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James R. Stout

Dapper Dan

             From as far back as I can remember my mother always had a subscription to Reader’s Digest. I became interested in the magazine about the time I turned 10-years-old. At first, I was mainly interested in the various joke sections. These included “Laughter, The Best Medicine”, “Humor in Uniform”, and “All in A Day’s Work”. There were other sections that I became interested in along the way. Once in a while there would be a section featured that was called, “The Most Unforgettable Character I’ve Ever Met”. I really enjoyed those very much. Sometimes they were funny and sometimes they were inspirational. They were nearly always very interesting.

            Thinking back on those characters I realize how difficult it would be to pick a single “most unforgettable” character that I have ever met. In fact, I just don’t think it’s possible to say there was just “a” most unforgettable person. But there have certainly been several characters that I’ve met throughout my life that were most definitely unforgettable. That said, let me tell you about one of them. I’ll simply call him “Dan” (not his real name).

            I met Dan in the fall of 1975 after I started working in the photo department at a local K-mart. Dan was about 40-years-old which was twice my age at the time. To me he was bordering on being an old man! Dan operated the watch repair shop that was next to the photo department. Unlike me, Dan wasn’t an employee of K-mart’s. He owned the watch repair business and had a contract with K-mart in which he paid for the privilege of having the space his shop occupied in the store. It was a good gig. Keep something in mind though. In 1975 most people still wore watches. 99% of the watches were traditional mechanical time pieces as opposed to the very few that were the early versions of digital watches. So, when your watch started to lose time or stopped working, and if it was a nice watch (unlike my $10 Timex), then you would take it to a guy like Dan to have it repaired. He also repaired antique clocks and just about anything that passed as a time piece. He was very good at what he did. That’s another way of saying that he made a very good living as a watch repairman.

            I used wonder how he could do the meticulous work on those watches. The parts were tiny and very intricate. He used to wear one of those jewelers magnifying glasses that he wore like a pair of glasses and one side had the magnifier that swung down in front of the regular glass lens. It would have driven me nuts. Dan had a very dry sense of humor. Sometimes I wouldn’t catch his joke for a few minutes. When I say he had a dry sense of humor I’m talking about Sahara Desert dry.

            Let me describe Dan for you. He had reddish brown hair that was almost always perfect. No telling how much he paid to have it cut and styled. He was very dapper. Yea, I know. Dapper Dan. Sorry. Not really. He wore the latest fashions. A pair of expensive slacks, a shirt that matched perfectly, a sport coat with patches on the elbows, a scarf around his neck set in a jaunty sort of way that was a complimentary color to the shirt of the day, several gold rings on different fingers, but NEVER on the “ring” finger on his left hand, perfectly shined shoes that matched his belt (both of which matched his outfit of the day), and depending on his mood, gold chain necklaces and a Rolex watch that was sure to keep time perfectly. He was peacock is what he was!

            He wore a mustache that was neatly trimmed and sideburns that reminded me of the kind Elvis Presley wore in the late 60’s and early 70’s. You would notice all of these things about Dan if you worked next to him and had many conversations with him. But perhaps the first thing you would notice about Dan was that he stood about 5’ 2” tall. Davy Jones would have towered over Dan! But unlike so many short men, Dan didn’t have the “short-man syndrome”. So far as I know he wasn’t a 7th degree black belt in karate and he didn’t dare you to knock the battery off of his shoulder. Mainly because he didn’t have a battery on his shoulder, but I think you get the gist. Oddly enough, Dan drove one of the biggest cars of the day. It was a brand-new Cadillac El Dorado convertible. It was baby blue on the outside with white leather interior. It wasn’t a pimp-mobile though. It was tastefully jazzy.

            Dan’s height didn’t keep him from being a lady’s man. While I knew him, I saw him with three different women. Not at the same time, mind you. All of them were tall. I mean, they were all 5’ 10” or more. The one that I saw him with the most was a gorgeous woman of about 25. She was thin, very pretty, had a tan that wasn’t out of a can, and naturally (or so it appeared) blonde hair. She giggled a lot. She would come by to go out to lunch with Dan.

            I only worked at that job for about 4 months, but Dan certainly made an impression. Due to the fact that the store was close to where I would live for another 14 years, I had the opportunity to stop in and say hello to Dan over the ensuing years. The last time that I remember seeing him was in about 1989. By that time, I was an old married man of 33 and had two kids. Not Dan. He kept up with the fashions and although he aged some in those years, he managed to maintain his status as “Dan, the Man About Town”. We moved away from that part of town late in 1989 and I never saw him again. I’ve often wondered if Dan ever got married or settled down. If Dan is alive today, then he would be about 85-years-old. In my mind’s eye, I can see Dan retired and living in one of those retirement villages somewhere in Florida. He’s probably the heartthrob of all the widows and probably drives around town in a classic Cadillac or Lincoln Continental. I hope that this has been his fate because the truth is Dan was a nice guy. He was one of those guys that lived life well, had a skill that kept him in style, and probably never intentionally hurt anyone. No, he wasn’t Mr. Serious. He also wasn’t Mr. Crude. He was the kind of guy that all his married friends who are happy being married would get a kick out of knowing. Sort of the way all the guys who will never be a James Bond, but will pay to go see the next James Bond movie just to see the fantasy in action. Let’s all tip our hats to Dan. ONE of the most unforgettable people I’ve ever known.

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