The star of the “Where’s Waldo” series of books is a man in an iconic red-and-white striped shirt, round glasses, and a pom-pom hat trying to hide. Illustrated by Martin Handford, some spreads have thousands of similarly striped figures designed to challenge readers to find him in a crowd.
By the time Robert Wadlow started kindergarten in 1923 , he was already 5′ 4″ tall–the height of a 15 year-old boy. By the time he graduated from high school, he was 8′ 3″ tall and wore a size 37AA shoe.
Wadlow continued to grow until his death at age 22, reaching 8′ 11″ and earning the title of the World’s Tallest Man by Guinness World Records. A life-size statue and replica chair can be found in his hometown at 2810 College Avenue in Alton, Illinois.
While Waldo is drawn to be lost in a crowd, Wadlow didn’t have that option. Robert stood out wherever he went, except once among a grove of sequoia trees on a visit to California–see quote above.
While standing next to the statue, I put something into perspective. It’s easy to want things that are not guaranteed. At 5′ 2″ tall (or short), I often wished I had grown just a few inches more. Wadlow died at 22; I’m well into my 50’s. I can ride a motorcycle wearing normal-sized clothes and a size 10 women’s (men’s size 8.5) shoe.
On this day, it was especially nice to fit into a small crowd of COVID-19 vaccinated friends after 13 months apart and not feel hidden like Waldo or “too seen” like Wadlow.
Who can wish for anything more than that?
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