Tales from the Beat: An awkward hug created through a mistaken identity

By Tom Nader | Sports Editor Published:

By Tom Nader | Sports Editor

Sometimes your best intentions can still find a way to place you into an awkward situation.

So was the case for me back in the fall of 2007.

Shortly after being promoted to Sports Editor at the Record-Courier, we made a decision as a department to begin including game stories on the Akron Aeros.

We figured that despite the team not being from Portage County, there would still be enough interest with our readers to include the stories as part of our section each day.

After just a few weeks of the stories printing, we began to receive positive feedback from our readers.

They shared with us that they enjoyed being able to keep close track of the team and also appreciated us publishing the team’s list of upcoming games because it allowed them to plan a trip to Canal Park for a game.

At the time, I didn’t think much of the comments. While I was appreciative that people were noticing and enjoying the new content, I felt that we were simply doing our jobs.

And we were, but I didn’t realize that our Akron Aeros coverage was soon about to set the stage for awkwardness.

One weekend not long after our Aeros coverage began, my wife and I were shopping at the Giant Eagle in Rootstown. Our shopping trip was brief, only needing a couple of items before we started walking toward the cash registers, scanning them to see which one had the shortest line.

That’s when I heard a woman’s voice say, “Tom? Tom Nader?”

I turned around and noticed a woman riding toward me in a motorized shopping cart.

“Do you remember me?” she asked.

Of course I did.

I had not seen the woman in years, but she was the bookkeeper for our high school boys basketball team.

She went to all of our games, home and away and was always friendly to all the players. At the end of our senior year, she bought all of us a keychain with our names and jersey numbers engraved on it. I still have mine.
“Sure I do,” I said with a big smile.

I walked over to her, leaned down and gave her a big hug. I was excited to see her after all of these years.

“How have you been?” I asked her.

“Fine,” she replied. “I talked to you on the phone the other day, but I wanted to say thank you again, this time in person, for you guys putting the Akron Aeros games in the Record-Courier sports section. I really enjoy them.”

Then it hit me.

Though this woman looked practically identical to our basketball bookkeeper, it wasn’t her at all.

In the whirlwind of surprise that someone called out my name in the grocery store, I immediately tried to put a name to the face of this woman. Her appearance was strikingly similar to the woman I knew, but I didn’t know this person at all. Save for a brief two-minute phone conversation just days earlier. 

Without mentioning my goof, I politely thanked her for her support of our sports section and ensured her that our coverage of the Akron Aeros would continue.

She proceeded to turn down an aisle and continue her shopping.

I turned around and got in line to check out.

My wife asked the logical question.

“Who was that?”

“Not to be mean,” I said, “but I have no idea.”

I quickly brought her up to speed on who I thought the woman was.

“So you basically just hugged a complete stranger,” she said.

I couldn’t help myself from starting to laugh out loud and my wife was right there with me.

By the time we left the store, we were hysterical in laughter about how silly of a moment I had just created.

My intentions were right, but in the end, I probably completely confused a loyal reader of our newspaper on why her appreciation of our Akron Aeros stories warranted a hug from me.

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