Never meet your heroes: The day I chose NOT to meet Henry Winkler

Never meet your heroes---unless you enjoy disappointment.

Growing up I was obsessed with the TV show Happy Days. Each Thursday at 6:55 PM I would unapologetically drop whatever I was doing and dash home to “rock around the clock” with the gang.

At that time in Utah the coolest thing in the neighborhood was my black cat named Panther. So imagine how unique, awe-inspiring and mesmerizing Fonzie was. He was a revelation. The way I felt when watching him was like the first time I ever experienced the unexpected joy of heated car seats.

He was the first to introduce me and the neighbor kids to the word and concept  of "cool." Forty some-odd years later, I'm still using the word "cool" probably 20 times a day on average. Fonzee's hair defied gravity. His leather jacket and intolerance for authority pricked my subconscious admiration for the "bad boy." We all wanted to be Fonzie. Well, most of my female friends didn't want to be Fonzie, they wanted to date Fonzie, but not me. I wanted to be Fonzie. I wanted everyone in the room to notice when I walked in. I wanted to magically fix a broken juke box with just the right punch. I wanted to be the hero in everyone else's story.

I would often fantasize about meeting Henry Winkler. In my imagination I would shake his hand, maybe we would hug. His charisma and coolness would ooze from his pours and enter into mine, making me cool through osmosis or whatever. It would be the pinnacle and changing point of my average life.

All those decades of fantasies came to a halt when I realized that Henry Winkler is just an average schmo like the rest of us.

About 7 years ago,  when Lightening McQueen was all the rage, we took our kids to the Auto Trade Show to meet their vehicular hero.

As we walked around the venue, toward the back in an obscure corner I noticed a sign that read:  Meet Henry Winkler with an arrow pointing west. I was giddy with excitement! It was a dream come true! We walked for awhile then stumbled on another sign that read: Meet Henry Winkler: $20!

I looked up and on a platform above me sat THE Henry Winkler. He was slumped at a table waiting for people to pay him twenty bucks to write his name on a piece of paper.  He exuded whatever the opposite of charisma is. He was old, fat and saggy. His skin was particularly sallow in the florescent lights. He looked angry and sad at the same time. He wasn't the super hero I had expected him to be. He was the opposite of what I considered approachable, let alone magnetic. I was disillusioned. My hero turned out to be just a person. He aged and schlepped for money to pay the bills just like me. I had to just walk away.

Even though I still carry a pocket of sadness knowing that there most likely isn't a group of super-cool humans who will inspire the rest of us to rise above mediocrity, I realized that my "Henry Winkler revelation" was also a little reassuring. It reasserted the fact that nobody is perfect. We are all human. To compare myself and aspire to be like someone "perfect" was like comparing myself to a made-up cartoon character who had super powers and a ridiculous proportional body that never changed.


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