apparently not.”
Wishing this experience was over, my embarrassment didn’t end there. The guy was still persistent with his grilling questions. “I’m sure I have seen you somewhere! I just know it. I never forget a face. How is it I know you?”
At this point, I now knew where this was going. It was something that plagued me for almost two decades. I couldn’t believe after all this time, this was still a monkey on my back! I never did anything to deserve it. I was just in the wrong place and time. It was back in 1998, for crying out loud. Won’t this just go away!
I sighed, took a deep breath and asked him, “Have you ever seen the tv show, Seinfeld?”
As if the guy struck gold and practically jumped up in the air he eagerly exclaimed,
“THAT’S IT! You look like Jerry Seinfeld! I knew you looked familiar!”
After what seemed like an eternity, the elevator finally came to the bottom and the doors opened. The man feeling triumphant with his small victory and a big smile offered me a good day and made his way out.
I paused for a second and realized the only one who got a memorable moment out of that experience was me. I felt ashamed of myself thinking that I was important or above others. Wanting to forget that experience and trying to put it behind me, I realized I shouldn’t. It was a great lesson for me to remember and to share with others. We should always stay humble. We should be willing to laugh at ourselves. And most of all remember, woodworking should never be the individual, but should always be about the honor of learning this sacred craft.
Chad Stanton- Owner of Stanton Fine Furniture