Otherwise entitled: The Straw that Broke the Camel's Back, or Why Do People So Enjoy the Tales of My Misery?
Okay, as promised a while ago
, here is the story of Senor Cheap Bastard.
I got to know one of our consultants (back in my Corporate America days) fairly well. We were sitting in one of those mandatory "team building fun" meetings and I was bemoaning the state of my love life: non-existent. (Note to HR types - this is what happens at mandatory team building fun activities - everyone ignores your request to build a house out of shampoo and twigs and they talk about their sex lives instead.) Her name was Anneleise and she was educated, smart, funny, successful (after all, she owned her own consulting firm) and I felt like she "got" me. She said, "I know the perfect guy for you. He happens to be one of my best friends and you two would really hit it off. Do you want me to set something up for all of us to get together for drinks?" Drinks? I can do drinks. Groovy, I said.
So we met. His name was Blane. He told me he was recently promoted to a management position at the giant (seriously - the bank that ate Manhattan giant) bank where he worked. He had an MBA. (I am a sucker for advanced degrees. Shallow and stupid, I know, but there you have it.) I briefly wondered whether he was gay when he told me his apartment was decorated in a "Southwestern motif," but Anneleise assured me he wasn't gay - just well-read and cultured. It should tell you something about how badly my dating life was going when I was just so happy that he: 1.) Had a job, 2.) Wasn't gay, 3.) Didn't live with his parents, 4.) Had a car, and 5.) appeared to shower on a daily basis. We arranged to meet for dinner. He suggested a place downtown - I had never been there, although I had heard of it.
So, Saturday night, in the middle of a snowstorm in December, I drove to this restaurant to find . . . nothing. The parking lot was empty, the building was dark and abandoned. The place had closed some time ago. So, Mr. MBA gets an "F" for his research skills. But that's okay. He found me driving around in a blizzard (in circles) and apologized. We ate somewhere else and then he suggested a comedy club. Off we went. There was a big line. I got to the ticket window first. The woman behind the window said, "How many?" and Mr. MBA was conveniently staring off into space. "How much are the tickets?" I asked. "Thirty dollars each," she said. I gulped. Sixty bucks. Sixty bucks I hadn't exactly budgeted for. Mr. MBA was inspecting his cuticles. I cringed and felt like a cheap bastard myself. "Um," I said quietly and with much humiliation, "One." I took my ticket and moved forward. Mr. MBA was then completely alert. He stepped right up to the window. "One, please," he said confidently. Okay, I'm a modern woman. This should not be a big deal, I reminded myself. But I should have paid attention. Because it was a sign of things to come.
We made plans for a second date. This time, I chose the restaurant - a place I knew still existed. When the check came, he reached for it and so I excused myself to go to the loo. When I came back to our table, he looked like he was going to vomit. "Um," he said as he continued to turn various shades of green, "I gave her my credit card and she said they only take cash or checks. All I have is two dollars." Modern woman to the rescue! "That's okay," I said, "I have cash." So I picked up dinner. Then we went to Starbucks to hang out on the squashy couches and discuss Important Topics. He went up to the counter and ordered himself some latte thing and asked me what I wanted. I also got a latte thing. The barista asked, "Is this separate or together?" Mr. MBA pointed at me and said, "It's on her. She's the one with all the money tonight." And I stood there open-mouthed for a moment. I recovered and then bought us our lattes. The shock wore off as we discussed many Important Things and I decided that he must have been so embarrassed by the dinner incident that he figured "letting" me pay for our lattes was just the polite thing to do. Or something.
Third date: He planned it. An art exhibit and dinner. At this point, I knew what was up, so I paid for the art exhibit tickets for both of us. We had a very nice dinner. He ordered a glass of wine, so I followed suit. He got dessert, so I did, too. He ordered an after-dessert Irish coffee and so did I. Then, some deeply-wired, hypocritical anti-feminist monster reared her carefully coiffed head and when the check came . . . I just sat there. I did nothing. Talk about the elephant in the room. We sat there for oh, 20 minutes while the check started to grow moss. Finally he picked it up, opened it and then sighed heavily and rolled his eyes in exasperation. Now I was uncomfortable and embarrassed. I felt badly. I shouldn't have gotten that flourless chocolate torte. I could have just had a taste of his. I didn't need that Irish Coffee. I'm Irish, but that doesn't make it mandatory. "Do you, um, want me to get the tip?" I asked timidly. "Yeah," he said, "That would help a lot." Okay . . . so I got the tip. That's fine.
