a chance encounter…
It was in the fall of 1992 at the beginning of my senior year in high school that I was working at a local private golf course picking up driving range golf balls and servicing the members of a country club. One of my duties at the time was to run errands for the members, which included everything from washing their cars to picking up prescriptions to driving them to the airport. One late Saturday afternoon, one of our members had asked me to deliver a package to his home; a surprise for his wife. As I made my way up 19th Avenue – the main north to south thoroughfare of downtown San Francisco – I decided to stop for gas at some unsuspecting station. As I began to fuel my car, a very shiny dark black Land Rover SUV pulled up behind me to fuel up. The driver jumped out and the passenger made his way into the mini mart. Because of a baseball cap and sunglasses, it took a double take, but I quickly realized the man pumping gas behind me was Robin Williams. I could not help but to shake his hand and say hello – I was, and am, a huge fan.
Growing up in San Francisco, Robin Williams who was also a resident of San Francisco, was all the rage. His Sea Cliff home, which oversees both the Pacific Ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge was a popular tourist attraction and a common place to find locals and tourists alike walking around taking pictures.
As his friend returned to the car, he too shook my hand, and introduced himself simply as “Chris”. I did not realize it until a few years later that the second man I met was in fact, Christopher Columbus. They told me they were in the process of filming a new movie, which considering the time frame and location, had to be Mrs. Doubtfire. As any friendly people would do, they both wished me well, I thanked them for their time, and we went on our respective ways.
In the years since my chance encounter, Robin Williams has done great things around the world, but was always a fixture in my home town, San Francisco. It was once reported that he and his children were spotted cleaning up trash as part of the “Adopt a Highway” program by someone whose car had broken down on the side of the 101 freeway. According the radio reports, he was more than willing to offer this complete stranger a ride. He also made frequent “appearances” as a flower delivery person in the city, tempting people to recognize him and say hello. I moved from San Francisco 12 years ago, but as a fan of the man, those memories and news stories stick with me.
The news of Robin Williams’ death is sad, perhaps even more so are the apparent surrounding circumstances. He seems to have taken his own life. Not taken though are the wonderful movies, the poignant moments, the belly laughs, and the memories. Oh, the memories.
I have written before of the opportunity Vision Therapy creates for us all. An opportunity to change lives, to make an impact, to help a person find their way, and even to show them that there is hope. That the struggles they feel now are temporary, and the solutions for those struggles are attainable. Hopefully they can feel that we are on their side.
When I awoke this morning, I reminded myself of the power, inspiration, and importance of making a positive impact on my patients. To let them know that their frustrations will pass, to help them see that they can do this, that there are people who do believe in them, and that people do care.
Last night’s news reminded me of the fragility of the human spirit when it becomes defeated, as well as of my passion for helping others realize through Vision Therapy how wonderful they are as individuals.
Not bad for a guy I once met in a gas station.