If I wanted, my drive to work could be 29 minutes. Instead, it is 31. It could be an easy ride with minimal turns and country views. Instead, I go through two rotaries and pass a homeless man who hates me and a house so patriotic it makes me feel Canadian. I choose to take this detour because, if I didn’t, every day would be a reminder of the time I accidentally and aggressively stalked a family man.
I played basketball from 4th grade through 11th. Before I go any further, I’d like to apologize to every b-balling teammate I ever had.
For the time I let the girl who looked like a coonskin cap score a three-pointer in the last second and win the game for her team.
For the time I innocently forgot our coach had Tourette’s and I laughed at one of his tics.
For the time(s) I wasn’t paying attention and not even mentally repeating the Sister Act II line “If you want to be somebody, if you want to go somewhere, you’ve got to wake up and paaaay attention” could get my head back into the game.
For the time I popped a lung huffing dog food and left the team without a timid forward-center for two weeks.
For the time I paid so little attention during my basketball career that I had to Google “forward-center”.
Seriously, ladiez. My b.
I liked (and like) playing basketball, and I actually wasn’t that horrendous of a baller — I’m just too weird to play team sports. For one, group camaraderie makes me feel uncomfortable. For another, when I’m not reciting Whoopi Goldberg quotes or urging myself to pay attention, I’m planning my next meal or considering giant uses for normal-sized things; there’s simply not enough space in my head to remember how to run plays or which basket is whose or that I’m supposed to wear the white uniform for home games.
The kid I had a crush on in high school, who played for the boy’s varsity team, once told me he liked going to girl’s games to watch me play. I was flattered until he followed it up with “When the coach finally puts you in for the last few seconds of the game you look so confused. You kinda just sprint randomly around the court. It’s very entertaining.”
What he said barely even upset me. It was true.
As you can imagine, I was not the most popular member of the team. I had some friends on the team, but on the occasions they invited me to basketball parties, I usually passed. The only time I didn’t pass, actually, was when one of the seniors said she was going to have a spaghetti dinner with whoopie pies for dessert. It was like my team and I were speaking the same language for the first time.
Who would pass up a party with this on the menu?
Obviously I accepted the invitation. Even more obviously, I didn’t know where the spaghetti host lived. And da most obviously, no one rode with me so I had to follow the convoy of carpoolers all by me lonesome.
Turns out, apart from being a terrible teammate, I also suck at following cars.
The girl who was directly in front of me was driving a big truck and I swear she was doin’ fifty-five in a fifty-fo. I couldn’t keep up! She was too fast (too fast), too furious (too furious), TOO FAST FOR YA’LL MANG.
WE DOIN’ A HUNDID ON DA HIGHWAY
Thankfully I was able to catch up to her truck at a four-way stop (the same four-way stop I should go through on my drive to work). She took a left and I followed.
And I continued following for 15 minutes. I continued following even after we passed the street I thought the spaghetti host lived on, and even after we drove out of the school district boundaries, and even after we drove out of the next school district’s boundaries.
After 20 minutes of following the truck — who, at this point, was the only vehicle on the road besides me — I started getting nervous I was going the wrong way. Actually, I was 97% sure I was going the wrong way. But my cell phone was dead and I was jonesing for whoopie pies in bad way, so I took the 3% possibility and drove with it. I drove with it until the truck turned onto a long driveway, and then I drove with it right up that long driveway.
As soon as I saw the house at the end of the driveway there was no longer any doubt; I was 100% sure I was at the wrong place. None of my teammates’ cars were there. I couldn’t smell any sign of marinara sauce, garlic bread, or Whoopi Goldberg. And, maybe the most telling of all, instead of a team full of basketball girls, there were two little girls and their mother. They’d been watching out the window for their dad to come home and when they saw his truck’s headlights coming up the drive, they ran outside to greet him.
Well, actually, they ran outside to greet their dad and the 16-year-old girl who had followed him home.
In response to their (first enthusiastic and then scared) greeting, I stepped out of my car, raised my hand in apology, got back in my car, and backed up the entire driveway. I didn’t say a single word to explain why I’d followed their dad home. I just raised my hand and drove away. I still didn’t know where the spaghetti dinner was, but I was able to find the way back to my own house.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get to work and I’m two minutes behind schedule.