Anyone that has traveled for work knows it's not actually glamorous. Long flights, small hotel beds, stuffy conference rooms, and sketchy WIFI. Sounds awesome, right? Sure, there are ways to make it more enjoyable and there are some amazing sightseeing opportunities (sometimes) but it's never quite like being "home". So I often look for ways to pass the time and enjoy myself whenever possible. More often than not, this results in me engaging in dialogue with the locals.
On one such occasion, I had just landed in Moscow at the end of a very long travel day. I was tired and a little punchy. After exchanging hand signals and some broken English with a taxi driver, I found myself headed to my hotel in the backseat of a car that smelled like a washroom. We were only a mile into our trip when the driver and I met eyes in the rear view mirror. I smiled, he said "where from?" To which I responded "United States....Pittsburgh". "Oh...Pittsburgh?" he says. Thinking quickly for some relevance, I followed "Yes.....Pittsburgh Penguins. Hockey. Evgeni Malkin?" There was silence. The driver was digesting my fragmented sentence and train-wreck of thoughts. Then, in an instant, his face lit up. Almost swerving the car from the road, he turned around and shouted "Evgeni Malkin.....you, Evgeni Malkin!"
Before I could respond honestly, I realized the absurdity of the situation. How could I be mistaken for Evgeni Malkin?? I don't look Russian, I don't speak Russian, and I have as much experience playing hockey as I do playing the ukulele. I'll never know if it was the jet-lag or the fact that I knew I would never see this guy again, but I slowly said "No......I...PLAY with Evgeni Malkin".
We arrived at the hotel; my driver jumped out, opened my door, grabbed the bags, and eagerly dove back into the front seat. He re-emerged with a scrap of paper and a pencil. In a moment that can only be described as pure hilarity, my new biggest fan handed me the writing utensil and said "Please sign!" There was really only one thing left to do...
I scribbled my name, wrote "#28" next to it, and gave him a firm handshake. After checking into the hotel I strolled to the elevator and texted my (much more sports-minded) brother, "Who is number twenty-eight on the pens?" As the elevator door closed...."Nobody. That number is not on the roster this year" came the response.