The facts giving rise to this column began 48 years ago. I was in seventh grade at Cherry Creek West Junior High. (This was before the political correctness Gods decided “junior high” might stigmatize the little ones and changed it “middle school”).
Believe it or not, in 1970 I was not the 215-pound black belt specimen of masculinity that I am now. In fact, I was kind of a wuss. I got picked on a lot. Especially in gym.
One day we were all lined up in the gymnasium for jumping jacks or whatever. The kid in front of me, whose name I don’t remember and who probably has a half-dozen domestic violence convictions now, started picking on me. The kid behind me was a tall boy named Dave Cleveland. I did not know Dave well. We did not hang in the same circles. Dave saw what was going on, walked up to the other kid, gave him a push, and emphatically told him to leave me alone. And that was the end of my ordeal, at least on that day.
Dave and I were not friends. He didn’t really know me. He could have minded his own business. But he did the right thing and it stuck with me.
That would be a good story if it ended there, but it doesn’t. About eight years later I worked one summer at a pizza place in Glendale called Figaro’s Pizza. This was great job for a twenty-year-old because I got free pizza, all the 3.2% beer I could drink, and had control over the music.
One Friday night Dave Cleveland walked in with some other people to drink beer and play pool. I took his order at the counter. I don’t think he recognized me. (To be fair, I looked a lot different. And it was a Friday night in 1978, so many twenty-year-old men would have been drunk, stoned, or both).
I called Dave’s name about ten minutes later to tell him his pizza was ready. He came up to the counter and began to remove his wallet from his jeans pocket. “It’s on the house,” I said. He gave me a quizzical look, shrugged, took his pizza and went off to enjoy the rest of his evening.
Through the magic of Facebook, Dave and I were able to reconnect. And because my agreement with the Mountain-Ear is that I can write anything I want so long as I don’t get the paper sued, I thought I would use this opportunity to publicly thank Dave 48 years after he stuck up for me.
I think the lesson here is stick up for others when you can. It’s the right thing to do. And you might get a free pizza.