Sunday, October 4, 2009

My Moment With The Man

On Saturday, Emily and I dropped a couple of friends, in from New York City, off at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, deciding not to go ourselves—primarily because of the day’s torrential rainfall. We opted instead for a drier atmosphere and plates of raw fish at Uchi, Tyson Cole's sushi restaurant on South Lamar.

Before we sat to eat, while waiting for the bathroom, I found myself standing behind one of the world's single greatest athletes (and Austin resident celeb): Lance Armstrong.

It took me a few seconds to notice, but as sure as it was wet outside, there was he, the seven-time Tour de France winner, in front of me in the line to take a leak.

My realization was confirmed when a trio of ladies darted out of the powder room, located across the hall from the men’s room, and the most assertive of them promptly asked, "Can we take a picture?"

To her question, Armstrong replied, "If you take one, then it will turn into more by others." (I paraphrase here, but that was more or less his answer.) I understand why he would initially refuse, but was momentarily surprised by his answer.

The alpha female was neither surprised nor deterred. Relentless in her quest for a picture, she asked him again, this time with a renewed focus on herself and a clearer endgame, "Can I take one, of just you and me?"

He agreed without saying anything. With that, she squeezed herself close to him, and ready for action, with a slick cell phone in hand, extended her arm in front of them, snapping a picture of herself and the superhuman, who, like a polished city councilman, knew when to smile: cheese.

After the satisfied lady left the hall, it was him and me, both of us waiting to do the pre-dinner deed. It was the beginning of my moment with the man. I knew, based on his previous comment, that he preferred to not be bothered, so I did not attempt to make any conversation. (There would be no pictures either.)

As I stood there thinking, the first potential topic of discussion that would not be had was his book, "It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life," which I read with interest a few years ago. But I did not bring it up. Rather, I continued to wait, noticing his short but solid stature and checking his sneakers—a pair of Vans.

The story has been told many times, but it bears repeating, and for anyone who does not know, Armstrong's battle against cancer is epic—a phenomenal medical success, which bolsters the aura of even Lance, making his dominant victories in France look like Sunday strolls.

The disease started as stage-three testicular cancer and ended up spreading to his lungs, abdomen, and brain. Initially given a less than 40% chance of survival, he beat cancer like a drum—all of it. Armstrong is the man, and I wanted to tell him.

Less than a minute later, out popped a dude from the bathroom. Unprompted and not smiling, Armstrong quietly cracked, “two toilets in there and you lock the door?" Silenced, the poor fellow left the scene immediately. The champ took the stage with no further comment.

At that point, I was left there with a decision to make, do I leave Armstrong alone to his business, or do I follow him into the bathroom? With his latest comment in mind, enter I did. By the time I set foot inside, he had already opted for the better choice, the urinal, while I stood over the other option, a standard toilet.

There I am, back-to-back with Lance freaking Armstrong, peeing. I was not going to let the unusual circumstances spoil my opportunity to tell him what was on my mind. Calmly, I finished before he did, beating him to the sink.

After washing and drying my hands, I faced him and said, "You're the man, brother." To that sophisticated praise, he responded, "Thanks."

That was the extent of our conversation. At least I had elicited a response. I was not displeased with my comment, and apparently, neither was he.

I exited stage right, as he moved to clean his own hands. Feeling accomplished, I returned to our table, letting Emily know who I had just seen. She was perhaps more excited than I, texting the news to the girls we had dropped at Zilker Park.

Armstrong's group, which originally numbered ten or so, was seated near us, growing in size over the course of their meal. I glanced over from time-to-time, noting that he was checking his iPhone often. He was also continually taking sips of red wine—deepening my respect for him.

As we got set to leave—by this time the rain-soaked festival goers had rejoined us—I looked again to Armstrong’s table (his party stayed later than ours—impressive, given that it was well after midnight when we left). This time my stare caught his attention. As it did, he gave me a nod, perhaps one of additional thanks—this time, for not bothering him after all.

That was my departing thought anyway, and it, friends, sums up my moment with the man.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your moment, Chad!

    "Eu gosto do seu blog"