When I was 16 years old, my friends and classmates would poke fun at me.
“You never have fun,” Joe Fairley said to me in algebra class.
He was probably right. After all, I was working part time at the neighborhood drugstore in a Cleveland suburb. This meant that for most of my high school experience, it was study-work-study-work.
“What are you doing with all that money you’re making?” others would query.
“Well, I’m saving it for college,” I sheepishly responded.
While I knew I was doing the right thing, I was forgetting to set aside some of my earnings for the simple pleasures in life, like Friday night football games; hitting the video arcade to play my favorite games like Galaga; going out for pizza at a hole-in-the-wall known as Carmella’s; and concerts at the town’s arena.
After being egged on to have somewhat of an adolescent life outside of school and work, I began to set aside some money for those activities — especially concerts. In the early ’80s, I went to see some memorable shows, including Crosby, Stills and Nash; Billy Joel; and Elton John.
There is one show I regret passing up.
“Hey, do you want to see the Police?” a co-worker asked me in the stockroom one day.
“I’m saving up for other things,” I replied. “I’ll catch them next time.”
“Next time” turned out to be almost 25 years later. My wife and I are seeing the trio at Philips Arena this weekend. Now, that’s what I call patience.
Ever since we bought the tickets, it has been coming up in conversations with those close to us and with perfect strangers. As expected, anyone under 35 says, “The Police? You must be old.”
“I don’t care what you think,” I have been shooting back. “You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for this. I’ll talk to you in a quarter-century, and see if you regret passing on an Akron show.”
I will never forget making that huge mistake 25 years ago. I thought the band was like the Rolling Stones, who always seemed to be cryogenically frozen and thawed out every few years to record and tour. Little did I know how much backstage drama led to the demise of the Police.
I related the encounter to my best friend and his dad a few nights after I skipped seeing the “Synchronicity” tour stop in Cleveland that summer. “I think I’ll regret it,” I told them.
“Bobby, why would you waste your hard-earned dollars on those sissies?” my friend’s dad asked. My friend’s dad, known to everyone in the neighborhood as “Sweet Louie,” was the typical Midwestern blue-collar worker who repaired air conditioners, furnaces and roofs.
No one knew the value of a dollar more than “Sweet Louie.” And no one knew how to make me feel better while crushing my dreams more than “Sweet Louie.” He was good at breaking things down to their simplest levels.
Ever since that night almost a quarter-century ago, I tried to make up for my decision. I would listen to my Police cassettes. I even saw Sting in concert almost 20 years ago, but it wasn’t the same. The then-former lead singer of the Police was absorbed in his newfound solo success, playing material from his first two albums.
I left that show feeling happy for Sting, who carved out his own identity away from the band. But for me, I was disappointed. I felt that I was never going to see Sting with Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland.
In November 2007, I finally saw them together.