When a celebrity jumps your ride claim

It was January 2008 and we’d just arrived in Salt Lake City. Jim and Ted were there to ski in Utah. I was there because I was going to see a bunch of films at Sundance while they skied.

We’d had an uneventful flight out from Newark to Salt Lake City. Except there were lots of famous people on board our plane.

One of them was Paul Giamatti, who was sitting in the row in front of us in coach. Any time I felt like it, I could look at the bald spot on the back of his head. And I felt bad about this, but there it was. But I along with everyone else in coach kept their cool about him being there, even after the plane landed and the people in the rows behind him waited for him to grab his bag and leave. We KNEW it was him, as much as I think he’d hoped we’d think he was a just guy who looked like him.

I don’t think Paul Giamatti would have stolen my ride, though.

Up in first class were Maria Bello…and Sarah Jessica Parker (hereafter referred to as “SJP”).

I had no issues with SJP. I remembered her in “Square Pegs.” I liked her take as an insipid TV show host in “Mars Attacks.” I never really watched “Sex in the City,” but I got the premise. She was going to Sundance in 2008, I’d later learn, to promote her movie, “Smart People.”

I never thought I would have to compete with her for a ride.

We’d booked the limo company that Jim’s brother always used when his family flew out to Utah to stay at their Park City townhome. While not in the entertainment industry, the limo company was VERY respectful of him. So as a treat, we booked the vehicle he usually booked, which was a Cadillac SUV.

Shoe Trees at Park City, UT

Park City Shoe Trees. Photo by me, 2008.

Apparently, this limo company booked a lot of people to pick up from our flight that night, including SJP. And us.

There must have been a backup. Because Jim, Ted and I waited in the staging/pickup area the company directed us to. And waited.

A large pile of matching luggage soon appeared on the sidewalk near us.  And then, a Cadillac SUV pulled up and someone started to pack up all of the luggage into the back of it.

Meanwhile, it was getting late. We started to worry.

It was a Saturday night and we wanted to make a stop at a liquor store before heading to the townhome. Utah has some funny liquor laws, and one of the few places you can buy alcohol of any kind is their very well-stocked state stores. Which closed at 9 or 10 (I don’t recall): a time that was VERY close to what our watches/phones were telling us.

Plus the liquor stores in Utah are not open on Sundays.

PLUS the following Monday was a state holiday, to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. You guessed it: Liquor stores closed.

There were adult beverages already in the townhome,  but they belonged to Jim’s brother and wife. They do not have inexpensive tastes in alcohol, and while I suppose we could have suffered for a day or so drinking their craft beers and fancier bottles of wine, we really just wanted to buy our own. (And yes, I get the discrepancy between renting an expensive SUV and nickel and diming it over drinks. Different priorities.)

Park City Shoe Tree

Closer view of a Park City Shoe Tree. Photo by me, 2008.

Meanwhile, a very tiny woman had stealthily made her way to the SUV and got in the back of it. SJP?

No other Cadillac SUV was in sight. We asked the young woman who was dispatching rides for the limo company what was up.

She apologized. They were overwhelmed with arrivals.

But, we said, we must get to a liquor store before it closed. Was there anything she could do for us?

Short of waiting for another SUV to come back and pick us up, she said, she could find out if anything else was available.

Great, we said. At this point, as long as it had wheels and could carry us and our gear, we would take it.

And soon, our ride was there. It was your standard-issue, white, serial killer van. But it had seats, and a place to put ski equipment, and a friendly driver who knew where the closest state liquor store was.

We piled into the van. There were precious minutes left before access to our choice of alcohol was cut off until Tuesday (not including private clubs or restaurants–another weird Utah liquor thing). The driver navigated through the city, expertly getting us to the store. The parking lot was packed with cars from others in the same situation, as well as what appeared to be a large group of kids from the nearby college. All sweating it out over the possibility of a holiday weekend with no private stash.

Meanwhile, SJP was probably already set up in her fourth home somewhere on the outskirts of Park City with a fully-stocked bar, or otherwise someplace where concerns of this nature had been taken care of by an advance team of assistants.

We joined the fray of shoppers, found our poisons of preference, and paid for them, all VERY close to closing time. But we did it, despite being dissed.

Our driver was even nice enough to take us on a quick drive past the main Mormon temple in Salt Lake City before hopping onto I-80 and to Park City.

The rest of the trip was pretty-stress free. Sundance is a great time to ski in the Park City area because most of the people in town are there to see films and soak in the cult of celebrity: not ski. The slopes are rather uncrowded as a result.

You can almost smell them. Park City Shoe Tree, photo by me, 2008.

You can almost smell them. Park City Shoe Tree, photo by me, 2008.

Jim, Ted, and I have grumbled over the years about the unfairness of the limo company’s jettisoning of us for SJP. And that SJP didn’t seem to feel a need to wait in line, though we had gotten to the staging area before she did.

But maybe she didn’t even have a clue…

Time has just made it a sort of sad but funny life experience, with a famous person thrown in. I just hope that if she’d known of our predicament, she would have graciously waited for the next ride. Even if it was in a serial killer van.

And yes, we did get comped for the vehicle downgrade. But the family uses another limo company now.

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