In the early 90s, I was working nights at a call center. I would go to college full-time during the day, then be at work for the 3:30 to midnight shift.
I had a friend – we'll call him Doug. We were close, and he worked the same shift as me.
I was a big Oakland Raiders fan back then. One Monday night, they were playing the Kansas City Chiefs, which is a huge rivalry. For some reason, the game was significant – a divisional race or something.
I had taken a half day off, which meant I was leaving work at 7:30 to go home and watch Monday Night Football, which started at 8:00.
At some point in the early evening, Doug motioned for me to come over to his desk. I did, and he said, “Hey, can I talk to you about something?”
I think I responded in the affirmative, but then launched into some half-crazed monologue about how excited I was for the game that night. I must have seemed like a little kid on Christmas. Doug listen attentively, like he always did.
When I was done rambling, I remembered why I came over there.
I said, “Oh, what did you want to talk to me about?”
Doug started to say something, and then stopped himself. He smiled slightly. Then he said, “You know what? Forget it. We'll talk later.”
I went home and watched the game. It ended late. I don't remember who won.
Just before I went to bed, I remembered that Doug had wanted to tell me something. It was late, but our shift had ended at midnight, so I called him at home.
His wife had left him. He was sitting in an empty apartment. His marriage was over.
This is what he had wanted to tell me. Apparently, it had happened earlier that day. He needed to tell someone. I was his best friend.
But, here's the thing – he had started to tell me, but then stopped, because he didn't want to ruin the football game for me.
He saw how excited I was, and he didn't want to do anything to dampen that. He set himself aside momentarily so I could enjoy the game, and he went home to an empty apartment, still not having told anyone.
I have never forgotten this. I think about it often.
It remains the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.