My husband gets great joy from calling me a dork. I’m not ashamed to say I was a book-reading, video game-playing, nerd growing up; it’s true. He’s the one with all the “cool” drinking-at-that-guy’s-house-you-should-have-seen-the-fight stories from high school, and I have to admit he’s got some pretty good ones. But last year, I got to see the moment when Mike Lost His Cool.
Myself, Mike, Mike’s brother Gary and Gary’s wife Heather went to Mexico for vacation. In Atlanta, boarding one of those little mini-subways that take you from terminal to terminal, we found ourselves standing next to Jerome “The Bus” Bettis (retired Steelers halfback) and his adorable wife on their way to wherever football legends go on vacation – clearly a different place than we.
Nevertheless, there we were standing next to The Bus. Gary, being the less shy of the two Brunell brothers (he’s about as shy as a used car salesman, and three times as loud), immediately started up a conversation. He said ‘hi,’ asked where Jerome was going (like Jerome had a handy stalker map he could just give him), yaddah, yaddah. Mr. Bettis was polite, and his wife stepped up and took the lead to act as an equally polite defense wall between her husband and any yahoo they might meet on an airport tram.
In addition to Jerome, the tram was packed by a gaggle of college/high school kids (I can’t tell the difference anymore) who were also in awe to be there with The Bus.
We all reached our stop, The Bus made his exit, and that was when it happened.
My normally cool husband, seeing his opportunity to interact with Jerome “The Bus” Bettis rapidly disappearing, suddenly blurted out at the top of his lungs: “See you Bus! BIG FAN!” like he’d just had a severe attack of turrets syndrome.
An awkward silence fell over the tram. No one said anything, but I remember thinking to myself “That was really dorky.” Strangely, I let it pass.
Shortly after, we are waiting to board the plane, when a group of teenage boys next to us start discussing seeing The Bus. One says, “And how about that guy – “Hey Bus – BIG FAN!” he apes, waving like a lunatic at a pretend Bus — at which point they all erupt into laughter.
Gary and I hear this, Mike does not. But Gary, being Gary, immediately busies himself memorizing the look of the guy making fun of his brother – no doubt so he can remember the guy who later picks him out of a lineup after his arrest for aggravated assault. I, on the other hand, am loving every moment of my “cool” husband being outed as a total dork.
We get on the plane, and Gary informs Mike how the boys were mocking him. Gary explains how he’s going to trip the little ass when he goes by, stuff him in the overhead, etc. etc. Mike, I note, goes ashen. He has been pegged as a dork by the same kids he used to be.
Ah, Frailty, thy name is 40+ year-old Man Ego.
What can end Mike’s agony? Two seconds after sitting, Mike and Gary have already ordered their cocktails. Embarrassment becomes less of a problem. Emboldened by free screwdrivers, four hours of sleep and the previous night’s “pre-vacation” partying, the boys are reactivated. Shyness is thrown out the door as the Brunell brothers set up camp in AirTran’s Business Class and watch the college kids board.
The kids walk by, and as they pause and look around to get their bearings, the Brunell brothers thumb it to the back of the plane, kindly offering direction. “You’re in the back,” they say, over and over until the boy who actually made the affront enters. Then the directions become particularly loud. “You! YOU are in the BACK…” Gary begins to stretch out his tripping leg, but Mike stops him in time and the boy makes it through without noticing the attempt on his life. Mike feels better and much giggling ensues for the rest of the flight.
No, I’m not cool, but I have years of finely-honed Donkey Kong skills to show for it. What does Mike have after “Hey Bus, BIG FAN!?”