Humor from on High

Friday, October 21, 2005

Being Tall (or Proxy Posting)

Last year Paul Shirley of the Phoenix Suns was the 12th man (out of 12) on a very good basketball team, and documented a part of the season on his blog (links at the end) at nba.com. He also happens to be a member of my tall brethren, incredibly sarcastic, and brutally honest. I liked him immediately.

In fact, our lives as tall people seem to have been so similar (oh wait...except I never made six-figures on a 60-win NBA playoff team..but otherwise exactly the same), that I thought I would share a particularly good post from May of 2005 from Paul. It's about how people choose to interact with you when you're tall. I've wanted to say and do all these things, and to some extent, I have. But since he summarized it all so perfectly, I thought I'd let Paul do it himself.

As the immortal Trent Tucker once said, you have to give due where due is credit...

"Posted by Paul Shirley, May 7, 2005

Most of my colleagues are quite tall. I am no exception at 6'10". When in captivity, on the basketball court, I am able to easily forget the fact that my bones are stretched to an extraordinary length because I am surrounded by other members of the freak show. Not so when I am released into the wild. Then, I am forced to remember. by stupid people.

After one of a recent session of the basketball camp that serves as practice while we await an opponent for our next playoff series, I headed to my neighborhood Safeway. I picked up my staples (cereal and yogurt figuring prominently among my selections), and headed out the door. As I was leaving, a man searching for a nearby accountant's office accosted me when he observed my heightful frame and said, "Hey man, you should have played basketball. You're really tall."

What, basketball? You're kidding. Why didn't I think of this sooner? It's a good thing you came along, man.

He continued, "Just how tall are you?" I replied with my correct height, which was quite the Herculean effort, considering the retorts that occurred to me. Back to his original line of questioning, he asked, "So, did you ever play ball?" Now, he was obviously baiting me into giving something away. The smart thing to do was to keep walking and admit nothing. Instead, I said, "Actually, I play for the Suns." As soon as it came out of my mouth, I wished I had a DeLorean. Option 1: no conversation with strange, middle-aged man. Option 2: lengthy encounter with strange, middle-aged man. Option 1 was the logical choice; I must have sucked in too many air-conditioning fumes while inside the grocery store.

My newfound friend immediately interjected that he was a veteran of the Korean War; it was great that he told me since that was exactly the question I was going to ask. He then proceeded to tell me about his children, which again was fun because I had been wondering. He apologized for not being enough of a Suns fan to know who I was; I assured him that there were only about 200 people in Phoenix that did, so it was okay. Then, he helped load
my goods into the trunk of my car despite my protests to the contrary. (Aren't young people supposed to assist their elders, not the other way around?) Finally, I signed a piece of paper for his wife. (Harold, what the hell is this? I send you out to deliver some tax papers and you bring me some guy's autograph.) The whole encounter got me thinking about the problem that is the old height question.

First, let's start with the obvious. Telling me I am really tall is not a great conversation starter. It's like walking up to a well-endowed girl in a bar and telling her she has nice breasts - it's, A) creepy, and B) obvious. She's heard it before. It is not a new tactic and is not going to lead to a conversation that ends well. The same (sort of) is true for me. The only possible response available to me is, "And you're really smart." The encounter basically marks the asker as an idiot and me as a bastard.

Next comes the obligatory, "Hey, how tall are you?" Now, I have had some time to consider this question and have decided that it is only necessary in two situations. Either the inquisitor is in some way unable to judge the height of the subject (perhaps due to the fact the conversation is taking place via telephone or perhaps due to blindness) or the askee is sitting
down. Those are the only two possible scenarios for which it is a valid inquiry. It does not make any sense for someone to walk up to me on the street and ask me my height. He can see how tall I am. Feet and inches are merely arbitrary measurements set up by some English king-they are meaningless without some kind of standard. Basically, to judge a person's
height, one of two things is needed-a number value or a visual representation. Not both. Unless, of course, there is some sort of underground tall-person collecting going on. Maybe, much like bird-watching, finding someone of each available height is a goal people have.

