I was reading an article the other day that reviewed a study that found that people who are over 6 feet tall earn better per capita incomes and have a higher chance of being hired when interviewed than shorter people. There are just some things in this world that make you wonder how they developed. This, to me, is one of them.
I have always been tall. I was born tall. While most babies are measured in inches when they are born, I recall my mom saying I was born 4 feet tall. Labor and delivery must have really hurt. It’s a wonder she had children after I came along. My mom likes to tell a story about one time when I was three, we were in the grocery store and a woman came up and yelled at my mom because I wasn’t in school.
So having been tall all my life, I wonder why, on earth, it is seen as a good thing. I have never been able to get shirts with sleeves long enough, and I was the “high water pantsmeister” when growing up. I could hardly wait for summer each year because I could wear shorts instead of what always looked a little like pedal pushers. I haven’t been able to sit forward on a school bus since I was 9, and don’t even get me started about airplane seats. Short people don’t understand that I have been able to tangibly measure the decreasing space between airplane seats over the last few years. My knees hit the back of the seat in front of me, and each time I get on a plane I have a ritual prayer that I say for God to strike the person in front of me dead if they put their seat back in flight.
As you are reading my description of being tall, I’ll just bet you can guess the number one question that I am asked by new acquaintances, clients, hotel clerks, grocery store checkers, and random strangers on the street. That’s right … “Did you play basketball?” I have truly come to resent this question. Nobody asks a short person, “So, have you ever been in the circus?” So, why, do people have to ask me that question?
While we’re at it, I’ll digress just a bit and let you know that the number two question I’m asked is, “How’s the weather up there?” I will say, my dear uncle warned me this would happen when I was about 11 years old. He told me that if anyone asked me that, I could really get them by asking this question back: “Fine, how’s it down around my ass?”
So back to the main question. Well, of course I played basketball. When you’re this tall, you HAVE to play basketball. You have absolutely no choice. Tall people get harassed unmercifully if they don’t play basketball.
The problem is, I played basketball like I was a Special Olympian. OK, my apologies to special Olympians, who most likely play basketball WAY better than I did. I’ll be the first to admit it: My height was a big waste of height. All you short guys who had great jump shots are going, “If only I had been that tall ..” well, I’ll tell you what, even though I was that tall, I was a complete and total basketball spazz. Now, that doesn’t mean I didn’t make the team … what coach wouldn’t allow a 6’5” person to be on their team. You know what they’re thinking: “All he has to do is just stand there, and I’ve got an advantage.”
I’m here to tell you that’s not true. I was more than a bench warmer. Now, I understand, there were a whole lot of bench warmers who are now successful people. I’ve heard the mantra. “The coach only played me if we were losing by so much we couldn’t possibly win” or, “the coach only played me if we were winning by so much, that I couldn’t screw-up the win.” Yes, yes, I’ve heard all those.
Well, to all of those who were benchwarmers, take heart. I was a parking lot warmer. The coach not only kept me on the bench, but he made me stay in the parking lot, far far away from where I could do any damage on the court, and on the off-chance, the entire team was wiped out by a roadside bomb placed by a terrorist on center court, he could, with some degree of reluctance, call me on to the court.
Interestingly, I must have come from a tall community, because there were two kids in my class who were always taller than I was. Greg lived down the street, and I’m pretty sure he ended up about 6’7″ or so, and Denny, who was even taller than Greg. With the advent of Facebook, I reconnected with both, and, as fictional as this may sound, Denny immediately reminded me of the great “basketball pass to Mark’s nards” story. Yes, I missed a pass (perhaps from Denny) which hit me in the nards, which made the loudest, most guy-lap-cringing noise, which, apparently, to this day is remembered in the hallowed halls of Cumbres Jr. High School. Well, fame comes at a high price. I still flinch when I see a basketball.
I will confess that being tall isn’t completely awful. The last two times I’ve been to the grocery store, I was a hit on the condiment aisle helping smaller people get things off of the top shelf. Also, I’m very aware of those little bald patches on the back of middle-aged men’s heads that short people never get to see.
I finally decided to put my height to good use. I created new business cards. On the back is much of what I wrote above. It’s a great way to introduce people to my writing.
So, to all those people who wish they were tall, here’s a new perspective for you!