Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My Big Fat Basketball Adventure

Our plan since first snagging eight donated tickets to the Blazer's game last Thursday afternoon was to meet at a well-known train stop at 6pm to go together to the arena.  I knew going in to the evening that things would not go perfectly smoothly, but I had no idea how entertaining it would end up being.

At 4pm, I started getting calls from one of the Ethiopian seniors wondering where I was.  He doesn't speak English, and I don't speak Amharic or Oromo (well, beyond more than a few words); nevertheless, he kept calling me.  I arrived to the meet-up point ten minutes early.  Three of the men quickly found me, and we began our wait for the other four who were supposed to be coming.

Twenty minutes later, it was still just the four of us, so we started calling.  One of the two Eritrean seniors, H, had begun power-walking to keep warm, despite being wrapped up in multiple coats and a fuzzy coat with sunglasses (it was dark out).  D, the two-hours-early senior, called his friend M, an Oromo woman who doesn't speak Amharic who was traveling to the meet-up with another Oromo friend, S.

No matter how well the phones work, D yells at the top of his lungs any conversation on a cell phone, and this was no exception.  I found myself standing on a dark street corner listening to D scream to his friend M about where the hell they were as H the power-walker did jumping-jacks as commuters passed by him.  B, the gentle Italian-speaking Eritrean had the good sense to take the phone from D and talk to S in Amharic about where they were.  The only thing they were telling him was that they were "near the big picture of a black man."  This was all we had to go on.

Rather than stand there anymore and to keep H from wearing himself out with jumping-jacks, we began walking towards the arena, hoping to run into a large picture of a black man, and hence, our two women.  After four train stops, we found them...standing on a corner next to a large billboard of running horses (maybe B knew the word "mare" in English, and I heard wrong?).

We hugged, laughed, scratched our heads, and walked the rest of the way to the arena.  Lynette, an acquaintance of mine my mom's age from my home state of Mississippi had agreed to meet us inside since she's a regular attendee and knows the ropes.  The metal detectors were going crazy as we walked through with our cell phones and bags, but the guards seemed to safely assume that a group of elderly African immigrants weren't too big of a threat on a Monday night.

Lynette showed us the bathrooms which S decided to go ahead and use.  Granted, it wasn't easy to tell, but I though she might have noticed all the men walking in with her.  I had to chase after her, going all the way into the restroom to get her attention since yelling her name from outside wasn't working.  After safely getting her into the women's restroom, we got settled into our seats (pretty decent ones too) where the fun really started.

I realized last night that one has not truly lived until chaperoning a group of elderly immigrants (a few from very rural areas) to a professional sports game.  Holy cow.  I was as interested in their reactions to the lights, noise, and fanfare as I was in the game itself.  Every time a crowd would stand up to fight over envelopes falling from the car blimp circling the arena, dignified B would shake his head.  Every time a group of break-dancers or mascots came out to do their thing, I'd look over at M, and she'd crack up belly-laughing.  When the group of cheerleaders appeared ten rows in front of us to do a loud tumbling cheer, the whole group's eyes bugged out.  I mean, the women were wearing hardly anything and shaking it around in front of a group of five conservative East Africans.

I sat for most of the game next to D who told me the score every time it changed, which happened every couple minutes.  Each time, he'd poke me to tell me the new numbers.  I drew the court on an envelope to explain the three-point line.  During the third quarter, he figured out that the huge screens were showing up close what was happening on the court.  This made him extremely happy.  He brought both of his cameras but told me, "camera finished" and shook his head sadly.  I took one from him, saw that his memory card was full and started deleting the many photos he'd taken of the floor of his bedroom.  He was so happy to have it working again, slapped me on the back several times, and ended up taking the following photos: one of me giving him a thumbs up and several more of the scantily-clad cheerleaders.

With four minutes left in the game, we left to get in line for the train.  Despite making sure the three who live in the same apartment complex were situated at the train platform waiting for their train, S still started following me as I left to make the walk to my car.  I walked her back to her friends, and we were set.

I took B home first, thanking God the whole confusing way for my phone's built-in GPS.  The drive from B's house to D's  house was about fifteen minutes on weird unfamiliar back-roads and a stretch of freeway.  Even I was discombobulated, but I realized how seldom D must get out at night-time by his utter confusion about where we were when I arrived at his house.  I'd dropped him off several times before, and he always pointed to where I should go.  This time was completely different.  He had no clue where we were, and when I stopped the car in his driveway, he continued to sit quietly staring out the window.  He turned to me in confusion about why we'd stopped.  I told him, "D, this is your house."  He looked around, got out of the car, and slowly realized where he was.  He acted like I'd performed a magic trick by getting him home.

He directed me as I backed out of the apartment complex.  He motioned for me how far to back up, when to stop, to turn my wheels a certain way.  It wasn't a tight fit at all, but I made sure to listen to his advice anyway.  I rolled my window down and we waved goodbye.

It was was one of the funnest nights I've had in this city.


  1. You are such a great storyteller. Thanks for sharing.

  2. B,D,H,M,S and L's excellent adventure. I am so glad you got to have a fun night out...even if it wasn't LoJo and Ted's excellent adventure.

  3. This story is hilarious!! I am sitting in an airport laughing out loud. What a special job you have.

  4. This story is hilarious. I am sitting in an airport laughing out loud. What a special and amazing job you have.