How I Met My Husband: Part V in a Series
When we last left our heroine, she had just kicked the tight-fisted Blane out of her car. Then she – I mean I – spent about a month realizing that the unexamined life was not worth living and hence, it was time I um, examined it. After much scrutiny I realized: I liked my life. Quite a lot, in fact. Decent-paying job that was at least somewhat fulfilling? Check. Wonderful friends that most people would kill for? Check. Family healthy and close by? Check. Cute little apartment in great neighborhood? Check. Interesting hobbies and gratifying volunteer work? Check, check. The only thing I was missing? No, not a man. A dog. Seriously – when I looked at the state of my life, that’s the only thing I regretted. No furry little face to share my life. Sure, there were moments when being single was a bit of a bummer – like coming home to an empty apartment after a week-long business trip. But after living alone for four years, I also realized I was no longer fabulous relationship material myself. And? Living alone allowed me to ignore many of my shortcomings. If I came home from work and decided dinner was going to be a bowl of cereal, eaten while I stood over the kitchen sink, then that’s what dinner was going to be. And if I decided to leave said cereal bowl in the sink for, oh, three days, then it was just that – a cereal bowl in the sink. Add another human being to the equation and what was once just a cereal bowl becomes a sign of my laziness, my self-absorbed personality, and general lack of consideration for other people. I have enough self-loathing to deal with all by myself, thank you very much. I didn’t need another person to remind me of all the things I hadn’t even remembered - or noticed - to dislike about myself. It was official. I was probably going to be single career gal for the rest of my life and finally – after 32 years, I was honestly okay with it.
About two months after the Blane incident, my department had another mandatory fun thing – this time a lunch with – wait for it – assigned seating. Apparently, if management let us sit wherever we wanted to like grown-ups, we’d just sit with the people we already knew and liked. The point of this mandatory fun lunch was to “branch out” and get to know other people within our department. This is why people “go postal” – FYI. I found myself seated between a woman I liked but didn’t know very well, Alana, and a man Steve, who I barely knew. Alana had a long-term boyfriend and asked me how my dating life was going. Since I live to regale people with my tales of woe, transformed into tales of hilarity for their enjoyment, I told her that since the “Blane” episode, I was kind of done. Steve continued to eat his lunch quietly, probably cursing the HR person who seated him next to a couple of nutty single women in their 30s. Every so often, I’d feel a twinge of guilt for not socializing with my prescribed luncheon partners, so I’d ask Steve a perfunctory question – after all, he’d only been with the department about three or four months and since he’d just recently moved to our building I barely knew him at all.
After lunch we all ran for the safety of our cubicles and Steve stopped me. “Hey,” he said, “Can I see you sometime this afternoon? There’s something I want to talk to you about.” Steve wasn’t my manager, but he was one level higher than me and I figured I was going to get a mini-lecture about professionalism and what is appropriate to discuss in front of colleagues and what is just “too much information.” My face must have shown fear, because Steve said, “Oh, don’t worry – it’s nothing bad.” Then I spent the next four hours wondering what it could be, because I didn’t know the guy and really? What was there to discuss that could possibly be “good”?
I waited until after 5:00 to slink up to his office, hoping with all hope that he had already left for the day. No such luck. He was happy to see me. Too happy. “I’m very happy!” he said. Dammit. Now what? “I’ve been wondering for a while if you were single.” Oh shit. Shit, shit, shit. I’d seen all these sexual harassment videos and now it was finally happening to me. Even worse? Steve was in his 50s. And married. Was I about to become Markie Post in a Lifetime Movie of the Week? “My wife and I are good friends with this great guy. He and my wife work together and she’s been bugging me for a while to find someone here to fix him up with. I figured you were about his age but I never knew what your status was and I thought it would be rude to ask. But your story at lunch was really unfortunate and I realized that now we can set you two up!” Yippee.
As I was about to open my mouth and say, “Blind dates go against my personal mission statement and therefore I do not engage in them,” I stopped myself. I barely knew Steve, but did I want to alienate someone I might end up working really closely with? And also? What was he going to tell his wife? “Yeah, I thought we could set him up with this woman I barely know.” She wasn’t going to be into that, not if she had any sense. I figured I would just say sure and it would never pan out. “Sure,” I said. And wouldn’t you know? It panned out.
