If you walk into our shop at any given time you will, more often than not, bump into the man, the myth, the legend John Simpson. And when I say bump into him you literally might bump into him.
I first saw John Simpson when I started working at the shop a few years ago. I wasn’t sure what to make of him at first. Before we moved to our much larger building a few blocks down the street, we were in a small narrow, shoebox smushed between my family’s Subway restaurant and a tax office on the main street in town. When John Simpson walked into that small building you couldn’t get around him…literally. There would be days when we were closed for lunch and we would come back to find him sitting on our stoop waiting to get his comic books. Some days it seem like it was his life mission to get those damn comic books.
Going from not knowing what to expect from Johnny from day to day to present day, it has been one heck of a ride with him at the store.
As John got more comfortable hanging around us and opening up to us more, we did the same with him. We are at a point now when he spends a good chunk of his day at the shop waiting for his books to come. He needs to know if the post office delivered yet, if FedEx or UPS dropped off out back or if he magically got comic books delivered in some other way. Let’s be clear, he uses the excuse of “waiting to see if the mailman came” to actually spend time with us talking shop. We know that. He knows that. Heck, the mailman and delivery people know that.
There are plenty of days when he gets his books or knows full well that all of our deliveries are in for the day and he still hangs out. And guess what? That is perfectly fine by us.
He usually comes barreling through the front door sometime between 11:00 and noon and he usually spends the better part of the afternoon with us. He tells us he has to get going but generally heads out around 3:00 PM or 4:00 PM most days.
What started out as somewhat of a nuisance has grown into a legitimate bond between John, shop owner Jason and me. He is a fixture at our store and all the other customers know him by name. A few of the local police officers that frequent our establishment always ask about Johnny.
Paul, one of our good buddies and a local wrestling promoter, makes special trips to see John…from an hour away. He has offered John a spot on any wrestling card he want to get on and I’ve offered my services as his manager or even tag team partner if need be. He has yet to take us up on that offer.
He usually strolls in with his signature red t-shirt, shorts, slides and big black duffel bag tossed over his shoulder. He will have you know that its getting cold now so he’s finally wearing his jacket and long pants. Simpson is quick to grab one, or two, or six Coca-Colas out of our cooler and pretty much house them in a matter of moments as he gets settled in for the afternoon. We’ve come to expect it and we’ve come to adore it.
Truth be told, I’m not sure how much John has to look forward to in his day outside of our four walls and the handful of comic books he gets every few days. We are fully aware of that and we take that into consideration each and every day. We don’t carry any of the books he’s looking for so we will special order anything he needs.
John has special circumstances and some daily hurdles to clear that we would know nothing about. We most definitely take that in a consideration, too.
The man affectionately known as ‘The Emperor of Death Wings’ for his entry into local eating contests is a highlight of my day, even when he’s talking at full volume right in my ear, following me around the store for hours on end. I would be lying if I said there weren’t days where, as busy as we are, that it doesn’t get frustrating but its OK. As crazy as it sounds, we miss him when he’s not there.
John is someone of a savant in certain areas including but not limited to comic books (he wants you to know that he prefers the term graphic novel), movies, video games and maybe most importantly, politics. I personally try to avoid politics like the plague but it’s always entertaining to hear what John has to say on the topic. He follows his topics closely and has a wide range of knowledge (and opinions) on much of it. He is incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about the topics that he focuses on and has interest in.
We know all about his mom Tina, his uncle Bill, his grandma, his cousin Terry Joe, his estranged father and so much more. I think I truly know his life story at this point.
John has become more than a customer over these number of years. He’s become more a member of our store’s family. Whatever labels society would put on him or his special needs, we refuse to define him by those labels and we refuse to let him define himself by them. We talk him up, even coach him up and try to elevate him as a person. He can do whatever he sets out to do. He’s more knowledgeable on said topics than the majority of folks we see daily.
Ultimately, we treat him like one of the guys because that’s exactly what he is…one of the Sports Zone guys. We will give him small tasks to keep him occupied and focused. We grab lunch for him if we get something and just make him feel welcomed.
No matter how much he talks, how loud he talks or how much he wants to talk about politics, we will always be here to listen.
Check out previous editions of Shop Talk with Tony Reid here.