I really enjoy when people say things like, "Did you know that you are really tall?" Holy [feces]! Are you serious? I'm tall! I can't believe it. This must have happened overnight. Thanks for pointing it out, though. Again, asking this question is not a way to convey intelligence. I don't think I have pulled them out yet, but someday soon, I will respond. with
questions regarding the physical appearance of my foil, choosing from "Did you know that you are morbidly obese?" and "Has anyone ever told you how unbelievably ugly you are?" It's going to happen. After all, much like height, they are only observations regarding a person's appearance.

One byproduct of the height conversation is often a comparison to someone the questioner knows and thinks is tall. "Six-ten, huh? Wow. My cousin is 6'2" and I thought he was tall." Invariably, the person to whom I am compared is not really tall at all and the conversation usually ends, unless I am about to be told how big his feet are and how tall the doctors think he will eventually be because, again, I apparently look like I need to know.

My all-time favorite encounter is the guessing game. In it, a person approaches and says, unprompted, "I'd say you are about X feet, Y inches." Even better is the guess without any preceding statement; the guesser just starts throwing out heights from a distance, apropos of nothing. The truly fun aspect of this little pastime is that the person is almost never close.
"You're about 6'2", right?" (I'm serious; it has been said multiple times. I think 6'1" is the record low.) No. Not even in the ballpark. And let me guess, the neighbor kid is really tall.

These are all more tolerable, though, than the nearly-out-of-earshot comment. Oftentimes, when I walk by, I will hear whispers: "Wow, look how tall he is," or "That guy is really tall." It's as if, by being tall, I was not blessed with fully functional ears. Were these people not taught how to use their inner monologues? Yes, I am quite tall, but I know that. Any
observation to that effect by others should be kept on the inside, unless the participants are willing to bear the consequences. I don't go around saying everything that is on my mind, but I could. If I did, the airways would be full of, "Well, now that guy is an example of why they made abortion legal," and, "Why, exactly, were those two people allowed to procreate?" I think we are all better off with my silence so, no more height questions. "

Now I should point out, in defense to myself, that my responses to these types of people (and they are EVERYWHERE) are generally not so harsh, compared to Paul, but to each his own. My approach is generally to diffuse the situation, and save us all the embarassment. Example:

"Hey, you're really tall!"
"Well thank you. You're quite...medium-sized, I would say. Extra-medium even."

But many of Paul's thoughts have definitely crossed my mind from time to time. And although I generally feel like peoples' responses are complimentary more than anything, when you take a step back from it, it is really strange that people bring it up. Would someone say, "Hey, you've got a third (choose from: nipple, leg, arm, eye)!" or "Hey, your ass is huge!" I seriously doubt it.

For more Paul Shirley...
Original "Road Ramblings Blog"
PlayOff Blog

Update: According to Pooh, Paul has a new blog too! Booyah!


At 9:20 AM, Blogger SonnyM said...

To battle info glut, InfoAdvisor offered
Bloggers live or die by their wits -- and that especially includes those who try to make a business of it.
I enjoyed your post, it was quite interesting and insightful. I have a related site that focuses on overcome depression you may like too. It pretty much covers overcome depression related stuff.

Come and check it out if you get time :-)

Sonny M.

At 10:07 AM, Blogger Pooh said...

Dude, you need to turn on the anti-spamming thing in your settings so that you don't get useless comments like ^ that one...

At 3:09 PM, Blogger Frankie said...

People say the weirdest things sometimes. I've been asked how big my breasts are.

"Breasts? Oh, these? They're testicles. I just like pulling my junk up and outta the way, so I sling 'em in a bra. It's easier to run that way."

And my all-time favorite?

"Baby, you look like you suck a mean dick."

To which I invariably reply, "Yo' momma!"

At 9:05 AM, Blogger Kaiser said...

I don't know Pooh, I think sonnym and anom have interesting things to say. Maybe I DO need to overcome depression.

At 9:05 AM, Blogger Kaiser said...

Frankie, I don't even know where to go with that. You've stumped me again...


Post a Comment

<< Home