It was the 1980s. I was in college, and working at the comic shop off campus. This was in a rural farming town, with a cultural divide between the students and the “townies” that could fill a dozen bad comedy films. There was a tolerance, though; the college kept the economy running, and while the town was boring (everything was closed on Sunday; there was one second-run theater in town; there was only one bar) the permanent residents were warm and friendly and folksy. It was like living in Mayberry.
Across the street from the comic shop was a gas station. A full-service gas station, where a guy came out, pumped the gas for you, checked your oil, and washed your windows. Believe me, kids, this was rare even in the 1980s. They were also a full-service garage, so you could get your car repaired there. It sounds like a kooky concept her in the 21st century, but that’s the way things used to be. One of the guys who worked at the gas station — let’s call him Junior — was simple. I say that to be descriptive, not to be derogatory. He had an 8th grade education, and his life consisted of working on cars, drinking beer, and watching television. Junior always wore bib overalls, tan work boots, and some grease-smeared cap with a car or beer logo on it.
Junior loved having a comic shop across the street from the garage. Occassionally he’d pop over and page through the funny books. He didn’t like superhero books, preferring funny animals and works in the Archie oevre. Books featuring women with large breasts in tight costumes would catch his eye, but he always seemed embarassed and would try to avoid looking directly at them, lest God smite him or something. What he really loved most, though, were the robot toys. We’d managed to get a slew of Japanese robot toys. Even though we had no idea who the characters were supposed to be, and the anime or manga they came from weren’t available in the United States, the toys were just cool, and we sold a lot of them.
One day Junior was looking over one of the big, expensive robots, a 12″ tall model we were selling for $75, when he asked, “Do you watch Transformers?”.
“No,” I said. “I’m here all day, and we don’t have a TV.” I gesture around the area behind the counter, indicating that we did not, in fact, have a TV.
“There are these robots,” he says, “and they turn into cars. They turn into other things too, like planes and guns and radios and stuff, but I like the ones that turn into cars. Someday, I’d like to build a car that turns into a robot. That would be cool. Or build a robot that turn into a bigfoot truck. They don’t have a robot that turns into a bigfoot truck.” Junior then proceded to spend the next hour or so explaining the concept of the Transformers to me, in detail, complete with descriptions of important characters and what they turned into.
At that point, I just thought Junior was kind of sweet, a nice guy who thought this TV cartoon was cool.
The next day, Junior popped in to the shop. It was odd to see him two days in a row. They had a TV in the garage, he told me, and he watched Transformers while he worked on cars. He’d just watched that day’s episode, and since I didn’t have a TV he’d come over to tell me what had happened that day.
You see where this is leading.
Every day, Junior started coming over after the Transformers was over. Every day, I’d get this man’s recap of that day’s episode. He recounted these tales with the gravitas of Sir Derek Jacobi performing a Shakespeare tragedy. Every single day. It was important to this man that I got to hear about the Transformers, as I was deprived and could not watch the show myself. I didn’t have the heart to tell the guy I really didn’t give a crap; I think it would have crushed him. The longer this went on, the less possible it became to say dude, you don’t have to do this.
The Transformers saga went on for several months. It only ended when I got a better-paying job and quit the comic shop. I’d see Junior from time to time, when I stopped for gas, and he’d ask if my new job let me watch Transformers. I lied and told him yes, because it made him happy, and pre-empted the possibility of him showing up at my new office or possibly my apartment to continue the live recaps.
Some people talk about that under-socialized D&D player who won’t shut up about his 37th level dwarf/wizard/paladin/assassin. Some people have tales about the annoying Trekkie or the obsessive Star Wars fan. I’ll always have Junior, the simple, baby-faced auto mechanics who cared enough to bring the wonder of the Transformers into my life five days a week. As much as I liked Junior, it got to be uncomfortable, obsessive, stalker-ish. It was, to be very frank, more than a little creepy. To this day, I’ve never actually seen an episode of Transformers, but I still know far, far more about them than I ever wanted.
Source: Uncle Bear