I really do not regret mistakes, missed opportunities, misjudgments and so on. I've always tried to learn something by my screw ups and move on. Like Rafiki says to Simba after hitting him over the head with a stick, "Oh yes, the past can hurt. But from the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it."
Yes. I try to learn, but I will live out the rest of my life with one stinging regret.
Let me take you back to 1987. I was a buyer for a metal coating company in Elk Grove Village, a suburb of Chicago. I was sitting alone at an O'Hare airport terminal, in one of two business suits I owned, sensible heels, hose, and big hair. I was on my way to scenic Detroit, to visit a paint and chemical plant there. I was uncharacteristically early for my flight.
I was absorbed in reading a book when the lighting in the room dimmed. I looked up, and saw ridiculously tall men filing into the room.
The entire Bulls basketball team took seats all around me.
John Paxson, Dave Corzine and a little Caucasian man (some sort of an assistant?) sat to my left. All the African American guys sat behind me. (But let's face it - back then, we were black and white.) I found it interesting and a little sad that the two races didn't sit together.
But enough of that. When I got up the nerve to turn around, Michael Jordan was sitting next to Horace Grant, facing me. The rest of the team was there, but I couldn't see them for the enormous shoulders of the men facing away from me. I didn't see any coaches.
I almost got up the nerve to say to something to John Paxson, the player sitting closest to me. I was going to say something like, "Good luck with the Pistons. I'll be there, rooting for you." And that was true. The supplier I was going to visit had Piston season tickets and they were the Bulls arch rivals. It was the perfect line! I knew enough about basketball to speak intelligently to these guys! Well, at least I could fake it for a few seconds. Good grief, I'm from Indiana! Show me a Hoosier who doesn't know about basketball?! It didn't hurt that my husband was and still is a huge Bulls fan, and I watched most of the games with him.
Just before I was going to say my one liner, I glanced back at Horace and Michael. Horace was looking at me. I don't mean he was just glancing around the room, passing the time and caught me peeking at him. He was looking at me like he could see into my soul.
I froze all over again.
Then I started thinking how incredible it would be to get autographs from all of them! I was trying to figure out a way to approach them with that, and at the same time, thinking too much time had slipped away. It would be very awkward to go from not even acknowledging them to wanting their signature.
And as I sat there, still stunned in silence, they got up and boarded the plane.
My chance of chatting with one of the best teams of all time, meeting a basketball icon, getting incredible autographs and therefore making my husband one of the happiest people on earth - gone.
Walking down the aisle to my narrow, uncomfortable seat on the plane, I passed them in first class. I was tempted to say something then, but chickened out once again.
Opportunities like that are gone for good. They won their first championship the next year and started traveling by a private plane. I probably would have gotten autographs because (a) nobody was a mega star yet (Jordan made $845,000 that year, only $145,000 more than Dave Corzine), and (b) I was a semi-attractive twenty-something with pre-pregnancy hips, capable of batting an eye or two. At least I like to think I had a chance.
That day has replayed over and over in my head over the years - with every championship, with every Nike commercial, with every special cheer my 2 year old son would do during the starting line up announcement before a game, and with every Bulls player gingerbread cookie I would make at Christmas time. My Rodman cookies always had pink hair.
I should have never told John. It breaks his heart every time he thinks of it.
If I had to do it all over again, I would have made a fool out of myself from the moment they sat down with something like, "Oh my gosh! You're the Bulls! I love you guys! You're the best!! Can I have your autograph?!?!?"
Lesson learned, a little too late.