So, what have I been up to recently? Oh, you know...just hanging out at AT&T. The norm.
Okay, it's a little more interesting than it sounds. That AT&T store...it just so happened that Jordyn Wieber was hanging out there, too.
*Commence girly screaming*
That's right—in addition to being home to wolverines, lakes, and even Tim Allen, Michigan also apparently churns out Olympic athletes in numbers that might make you think that everyone here consumes protein powder made from gold dust.
When AT&T hosted a signing event with Jordyn Wieber last week, I had no problem with waiting in line to meet the famed Olympian. After about an hour and a half of standing outside the store, Jordyn showed up, the front doors opened, and we were ushered inside in groups of about 10 to 15 for the meet-and-greet. Once I finally saw Jordyn through the crowd, I pulled out my camera and took a photo before realizing that she was awkwardly staring at me and my paparazzi behavior. So, being the respectful person that I am, I put my camera back in its bag. Then, the "fan" section of my brain decided that taking pictures on my iPhone with the sound off would be way more acceptable—and stealthy. Turns out, when I get excited/nervous, all of my extra energy transfers to my hands. I could barely hold my phone still enough to take a decent photo, so we'll just skim over that two minutes of my life for now.
When I was almost to the front of the line, I watched the people ahead of me—a dad and his daughter—walk up to the autograph table. The daughter, probably in her early teens, beamed as she lifted the corner of her shirt, revealing a plastic brace that she then asked Jordyn to sign. The girl didn't say what her brace was for, but I assumed that she must have been another young gymnast, recovering from a physical injury. With a face full of surprise and curiosity, Jordyn obliged and the dad stood back, smiling as he took photos.
Finally, it was my turn. Up until this point, the room had been pretty calm and surprisingly quiet, and Jordyn seemed like she could use a little conversation. I walked up to the table.
Me (in an unintentionally too-quiet voice): "Hi..."
*Jordyn doesn't hear me or look up*
*I put my Us Weekly down on the table in front of her and squeak out in a slightly more audible tone*: "It's nice to meet you."
Jordyn (in an even quieter whisper): "It..." *Leans head down and starts to sign magazine. I see lips moving, but no sound is coming out.*
Now, I'm determined to talk to this girl because, well—she's Jordyn Wieber, and I'm probably never going to meet her again. I scan my thoughts, and all of the Olympian's recent press tours, TV appearances, and travel plans come to mind.
Me: "You must be exhausted."
Jordyn: *Chuckles and smiles a little* "It's not too bad."
Me: "That's good." *Insert real-life, smiley emoticon here*
The gold medal princess might have started to say something else at that moment, but I never ended up hearing it because I suddenly realized that my 15 seconds with her was about to expire, and I didn't yet have a photo to document the occasion.
Me: *Turning around, holding up my Canon Rebel* "CAN SOMEBODY TAKE MY PICTURE?"
Okay, I didn't actually yell the words (or, at least, I hope to God I didn't), but the slight chaos as people around me rushed to grant my wish made me feel as though I was some sort of monarch who had just demanded a plate of cheese and some cucumber water. Jordyn who?
I handed my camera to a woman I later figured out (I think) was a reporter for Local 4, then squatted on the floor next to Jordyn's chair and cheesed it up for our glamour/BFF shot. Picking up my three bags (I don't travel light) and almost forgetting my signed magazine, I stood up and thanked Jordyn while looking down at the top of her head, and got a quiet "you're welcome" while she waited for the next person in line and undoubtedly wondered who the crazy girl in purple (a.k.a., me) was, stumbling away with an armload of stuff.
Afterwards, I gathered my thoughts and drove across the street to Walmart to get some lunch. When I got to the checkout line, I noticed a familiar-looking pair standing in front of me. It was the dad and the daughter who had stood in front of me at the AT&T store.
Me: "Hey! You two were standing in front of me at the..." *They turn halfway around and smile and nod politely, then we chit-chat for a minute.*
Me (turning to the girl): Are you the person who had the brace?
Girl: *Grinning* "Yep."
Me: "Are you a gymnast, too?"
Girl: *Smiling* "No, I wish...that would be so cool..."
It turns out the girl had scoliosis, and was intent on having Jordyn sign something so close to her, both literally and figuratively. We chatted for a few more minutes, talking about how unique it was to have a signed brace, and she showed it to me again...it was the same signature Jordyn scripted on my magazine, with an added "2012" and a little doodle of the Olympic rings. Upbeat, beaming smile, and bold request—I guarantee it was enough to advance the girl to the few people Jordyn will end up remembering from the AT&T signing. And the smiling girl, who had traveled from Lansing to meet her Olympic hero, will certainly remember the event for the rest of her life.
And so, I left the store to go scarf down my lunch, and smiled as I thought about that girl and her dad. It turns out that maturity and role models can come to us from the most unexpected places, standing out even among gold medalists.