Monday, April 17, 2017

My Autograph on Shirts, Hats, Pictures, And So Much More!

I will never forget the first time I was asked for my autograph. It was August 11, 2006 in a diner located in Bowman, North Dakota. I was 1,266 miles into my solo run across America and had just completed a 32-mile day in 95-degree temperatures. I was taken to dinner by Roy and Bev Buckmier -- my hosts for the evening -- and Mayor Lynn James. I couldn't help but to notice that the young waitress kept looking my way. The town was aware that I was running across America and the waitress wanted to make sure I was well fed. After I finished my meal, she approached me in a rather shy manner and asked for my autograph. I couldn't believe it. I had never been asked for my autograph before! I scrolled out a few words on a napkin that she gave to me and signed it. It was flattering to be asked for my autograph and little did I know that it would only be the first of many times.

Having run solo across America, Germany, Alaska and the Mojave Desert... sometimes my name would get in front of people before I did. They would read about me in their local newspaper, or see a TV news segment, and then be on the lookout for me. I cannot begin to estimate how many times I've given my autograph since I was in that little North Dakota diner 11 years ago. I remember doing an assembly in Germany where I was asked to sign approximately 300 pieces of paper so that each child could have my genuine autograph.

I've signed handmade posters, t-shirts, hats, pictures, shoes, and more. I had to draw the line when I was at a middle school in Germany and a girl asked me to sign her stomach! Yep... you read that right. She actually handed me a marker and asked me to sign just above her belly button. I declined and offered to sign a piece of paper. One school teacher asked me to sign the shirt that she was wearing... just above her left breast. That was a rather awkward experience, especially with other teachers and students around.

If you look on Ebay, you'll see that there are many autographs for sale. Trust me, you won't find mine! My autograph really isn't worth anything. I wasn't a "professional" athlete and the endeavors I accomplished across states and countries are pretty uncommon. It has been several years since I've been asked for my autograph and I really don't miss that. I always felt a bit uncomfortable doing it. I never thought of myself as any sort of 'celebrity,' but I certainly didn't want to say "no" to anyone.

I'm sure that my autographing days are behind me. The ink of those autographs has certainly faded over the years and can likely be found in various garbage dumps, old boxes of school-related memorabilia, or possibly used as fire starter on a camping trip. Regardless, I do know that giving someone your autograph does not make you a celebrity or famous. I thank each person who ever asked for my autograph. Each time it was actually an encouragement to me and added a little boost to my spirit as I reached for more mileposts down the road.

Gotta Run,

Paul Staso