Steve practically skipped into the office the next morning. “Well,” he said excitedly, “If you’re free Saturday night, we’re all set! Suzanne and I are going to have the two of you over for drinks and appetizers and then we’ll all go out for dinner.” I smiled weakly. “Um, sure. Neato. Listen – I don’t mean to sound shallow or anything, but just out of curiosity, what does this guy even look like?” Steve stopped for a moment to consider this question and then he said brightly, “I think you’ll like him. He’s kind of tall and he has hair!” And then, as if it were all settled, he walked away, whistling.
I started to pretend that I could disrupt the time-space continuum and somehow Saturday would never come. But it did. And it happened to bring with it freezing cold temperatures and one hell of a snowstorm. That was it. Even though the storm stopped around 3, and the roads were cleared by 5, I was in no mood. I called a good friend of mine. “Listen to this,” I said and coughed convincingly. “I’b reddy sorry but I’b sig,” I said in my best stuffy-nose, scratchy-throat voice. She sighed. “Just go.” I sighed. “I don’t want to. A new episode of That’s Life is on. I have a bottle of Chianti just sitting here and all I want to do is make some spaghetti and crawl under some quilts and that is MUCH more appealing than showering and primping and driving across town in a freakin’ blizzard.” She was used to my melodrama and pointed out that it was no longer snowing. “Maybe you’ll get a free meal out of it. And if nothing else, knowing you, you’ll get a great story out of it.” That was definitely not the right thing to say. “I don’t want any more stories. I don’t need any more stories.” “If you go tonight, you can find out you don’t like him and get it over with and tell Steve you’re sorry, you tried, but he’s not your type, etc., etc., etc., Otherwise, you’ll just have it hanging over your head every day at work.” That was the right thing to say. “Fine! Fine, fine, fine. I’ll go meet this stupid idiot, okay? Then will everybody be happy?” She laughed and told me to have a good time. “As if!” I sniffed. But I decided I could do this. Shove a few appetizers in my mouth, make some stupid small talk and if the clown turned out to be mind-crushingly boring, fake a mild case of food poisoning and get the hell out of there.
As I drove across town in the cold, I followed Steve’s directions very carefully; I wasn’t really familiar with his neighborhood and dark and icy streets didn’t help matters. There weren’t many other cars out and after a while, I started noticing that I was basically following the same green pick-up truck in front of me. It turned left and then so did I. It turned right down another street. I did the same. As I navigated this residential area, I realized that the driver of the truck was male, he was alone and he was quite possibly in my age bracket. My heart stopped. I was almost positive I had been following my date.
Sure enough, we both drove slowly down Steve’s street. I was looking carefully for Steve’s address but Green Truck Guy seemed to know where he was going. He pulled to a stop right in front of . . . Steve’s house. I decided this was my escape. I would sit in my car until Green Truck Guy got out and if I didn’t like the looks of him, I was going to drive away. As clever as I thought I was, Green Truck Guy apparently had the same plan. He sat in his truck. I sat in my little car. He turned his truck off, but continued to stay exactly where he was. I did not turn my car off. Apparently, we had the blind date stand-off going on here. I believe it is now an Olympic event. Seconds ticked by, then minutes. I started getting irritated. “I’ll be damned if I get out of my car before that clown gets out of his,” I fumed. After all, this is my escape plan!! Finally, after what seemed like forever (but probably wasn’t more than 2 minutes), Green Truck Guy got out and started crossing the street toward Steve’s house. He was okay. I could probably tolerate a few hours with this guy. No visible jewelry. No acid washed denim. No big black boots accompanied by a swagger. I’d only recently “walked” a marathon. Surely I could tolerate this clown for a few hours without puking.
I got out of the car and pretended I’d only just pulled up. Green Truck Guy had just rung the doorbell and was waiting for someone to let him in. I crossed the street, walked up next to him and put on my best “pretend blind date smile.” “Hi,” I said. “I’m Teacher Lady.” He smiled. “I thought you might be. I’m Mr. J.”
Labels: How I Met My Husband Series