December 31, 2010, 11:26 AM —
We all have our strange holiday party memories (like watching a coworker drunkenly sing "I Touch Myself" at the office karaoke party). Mine, however, has to be a few years ago in southern California. I was driving a rental car when the front tire had a blow out. After skidding to a halt at the side of the road, I inspected the damage. Barely a tire left and even the rim looked damaged. Sighing and cursing the rental gods, I grabbed my iPhone and dialing the rental company's roadside assistance line.
After an eternity on and off of hold, I was told an agent with a replacement car would be there "soon" – asking what "soon" meant, I was informed it could be as long as two hours. After a polite uttering a polit "thank you" and some more cursing at the rental gods, I sighed and looked to see if there was any place to wait. Across the street, I spied a Bob's Big Boy.
As I trudged across the street, I noticed several Prius' in the lot. Feeling slightly guilty for not making quite such a green choice a couple of months earlier when buying a new car, I pushed the door open and promptly stared slack-jawed at the sight in front of me.
Several people were motoring around the place on segways. Many appeared to be trying to dance while moving to and fro. I wasn't sure what to make of this. Some strange holiday party? Maybe a company that sold segways trying to convince last minute shoppers they were a good Christmas gift?
Then I noticed that they were all wearing identical shirts. A segway polo team? I shook my head, having never quite understood the concept of segway polo (or polo in general – but that might have been because of too many forced games of water polo at summer camp). Still shaking my head, I ventured inside and that's when I saw him… looking almost like a geeky Santa: Woz.
Trying to wrap my brain around this new information, I remember thinking it was a crazy coincidence since I'd just finished his autobiography "iWoz" on the plane from New York. I reached into my laptop bag for it. Could I actually get him to sign it? I felt like some dorky teenager waiting in line for Leonard Nimoy's autograph at a Star Trek convention (and, having been that dorky teenager, I knew exactly what it felt like).
Then I heard a loud and somewhat obnoxious woman yelling for her boyfriend to come eat with her. I looked into the corner to see a red-haired middle-aged woman gesticulating at him with disapproval while an elderly woman tried to get her to stop.
It took a minute to interpret this, but I then I recognized her as Kathy Griffin – the loud mouthed comic turned reality TV persona who was allegedly dating Woz. I shook my head. Could they really be a couple or was it just a publicity stunt of some kind? The idea of them as a couple seemed slightly absurd, particularly witnessing this encounter in person.
Woz stopped his segway dancing and motored over to her, amid some complaints from his teammates. I slowly followed, having been reduced from self-respecting journalist to utter fanboy. I tried to politely interrupt but couldn't get a word in (neither could was for that matter). Ultimately, the older woman (who turned out to be her mother Maggie) gestured me to sit next to her.
I told Maggie what happened to the car and how much I wanted to meet Woz while I had the chance. She told me that sooner or later her daughter would calm down a bit. Then she pulled a box of wine out of her purse and offered me some. With two hours to kill, I figured why not.
Kathy saw the wine, had a couple of choice words with her mom but introduced herself. Now just inebriated enough, I asked her to introduce me to Woz, saying I was a big fan. She politely obliged but made some joke about her billionaire boyfriend have more fans than her. Again I wondered if they were really dating, but was rather afraid to ask.
Ultimately, I got my chance to talk with Woz, who was completely humble and adorable. He signed the book (and the back of my iPhone). He even let me have a spin on his segway. The party broke up shortly thereafter and I was left to eat lunch, sober up from the wine, and wait for the rental agent.
Woz has since married someone else. I still don't know if he and Kathy were actually dating (though the encounter did get me to watch her reality show trying to figure it out).