Living in Northern California, I don’t run into celebrities too often. Once I met J. K. Rowling, the Harry Potter author, when she was touring the U.S. to promote her third book. Otherwise, I’d heard that Carlos Santana came to visit his restaurant, Maria Maria, every now and then, and that some famous ball players lived in Blackhawk. But I’d never met any of them.
Then one day, while tending my small antiques and things shop, a tall white haired man came in with his wife. They were carrying two signs I’d hung out front. They were talking about how much their daughters would love them.
Good! They fell in love with the signs while dining at the adjacent restaurant. Many of my sales came from lunch customers.
The man laid the signs on my counter and said, “We’ll take these.”
Two of my best selling signs: Always Kiss Me Goodnight, and I Love You to the Moon and Back. I looked into his familiar face and blue eyes and realized that it was Sully, the pilot who had ditched his plane into the Hudson River after a bird strike at take-off.
It was 2010 or 2011, so the newscasters were still talking about his heroic event of 2009. It was many years before Clint Eastwood would make it into a movie starring Tom Hanks. One journalist commented that the souls of those lost in the Twin Towers, seven and a half years before, held up the wings until everyone was rescued.
When Sully saw that glimmer of recognition in my face, he gave me a look that said, “Please don’t make a big deal about me.”
He was a big deal. He had saved 155 lives that day, all crew and all passengers.
I rang up the sale and told him the amount — $42.65.
He pulled out a credit card, and sure enough, there was his name, Chesley Sullenberger. I ran the card and gave him the receipt to sign, and then a copy for him to take.
He thanked me and left the store with his wife.
Wow! I just met Sully!
I knew he liked the restaurant next door and that he lived near Blackhawk. Then I looked down at the credit card receipt.
I had his autograph!
Couldda Wouldda Shouldda
I could’ve gushed over him so that I could get what I needed. But for some reason that day, I gave Sully what he needed, the chance to be an anonymous shopper.