Steve Mason died Sunday night.
Let that sink in for a minute before you say, “I’m sorry to hear that… who was Steve Mason?” Because, the thing is, despite having worked with the man for over a year, I really don’t know either.
Okay, in all fairness, I didn’t really work with Steve. He and I worked in the same place, doing the same job, along with over a hundred other people. There’s probably something like three hundred or so working in the building (accounting for those in other departments), maybe more, so Steve and I didn’t see a lot of each other. If you look at his picture on the left there you probably know almost as much about him as I did. What I know about Steve is what pretty much everyone knew about Steve. Steve was a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Steve looked a little like Santa Claus. Steve was a smoker. I only know that last bit because I am also a smoker and would often be out in the smoking area along with Steve, both of us puffing away. We rarely spoke. I don’t follow much football and that seemed to be almost all Steve liked to talk about. To each his own, I suppose. I doubt that Steve was very interested in Star Wars or zombies or video games (you know, pretty much all I like to talk about).
I’m not writing this to memorialize Steve or eulogize him. I’m not qualified for that because, again, I really didn’t know him.
I did see him last Friday, out in the smoking area as I often would, but I don’t think we even exchanged a single word. Had I known it would be the last time I would see him, I might have said… well… something. Instead when I got in to work on Monday morning, I heard from a coworker that he’d died of a heart attack on Sunday night.
“I can’t believe that guy is dead,” she said as she came to the smoking area and sat down.
“What guy?” asked the woman she was sitting with.
“You know, that guy,” the first woman insisted (I’m pretty sure her name is Vanessa… I guess I don’t really know her either). “That nice guy. The one who looks like Santa Claus.”
That was how everyone at work would describe Steve. “Take this over to Steve’s desk for me, would you?” “Who’s Steve?” “You know, Santa Claus.” This was a pretty typical exchange.
Not anymore, I guess.
By now you’re probably wondering why I’m writing about Steve at all, since I barely knew the guy at all. In a way I am as well. I guess Steve’s passing got me thinking about just how frail and fleeting human life really is. Any one of us can go at pretty much any time, sad to say, and Steve went. On Friday he was there, having a smoke, and on Monday he just… wasn’t… and never will be again. Its sobering when you think about it.
Naturally, being a human, I am rather self-centered and Steve’s passing made me think not of the family he left behind (did he have a family? His daughter also works there, but I don’t know her either. In fact, I knew her dad better. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to her at all and only knew she was his daughter because she has photographs on her desk from what appears to be her wedding. He’s in one, beaming proudly, an obvious father of the bride.), but about how would people react if I was just suddenly not there? Steve was well liked by almost everyone, it seemed, and though I heard the news passing among a few people who had to ask something like, “now who was this?…,” almost all of them would flash instant recognition when told something like, “you know… Santa Claus… Steelers fan…” I think far less people there know who I am than who knew Steve. I can imagine it now…
“Did you hear Mike died?”
“Mike, you know, that chubby Star Wars guy with all the toys on his desk?”
“Nope. Doesn’t ring a bell.”
And so on. I don’t want people to remember (or, more accurately, not remember) me that way. I’m not interested in throngs of weeping people at my funeral, but it would be nice to be… well… missed, I guess. Missed and remembered, at least a little…. and hopefully fondly, like Steve.
That’s the thing, really, about Steve. He was such a genuinely nice guy. Perhaps not everyone knew him, but everyone knew of him and I dare say most everyone liked him. How can you not like a guy who looks that much like Santa?
So I may not have really known Steve, but I will miss him to some extent and I will remember him. Its quite literally the least I can do.