He felt like family.
We met on the second morning of a show I was on a few months ago. I was about to push the "up" button on our lift gate when he stopped me, taking the remote from my hands.
"Here, I'll do that," he said with a smile on his face.
I thanked him and we introduced ourselves; him being one of the drivers on our little show.
For the next several weeks, we got to know each other better, chatting when we both had some downtime. There was nothing romantic about it with him being a couple decades older than me and happily married, but we'd talk about this business and life and such while throwing in some witty and playful banter every now and then.
He quickly became one of my favorites and I was sad to see him go when the show finally ended. When we said goodbye and he gave me one last, heartwarming hug with a kiss on the cheek, he told me that while our crew was one of the best he's ever worked with (which is a high compliment coming from someone who's been doing this as long as he has), he'd miss me the most.
But the one good thing about this business is that you never have to really say goodbye. The industry's constant ebb and flow of new shows starting and old ones ending means that everyone's constantly shuffling around, so there's a damn good chance you'll run into the same people again somewhere down the line. Sometimes it's as soon as tomorrow, and sometimes it can be years down the line. But it takes the sting out of tearful goodbyes at the end of a show knowing there's the possibility you'll meet up again somewhere down the road.
I didn't have to wait years to see my favorite driver again. I ran into him a few months later when I got a one day call for a shoot. I stepped out of the pass van to see him parking a trailer for a different department.
A wide smile spread across my face as I walked up to him, my day suddenly brightening up exponentially. I stopped a few feet away from him, giving him a loud and enthusiastic "Hi!"
I expected to get a huge smile and a bear hug in return, as per our usual greeting, but instead what I got as a blank stare.
"Hi," he said, and resumed his attention back to his trailer.
"What? That's all I get?" I asked with the usual playfulness in my voice.
He squinted at me for a second, as if trying to place who I was. "You're an electrician, right? Didn't we do a show together earlier this year?"
I paused while still trying to keep the smile up on my face. "Yeah... I'm A.J."
"Oh, right. Good to see you. How've you been?"
I couldn't believe it. He had given me the standard, cordial greeting usually reserved for people you've either forgotten or barely know. Despite seeing each other every day for a month, he now didn't even remember as much as my name.
I finished up what has now become small talk and spent the rest of the day giving him a nod hello if I walked passed him.
I know working with someone for a few weeks doesn't exactly cement most people into memory, but our long work days essentially amounted to a few hundred hours together. Factor in the moments where we're actually having a conversation during down time and that's at least several hours of bonding right there.
That's more time than I've spent talking to my cousin's girlfriend at my aunt's Christmas party last year, yet I seem to remember her more than he remembered me...
I suppose that's one of the downfalls of this business*. We meet so many people that come and go in our line of work, that eventually, it gets harder and harder to keep them all straight and remember them all. And I guess sometimes, what I may see as a special bond, others might see as a way to kill time until the next show.**
I still think the friendship we had on the show earlier this year was real. But it was only real in the moment. I think he meant what he said during our goodbye, but he just failed to remember me. We didn't have an earth-shattering connection by any means; more like a mutual respect for one another at the time. One that got lost in the shuffle that is this industry and life.
I understand that, but it still stings a little since it's only been a few months and I remember him so well.
But he is still, and always will be, one of my favorites.
Be thankful for those you know will always remember you.
* Or perhaps, life in general.
** And vise-versa.