Tuesday, January 16, 2007

My Dad and Yao Ming on a flight to Beijing

The fact that we played the Rockets tonight with Yao Ming out with a broken leg leads me to finally get to tell my Yao Ming story (believe it or not, I don't get many chances to tell it due to the fact that Yao Ming never seems to come up in casual dinner conversations). My dad traveled to China about three years ago. My dad is 6'3 and very Germanic (read: husky). He was flying first class on Air China. Stereotypes aside, even in first class Air China does not have a great amount of head clearance or leg room. My dad learned this the hard way. You know how sometimes you try to be cute and fit on the little coin-operated carousels/18-wheeler/Jeep outside the grocery store even though you are a grown-ass adult? You know how it's funny for like 5 seconds then you fall out with a leg cramp? Do that for 15+ hours. While breathing everyone else's recyled air. And watching an Adam Sandler movie.

So my Dad's sitting in his First Class Jr. seat thinking that no one understands the plight of the larger man when Yao Ming boards the plane and takes the seat next to him. Yao Ming fits in the seat only *slightly* less awkwardly than my Dad. My Dad does not watch sports. My Dad tells Yao Ming he "oughta be a basketball player, boy!" Yao Ming smiles. Someone lends my Dad a clue. Somehow my Dad ended up making friends with Yao Ming. Maybe they told stories about all the times they have sat in smaller spaces? In broken Chinese and English? I don't know but apparently when they landed and were walking off the plane in Beijing, Yao Ming and my Dad high-fived before heading to their respective customs lines.

Later that week, a delegation of Chinese police took my Dad to be a tourist at the Great Wall of China. Apparently, he got winded after about 15 minutes and had to stop and sit down. This lead to the delegation of Chinese police christening him "ha ha ha White Buddah!" which seems kind of sacreligious to their own faith but I freely admit I don't grasp the nuances of humor amongst Chinese police. There exists a picture of my Dad at this very moment. His face is bright red, his shirt is dominated by the mightiest pit stains I have ever seen and he's hunched over with his hands on his knees. The denouement of this story was that my Dad was there because he was training the Chinese police on diplomatic security since my Dad was in charge of diplomatic security at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta (yeah, the one where the bomb went off) and China was vying for their own Olympic bid. China lost their bid for 2012. London won. The next day, their transit system was attacked by terrorists.

Final score:

my Dad - 0
China - 0
London - 0
Yao Ming - 1