The military has a term for it: “Hurry up and wait.” And boy, do we wait. In line at the bank or the grocery store. At a restaurant because we have no reservation. To see a doctor, even though we have an appointment. In traffic.
It’s grammar-school stuff, really, a simple conjugation of a verb: I wait. You wait. He, she or it waits. Unless “he” turns out to be a celebrity. A celebrity named Sidney Crosby.
Crosby’s celebrity has been big news for the past week in Pittsburgh, around the country and, quite possibly, around the world. Why? Was Crosby busted for drugs? Did he murder a teammate, beat his girlfriend or undertake any of the myriad illegal activities that seem to attract athletes like bugs to a just-cleaned windshield? No.
He showed up to renew his driver’s license.
This may seem a trivial thing, but it wasn’t to a few people who chose the same day to renew at the Department of Motor Vehicles office on McKnight Road, north of Pittsburgh. Crosby, being famous, was whisked in and out as part of the DMV’s policy that gives celebs preferential treatment in order to avoid causing a scene. And it would have worked flawlessly if one woman in line at the center had not decided that Crosby belonged in the penalty box.
Thankfully, Susan Campbell, who was at the center to help her daugher renew her license, didn’t check Crosby into the boards. But she went public with her ire, telling the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “(Crosby) should have to sit and wait with everyone else.”
Bored by a lack of significant news, media jumped on the story, with ESPN, Sports Illustrated and other outlets that barely mention hockey in the off-season joining the fray. Crosby – by most accounts a low-key guy who doesn’t flaunt the celebrity thrust upon him by being arguably the best hockey player in the world – was portrayed as an ego-inflated pretty boy who can’t be bothered to wait.
The reality is, Crosby can’t wait because he’ll be bothered.
In case you haven’t noticed, it’s a cellphone world. Even Campbell’s own daugher conjectured that, had Crosby not been allowed to skip the line, fans at the center would have texted, tweeted and sent pictures to friends. Within minutes a mob of crazed hockey fans, whose lives would have been immeasurably poorer without a glimpse of the Penguins’ captain would have arrived en masse, causing a scene the DMV policy is designed to avoid. Crosby didn’t just show up and elbow his way to the front of the line; he made an appointment, as the DMV policy specifies. He’d have been nuts not to accept special treatment.
We thrust celebrity upon the talented, then complain when they exercise its perks. Fans demand autographs, want to have their pictures taken with their favorite athlete, actor, singer, chef, car dealer, mechanic or guy they don’t recognize but who must be famous because everyone else is running after him. When fans don’t get what they want, they sometimes become belligerent. Who knows how many “fans” might have cursed Crosby for the Pens’ losing four straight to Boston in the playoffs?
I wonder: If Campbell had seen Crosby changing a tire on McKnight Road for an 80-year-old motorist, would she have called a newspaper to say how great “Sid the Kid” is? Or would she have stopped and asked the driver to take a quick shot of her and Crosby together, holding a tire iron?
I think it likely that, if Crosby had not accepted a line bump, Campbell would have called the Post-Gazette and complained that he’d delayed her by attracting a mob.
And when you get right down to it, isn’t calling the media asking for preferential treatment?