Some nights ago I was following a group of friends into a dingy (yet inexplicably trendy) underground bar in the sordid, grimy heart of Buenos Aires. The lighting was atrocious– perhaps intentionally so to cover up the manner of sin perpetrated therein (or, more likely, to give off the illusion that some sin was being perpetrated). It was also getting into the early hours of the morning and I’d already had some drinks earlier, so it shouldn’t have been a shock that I violently bashed my forehead against the top of the doorway. I let out a loud “oh FUCK!”, my friends were overjoyed at my misfortune, and the night went on. I was fine then, but spent the next couple of days nursing a horrific headache. I’d probably concussed. But it was fine. These things happen when you’re drunk, clumsy and tall.
And yes, I am a tall guy. I’m well aware of that, and I’m constantly reminded of such as I fumble my way through a daily routine, attempting to navigate a country that’s just not made for people my size. And that’s the thing: I’m not the tallest person in the world. At just over 6’5″, I stop short of being freakishly tall– in fact, I suspect I’d fit just right in most Nordic countries, where the average male height is probably pretty close to mine. However, since I’ve taken residence in a country that appears to be populated by hobbits, pygmies and leprechauns, I’m perpetually aware of how tall I am. And while It’s a source of much amusement to me and my friends, it can also be a bit of a drag.
I only know a few people who are my height in Buenos Aires, and a couple that are even taller. They wear their height with pride. They see it as a natural evolutionary advantage, provided by genetics. They relish the opportunity to show it off. They use it for personal gain. Me, I have Tall Guy syndrome– I’m constantly wary and mindful of being in anybody’s way, even to a fault. I’m not sure exactly why– I just hated being seen as “that guy” at the front, blocking the view of the poor schmucks behind him.
This is something that I’m painfully aware of when I go to shows, which I do very often– sometimes accompanied, sometimes alone. Concerts in South America, unless they take place in a classy theater, are usually General Admission. I like it that way. Sure, this tends to result in a lot more bodily-contact-with-strangers than one would want to have in an average day (and– as was the case with the crazy Crystal Castles show a couple months ago– it’s often the skeevy, sweaty kind of touch), and it can get frightening if it’s a particularly rowdy crowd (I remember thinking I was close to dying when I saw Bad Religion), but I like the egalitarian idea of everybody having an equal shot at landing the front row (if they want it badly enough to push and shove their way through the crowd).
Not only that, but General Admission allows me to position myself strategically to achieve the highest level of comfort while retaining a clear line of sight and being able to hear the band well. It’s an art that I’ve perfected over 26 years. Also, it evens the playing field– if I get there early enough, I can stand wherever the fuck I want and know that no one can give me any dirty looks or complain about my height because listen lady, I’ve been standing here for three hours. And sure, at some point in the concert, I’ll look back and see a 6-foot empty patch immediately behind me, but it’ll be fine because I was there first. Getting to a concert where people have already assembled and carved out their spots and just plowing through them to get nearer to the front, without any regard to blocking anyone’s line of sight… I dunno. It just feels like a douchey thing to do.
I don’t know if this is a failing in my character. To be honest, it probably is. It certainly felt that way a few weeks ago, as I tried to explain it to my companion at the Regina Spektor concert: her– a 5’4″ little lady– struggling to understand just why I wouldn’t move through the crowd and closer to the stage. I guess it all comes down to my deep-seated fear of being perceived as a jerk. So I’m throwing this out there to anyone whose sightline I’ve blocked throughout the years, and to anyone who will have the misfortune of having their view obstructed by this dorky totem of a human being: I’m sorry. And seriously, if you want a ride on my shoulders, feel free to ask, I’m happy to oblige.