Just when I feel I’ve seen it all, someone comes along to prove me wrong. I seem to find the strangest situations in larger cities like L.A., Dallas, Chicago, and New York City. My last visit to the Big Apple was certainly no exception. As I reflect on this very unusual incident, I still can’t understand or begin to explain it. However, I won’t soon forget it.
On my last evening in town, after a long week of facilitation, I decided to have dinner in a picturesque little restaurant near the East River not far from my hotel.
I was sitting alone in the rear of the restaurant enjoying my dinner when I noticed an enthusiastic young man, in his mid-30s, walking rapidly toward me with a big grin on his face. I knew he was coming to me as I was the only one in that area of the restaurant and I was sitting by the window overlooking the river.
As he arrived at my table, he reached out, grabbed my hand and starting pumping it as though I were a long lost friend he hadn’t seen in years. In heavily broken English, he gave me his name and told me how thrilled he was to meet me. He called me Sam as he explained that he never misses an episode of my show.
I quickly explained my name was not Sam and he might have mistaken me for someone else. He apologized and said that he was certain I was Sam Waterston, one of the stars of the long-running television series, Law & Order. He asked if he could have an autograph.
Trying to keep a straight face, I again gave him my name and explained that I was not Sam Waterston. Again in broken English, he said he understood, apologized for bothering me but still wanted my autograph because he thought I looked so much like Sam Waterston.
At this point, I was very embarrassed and couldn’t think of anything to say. He then handed me a pen and a folded newspaper as he explained he wanted the autograph for his wife who loved the show.
I said, “You understand I’m NOT Sam Waterston, right?” He indicated he was aware of that fact but still wanted my autograph as he continued to hold the newspaper in from of me. I really felt stupid at this point as other customers in the restaurant had turned to watch this encounter trying to figure out who I was. I quickly told him I didn’t feel comfortable signing someone else’s name.
He again grinned from ear to ear and said, “No, I want you to sign your own name!” Now I’m almost laughing out loud as I tried to visualize this man explaining this scenario to his wife when he got home. Why would she want the autograph of a total stranger who her husband thought looked like a television actor? He obviously wasn’t going to give an inch so I quickly signed my own name on his newspaper! The man again thanked me, pumped my hand again, and went on his way.
Several customers were still glancing my way. It took me another ten minutes to finish my meal, and I then made my way to the register to pay my bill. As I walked by a man and his wife at a nearby table, the man reached up and tapped my shoulder as he asked, “Are you somebody?” Maintaining a straight face and continuing my journey to the register, I said: “Isn’t everyone? Sam Waterston — Law and Order.”
As I continued walking, I could hear the husband tell his wife, “I thought so!”
People are funny.