as i watched team u.s.a. hold their ground tonight against portugal
it reminded me of where i was 20 years ago.
it was 1994
i talked my boss where i was an advertising intern during the day,
and my boss at the hotel where i worked as a cocktail waitress at night,
and my professors where i was taking classes at all hours,
and my ex-husband who i shared my daughter-time with,
into agreeing to work around my special schedule for a few weeks.
i applied to work at the 1994 fifa world cup here in detroit.
4 matches would be played on my turf.
and i told fifa i would love to do it
before i had negotiated any time off
i knew it would be a once in a lifetime extraordinary experience
and that i would find a way to do it.
my job was to work in press operations in the media center.
helping the press with credentials, schedules, seats. access and information.
it became a reality.
we were taught about the nuances of soccer
the role of the press
how to deal with the passionate fans
and the customs and languages of the countries participating
learning helpful things like,
‘if a russian offers you a shot of vodka, it’s an insult to say no, so you’ll have to find a diplomatic way to do so.’
this was our transportation around the pontiac silverdome lot
where we met many enthusiastic fans along the way
interesting press from all around the world.
on my first day,
based in hong kong
working for the french press
of dutch and italian descent
he was smiling
as i gave him his credentials,
answered his questions
and told him to enjoy the games.
later that night
i left the media center
and turned back into
a cocktail waitress.
as i approached a table
and a man at the table turned around
i saw that it was the journalist i had met earlier in the day.
we were surprised to see each other again
and he told me some of the press corps were staying at my hotel.
and i told him that i worked there on some nights.
very, very small world.
and we parted ways when his group left for the night.
each day at the world cup was a new adventure
i was able to see the matches
and enjoy the frenzied air of competition and excitement.
and many times
out of 78,000 people
the journo and i kept crossing paths.
between his schedule and mine
and ever changing locations
and job commitments
and no cell phones
and no computer
we kept trying to set up a time and place
to meet away from the stadium
when neither of us was working
to have a real conversation.
it was his last night here
and the final match in detroit was being played.
i was finished in the media tent for the day
and we planned to meet at a local bar
after he filed his report.
i went to the bar
and found the brazilian fans there celebrating
it was total madness and fun and frolic
the police came
and shut down the bar
for the first time
the brazilians’ exuberant enthusiasm
had somehow overflowed
to the outside
and they were dancing
a samba line
down woodward avenue
a major thoroughfare in the detroit area.
the bar was done for the night
and the crowd dispersed
and we never were able to find each other that night
we had no backup plan
for a place to meet
and we went our separate ways
armed with addresses
and the beginning of a friendship.
and i went back to my jobs/school/life
and he continued on with his assignments
and flew back to hong kong.
mp on assignment in new guinea
and we began to write letters
and we have been pen pals for 20 years now
and we send hand-written letters
back and forth from all over the world
and we’ve gone through life together on paper
and stayed friends
who never dated
and maybe one day
we’ll find ourselves in the same country once more
at the same time.
and we can continue our conversation.
There is no distance too far between friends, for friendship gives wings to the heart.
– author unknown