I didn’t realize that I got star struck. Not until I was at an AT&T store in West St. Paul, waiting in line to meet Ricky Rubio. Like he was the Easter Bunny and I was a six-year-old.
A chirpy, perky woman stood outside in the Minnesota cold with yellow wristbands.
“Hello, are you here to meet Ricky?”
I stood there in my Timberwolves shirt and hat and acted like I always hang out in strip mall parking lots in West St. Paul.
“Oh, yeah. Sure. I hadn’t thought of that but why not?”
“Well, Ricky’s not here yet and the store is full, but if you put this wristband on I guarantee you’ll get to see him. In the meantime, feel free to wait in your car or go take a browse at PetCo.”
Oh, thank you so much! I gave her an accusatory, knowing stare as if to say I know you’re in cahoots with the PetCo people. Don’t try and manipulate me, woman! I’m a PetSmart man!
I took the wristband and agreed to wait outside the door in the cold with the three other sad saps who couldn’t get in. We stood huddled together like a bunch of bums looking in on a nice, warm Thanksgiving dinner.
We waited for 30 minutes in the cold. Finally, a dirty, salt-covered Range Rover pulled up. It just goes to show that Minnesota weather can make any car look bad.
“That’s him,” whispered one of my fellow transients in awe. We stood and stared as Ricky, and a clown-car full of the saddest entourage you’ve ever seen, stumbled out. I mean, they actually looked sad. They all walked with their heads down, with their hands in their pockets and their hoods up. The general mood seemed to be “I can’t believe you got drafted by Minnesota.” And they all looked exactly like him. Either they were his brothers or he bought an 80s music video machine that produces a trail of Rickys like a Michael Jackson video. I believe their names were Dicky, Sticky and Ricky III (Ricky II was sick.)
I diagrammed in my head exactly how I was going to take a picture of me with him. I’m 6’5″ and he’s 6’4″, so I imagined I would stand next to him and make a motion like “How short is THIS guy?” with one hand while I pointed at him with my other. Maybe even a playful headlock. I felt like there was a distinct possibility that he’d ask me to join his posse (I’m tall and dopey enough) and that I could become chief Range Rover washer.
Meanwhile, a large man walked up to the fans inside and started wildly gesturing at them about something or other. I couldn’t tell what, because we were outside in the damn cold and couldn’t hear a word he was saying. Maybe it was specific rules and instructions like “Don’t look Ricky in the eye” or “He won’t sign an autograph from Estonians” or “Please be careful as Ricky returns all autographs with no-look passes. Four people lost an eye at the Verizon store in Chaska last week.”
Finally, we got inside. At once, we realized that we were the only people there who weren’t a young girl, woman or man with a child. Without a word, we separated so as to not look like an unsuccessful boy band.
That’s when I realized that it had not occurred to me to bring something for Ricky to sign. Everybody else had jerseys and basketballs and posters. Damnit, Mike Brody! This is so like you! It hadn’t even occurred to me that people sign things at autograph signings. And because he wasn’t taking pictures with anybody, the line was moving fast. Too fast! I was getting closer to Ricky by the minute. I began to panic.
Shit! Uhhhh…he can sign my stocking hat. No, it’s too dirty. My shirt? I don’t have enough shirts to spare because I gained weight and only have five left that fit me. My pants? My forehead? My wallet? I’ll buy a new AT&T phone and have him sign that! Is this what AT&T had planned all along, you wiley bastards!
By the time I realized I had a business card in my wallet, I was only a foot away from Ricky. I tried frantically to snap photos of him. But none of them turned out in focus. Because I was waving my phone around all fast, so he wouldn’t know I was taking pictures. What? Why? Everybody was taking pictures. I was holding my phone up in the air! What did he think I was doing, playing Angry Birds? What’s wrong with me?! Get a good picture, dummy!
But there was no time! Because HERE’S RICKY! I never even looked him in the eye, because my phone was planted directly in front of my big, dumb face. I just remember having a knowledge that it was my turn and that I was supposed to hand him my stupid, tiny piece of paper.
I handed him my card silently and without ceremony. He signed and gave it back to me and then I realized that there were so many things I wanted to say like “How’s your knee feeling?” or “You’ve really been playing great lately” or “Do you realize you look exactly like a Japanese anime character?”
But all that stumbled out of my idiot mouth was “BUH HUH…THANKS RICKY!” in an overly loud voice.
“Uh-huh,” Ricky responded, in a volume that was appropriate for someone a foot away from you.
Then just like that, it was over. I shuffled to the side as the remaining blank-eyed children and fawning women crowded around. I briefly contemplated looking at phone chargers, then decided to head home.
Perhaps someday I’ll meet him again. But until then Ricky, Godspeed. And “BUH HUH…THANKS!”