M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Friday, June 06, 2003  

Not Quite All Star

Some years ago, a new Hilton hotel went up in Downtown Minneapolis. We used to drive by it every day on the way to work, and Trash said she wanted to stay there sometime. So we did.

I made reservations six weeks in advance for us to stay there the weekend before Valentine’s Day 1994. I thought even that was cutting it a little close. I didn’t realize how close until much later.

We checked in and spent a little time in our room, which was lovely. I had neglected to make dinner reservations in the restaurant downstairs, and I didn’t think much of our chances for getting in at this late date. But Trash called the concierge anyway, figuring we didn’t have much to lose.

He picked up on the first ring, addressing her by name in the tone one uses to address one’s boss’s boss. He agreed that getting us into the restaurant tonight was indeed going to be tough, what with the late notice and the hotel being full and all, but he promised to make it happen if we didn’t mind waiting until 9:00 p.m. We were both working nights during the week then, so that time sounded ideal. Trash thanked him and hung up, already impressed with the level of service we were getting.

After a while, we decided to head out and do a little shopping. Several of our neighbors rode down with us in the elevator. Generally I’m the tallest person in a given elevator, but on this occasion we were sharing it with several guys in suits who were so imposing that in their company I felt downright stumpy. I found myself looking forward to disembarking so I could go back to being at my accustomed place in the height bell curve.

It was not to be. The Hilton’s rather large lobby was clogged with large men. Large, extremely well dressed men. At six-foot-two, I felt like a ten-year-old on a Senate floor in which everyone had abruptly swapped races. The vertically gifted were packed in so tightly that we could barely wend our way from the elevator to the front door. “It’s like half the NBA is in this room,” I cracked to Trash, seconds before she collided with a particularly towering specimen and found herself eyeball-to-sixth-shirt-button with Scottie Pippen.

I was wrong. Whatever fraction of the NBA was in the room, it was quite a bit more than half. The floor shook gently beneath us, and we realized that the shockwaves were synchronized with the slow footfalls of Shaquille O’Neal, who was wandering across the far end of the lobby. The shoulders of basketball players we hadn’t seen in enough TV commercials to name formed a sort of second ceiling over our heads.

“Does the NBA have an All-Star Game?” I asked Trash.

“Yes,” said Trash, “and I forgot until just now that it’s here. This weekend.”

“That explains it,” I said, scootching behind Hakeem Olajuwan and into the revolving door.

My question to Trash about the NBA had been a serious one, which meant that this once-in-a-lifetime experience was being totally wasted on the wrong individuals. It was as if people who knew nothing about movies and cared even less were wandering around in Los Angeles and found themselves at the Oscars.

And not just in the lobby, but in the third row of the auditorium. Because as we later found out, the sixth floor—where our room was—had apparently been set aside exclusively for the Hankses, Streeps, and Spielbergs of the basketball court, presumably after our reservations had been made. Which, when we thought about it, probably explained the concierge’s eagerness to help us get a coveted table for dinner that night. As far as he knew when my sixth-floor room number flashed up on his switchboard, I was Michael Jordan registered under an assumed name.

At 9:00 we presented ourselves at the host’s podium in the restaurant. Three employees looked at us in astonishment and asked, “You’re the M. Giants?” in voices steeped in shock and contempt. We nodded, feeling shorter, poorer, and more unathletic than we’d ever felt in our lives. We resisted the urge to take a step back, expecting that we’d be asked to leave right about now.

But they were stuck with us. They couldn’t exactly turn us away for not being NBA All-Stars, could they? We were led to a table between a photographer for The Sporting News and David Robinson. The hostess had steam pouring out of her ears. Whether the steam was the product of a brain-consuming rage or furious mental activity aimed at coming up with a plan for avenging herself on whoever had scammed her so thoroughly, we couldn’t tell.

Back at our room, Trash and I congratulated ourselves on our good fortune, although our failure to be totally starstruck was somewhat disappointing.

“This would be so cool if we cared at all about basketball,” I said.

“We need to call somebody who does,” Trash agreed.

We couldn’t think of anybody we knew.

Finally Trash remembered a coworker of hers. Like her, he worked the night shift so we knew he’d still be up. She got him on the phone.

“Go bang on Charles Barkley’s door and challenge him to some one-on-one,” he suggested. “‘BARKLEY! GET OUT HERE, YOU WUSS!’” Great, the one basketball fan we knew wasn’t reduced to incoherent tears of joy by our unexpected proximity to greatness.

“We might be staying in a room between Patrick Ewing and J. R. Rider right now,” Trash persisted, ignoring my interjection that J. R. Ewing isn’t a basketball player.

“You should probably keep it down, then,” he advised.

We tell this story every once in a while, but we’ve never been able to share it with a basketball fan rabid enough to be as impressed as we want them to be. I mean, the photographer from The Sporting News was impressed that we found ourselves dining in Mr. Robinson’s neighborhood by pure chance, but that’s different.

So any rabid basketball fans who may be reading, please feel free to burst into incoherent tears of joy. You know, over the thrilling experience of someone you’ve never met, nine years after the fact. I’ll just be over here.

posted by M. Giant 3:53 PM 0 comments


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