Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Valuable lesson learned in LA

By Henry Guembes

It was a dull Sunday afternoon in early January; my phone vibrated twice.

“Hey, would you be up for a Laker game today?” said my ticket plug, who shall not be named. “6:30, they play the Suns; let me know if you’re down.” As if I’d ever pass up on a chance to watch the Purple and Gold from row nine of Staples Center.

An acquaintance of mine has access to Laker tickets through some connections I can’t reveal. This wasn’t my first time buying tickets through her; I had the process down pat: I would hop in my Civic, head over to her place, pay her, and bring some friends along with me. My next destination would be Staples, where I’d pick up tickets from the booth. Simple.

But this time was different; we met at her job and that’s when she told me she wouldn’t be able join me, so she sold me four tickets instead. The tickets were sent to my email, and I was pleased with the convenience of having them on my phone, or at least I thought.

I invited my dad and my two younger brothers for a fun outing in DTLA after the generous offer. I drove through the jam-packed lanes of the 101 Freeway and the hectic one-way streets of Downtown. We arrived at our destination and paid for overpriced parking, but it didn’t matter one bit because I was thrilled to watch the Lakers.

We made our way up 11th street to the arena, and, as you can imagine, the place was flooded with Laker fans. I meandered my way over to the ticket boxes with a sense of bravado, knowing I had some spectacular seats. I displayed my phone with a bright smile to the clerk.

“We don’t do phones anymore my man,” said the Staples Center employee. “We stopped doing that this year, hard copies only.”

“Oh man, is there any way I can print it here or just get it scanned or something?”

“Nah man, you’re going to have to find a printer around here. I hear the Ritz Carlton has a print station; you should check that out. Sorry about the inconvenience.”

“It’s fine man, thanks anyways.”

I walked away with a major sense of defeat. I had to locate a printer in one of the top 10 busiest cities in the world, according to the Washington Post. Not too hard right?

Downtown Los Angeles via: David Jones
I hastily briefed my father on the situation, and he told me, “Do what you have to do.”

It was around 5:30, a little less than an hour before tip-off. Keeping all the lines in mind, I knew I was up against the clock.

I rushed over to the Ritz Carlton, and asked the receptionist if I could use their printers, he gladly told me, “Third floor, second hall on your right.” He seemed like he had seen this kind of scenario often, which gave me some comfort.

I found the print station and accessed my email through their computers. I opened my account; clicked on the email labeled “tix” only to find a blank page with no tickets. It didn’t make sense at first until I actually thought about it. I opened the email previously on my phone, meaning that the tickets would only be accessible through my mobile device. I tried to use Bluetooth to connect my phone to their printers, but no luck; I was angry at myself more than anything.

40 minutes to tip-off.

I hurried out of that five-star hotel and updated my dad on the ordeal. We tried to think of solutions on the fly, and we decided that I should probably head to a Kinko’s; there was one a few blocks east of Staples. I didn’t hesitate and began to jog over there. It is worth noting that I was wearing skinny jeans that day—really bad choice.

So I’m running over there and I felt a vibration on my phone, “Kobe Bryant, out (sore shoulder),” read the notification from ESPN. Bryant missed 16 games all season, just my luck.

Could this day get any worse?

Five minutes later, I turn the corner expecting to see a fully functioning Kinko’s, except it was Sunday; the day they close early. All the lights were off, and the closed sign hung at the entrance, almost taunting me. My blood boiled.

I opened my GPS on my phone and saw the nearest printing place was almost across town. I was screwed. Then I noticed a smaller looking store a couple blocks north from where I was, and it read “Staples.” I was relieved; I felt like this was really it. This time I wasn’t jogging; I was almost sprinting. I arrived at the store and came to find out that it’s a cheap women’s clothing store called Staples fashion. At this point, I felt like Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty as I looked up at the grey sky.

20 minutes to tip off.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

I hit every little shop on Hope Street, which was enough irony to make me crack a grin in this time of agony. I asked about 15 shopkeepers if they had a functioning printer; I even added that I would be willing to pay to print these papers. All of them shunned me, some ruder than others. One man who had a thick accent, possibly some kind of European, bluntly quipped, “Unless you are buying something, I want you out of my store, you hear?” I was hot, but I walked away. By this time, I had hit at least 10 stores.

My family was still at L.A Live. My dad had been checking in with me every 10 minutes and he could tell how irritated I was, but he advised me to relax and to think outside the box. I can’t even lie; I had lost hope.

I started to power-walk back towards the direction of Staples Center with my head down and my phone clenched in my hand. Across the street, I noticed a slightly rundown hotel, but the lights were on, illuminating a long hall at the entrance. To this day I do not to know why, but something told me to give this place a shot. So, I did. I walked in hesitantly and saw an older white man chatting with the receptionist there. The greeter was a young Hispanic man, maybe a few years older than me. His name was Eric.

“Hey man, what can I do for you?”

I explained my situation and how I had received nothing but rejection.

“Don’t trip bro, I got you.” Those words upped my mood right away.

“You just need to print them right? What kind of phone you got?”

I told him I had an iPhone, I immediately saw a look of concern in his face.

“Ah, damn man I don’t know if I will be able to print with that, hold on be right back.”

The old, white man was there with us the whole time and we chatted a bit in the meantime. He told me, “You know he’s not going to let you go until you have your tickets; he’s an engineer—he won’t stop until he finds a way.”

Eric went to the backroom and asked some of his co-workers if anyone had an iPhone charger, eventually he was able to get one. After trying some simple tricks, he connected my phone to the computer, and I’m not sure how, but he was able to access my email metadata from my phone. He then found a way to print my tickets, and I felt like owed my life to that man. If I’m honest, I would’ve given up the minute he told me my phone wasn’t compatible with the printer. But he didn’t give up; in that instance alone he reinstated all the hope in humanity I had lost just 20 minutes earlier. I thanked him about six or seven times, he told me I’d better get going; the game just started. I called my dad and dashed out of there. I made it back to Staples in about 5 minutes; I looked like I just ran a marathon in street clothes. I nestled the papers in my hand, trying not to crumple them, and we entered the arena. Just 30 minutes ago, I was envisioning a disappointing drive home.

Staples Center via: Kenneth Han
 I enjoyed the game with my family there; the Lakers picked up one of their 17 wins of the season that night after taking down the Suns, 97-77. That night I reveled in a great Laker win, but learned an even larger lesson through it all. Sometimes it is good to go out of ones way to help others and that is a lesson that I hold dear to my heart to this day, all because of an astounding night in LA.