Tall Caramel Macchiato for – The Iron Man?

I don’t have a picture of the actual incident. Because in this case having a picture would be kind of well, creepy.

Yesterday I was in a local mall Starbucks with my sister and my niece, seeking some sort of sane refuge from the chaotic white tiled mall corridors, further depleting our cash reserves on $8.00 coffee drinks.

MARIE!” the barista called out, dropping the “A” from my name. Its “Marie –UH” I wanted to say, but of course didn’t. All three of us were in a type of mall-induced stupor. Too many signs, too many lights, too many sales, too many escalators to nowhere, with no exit in sight. It was like being in that 1991 Woody Allen movie, “Scenes from a Mall.”

Then, a tall, bald figure appeared inside the darkened store and I was briefly stunned into alertness as if someone had thrown ice water in my face. “Cal Ripken Cal Ripken Cal Ripken Cal Ripken” I said, “Oh my God, there’s Cal Ripken. Yea.RIGHT there.”

Now, Cal Ripken lives very close to me. So, it is not completely out of the realm of possibility that I could ever see him somewhere in public. The man has to go out sometime.

As he and his wife turned to leave the store, my sister said “Let’s go!” and we quickly gathered our bags. Almost out of instinct we started following them. “Don’t people RECOGNIZE HIM?” I said. “Just keep going, he’s almost out of sight.”my sister said. “He’s shy” I said, having met him once at a book signing. “I don’t think he’s the type that likes being recognized in public.” My sister followed him onward.

He and his wife headed in to a clothing store and casually looked at the jeans like any regular couple in any regular mall on any regular Saturday. “Don’t you have a BASEBALL or something?” I said to my sister in all seriousness then realized that most people don’t routinely carry baseballs in their handbag (note to self: I’m going to start). I warned my niece “Your mother is really weird about celebrities. She will walk right up to him, I swear to God. We have to get out of here.” “We will meet you in Williams-Sonoma,” I called to my sister, but she remained at her post outside the store where Cal was, trying to look as casual and non-chalant as possible in the presence of The Iron Man.

As quickly as he appeared, all six foot four of him vanished as he casually slipped out the store’s side door into the parking garage. “Did you GO UP TO HIM?” I said to my sister as she rejoined my niece and I. “Nah. I didn’t want to bother him in public. That’s probably why he didn’t order a drink at Starbucks. He didn’t want the barista to yell out “CAL!” while everyone turned around.” (or, maybe he doesn’t like coffee).

My sister is a talented artist, painter and art professor. She, more than any person I know, absolutely loathes sports. If you asked her who Derek Jeter is, she’d probably say “Derek WHO?” She may not be able to explain a suicide squeeze play or the infield fly rule, but she can talk Renaissance Classicism and Modern Maximalism with the best of them.

“You know I have always loved Cal.” she said, and I knew what she meant.

Cal is bigger than baseball, bigger than sports, bigger than life – and he goes to the mall – just like everyone else.