The fourth (and final) date: I had just gotten back from Orlando, where I had "walked" my first (and as it turns out, only) marathon at Disney World. Mr. Blane with the MBA wanted to take me out to celebrate my amazing accomplishment - that being, I finished the marathon and I didn't die. Both very impressive, I think. We were going to see a movie and then, dinner. I still remember it vividly. It was Friday. We were to meet at 6:00 for the 6:15 movie. He didn't work on Fridays (a clue to something I didn't even learn until later) and I did
work on Fridays. I had a client call me at 5:14 and a half (of course) and I managed to placate him within 20 minutes, grab my stuff and run out the door, RACE (literally - amazing I didn't get a ticket or kill someone) downtown to the movie theatre, RUN through the (pay) parking lot, up the stairs to the lobby, managing to be only two minutes late to find . . . nothing. He wasn't there. I was fine with this. Gave me a few minutes to catch my breath, calm down, wipe the sweat from my brow, etc.,
Twenty minutes later, still no sign of him and now I was worried. After all, he was coming from the comfort of his Southwestern-motif apartment; it's not like he could have had a "work emergency." I was frantically calling him, trying to figure out what to do. Buy the movie tickets for both of us? Me? Neither of us? Wait outside? Go home? I had no clue. At 6:30, just when I was accepting the fact that he had either been killed or was standing me up, I saw him running up the steps, looking completely frantic, red-faced and out of breath. "Are you okay?" I asked. He was clearly in a foul mood. "Effing stupid freakin' traffic!" he growled. I was confused. We were both coming from the same general direction of town. "Was there an accident I just missed?" I wondered. He ignored my question. "Let's get tickets," he said. "Maybe we just missed the previews." We walked up to the ticket window. He gestured for me to step up to the window. "How many?" the woman asked. "Um," I said, looking at him in confusion. Once again, he was lost in the fascinating world of his cuticles. "Two," I said, thinking that this was supposed to be a "celebration" of my accomplishment and . . . how, exactly does me buying him a movie ticket translate into a celebration for me? I thought perhaps some sugar would make things better. "I'm starving," I said. "I could really use some Sour Patch Kids." He just looked at me like I told him I had to go potty. "Okay," he said, now gesturing toward the candy counter. Clearly, I was buying my own celebratory Sour Patch Kids.
We sat down in the theatre and he continued to huff and puff and make "irritated" noises. I loathe talking during movies, but the theatre was basically empty. "Is something wrong?" I asked him. "I'm just really stressed - I can't believe how long it took me to get here." I bit my tongue. I was dying to say, "Well, hopefully me paying for your ticket will help you relax a little," but instead I said, "Did you get called into work or something?" He did not get called into work. I asked him how he spent his day. Sitting at the corner Starbucks, drinking lattes and enjoying his new James Patterson novel. Wow. Sounds stressful. No wonder he was half an hour late.
After the movie, I said to him, "How do you want to get to the restaurant? It's not too cold - we could walk the six or so blocks." He shook his head. "Yeah, but then at the end of the night, I'll have to drive you back to your car and that will be a pain. Why don't you just drive us over to the restaurant." Not so much a question as a command. Now I was confused. "What? Isn't your car in the movie theatre garage?" He laughed. "Hell, no. I didn't want to pay for parking twice tonight. I'm on the other side of town where parking is free
Wait a minute. In super-slow motion this was all starting to make sense. The frantic, red-faced huffing and puffing wasn't because of traffic - the bastard had RUN about fourteen blocks because had he paid for parking he would have been on time . . . but no. It was more important to not pay the SIX-effing-DOLLARS
than to be on time!!!!
"So, Blane, wait a minute. I've already paid for parking once
, and you want me to drive us over to the restaurant, where I'll have to pay for parking again. So it's okay for ME
to pay for parking twice?" He just looked at me like I might be the dumbest person ever. "Well, yeah. Come on, let's go. I've been looking forward to sushi all week." We walked together to the parking garage while I was in mute shock. Finally I said, "So, it's all about you, is it, Blane?" My bitchy tone apparently was lost on him. "Yep," he said, sounding a little too gleeful for me. "Me, me, me! And speaking of me, guess whose birthday is three weeks from tonight?" My mouth dropped open. "Yours?" I said incredulously. "That's right, so you'll have plenty of time to shop! Ha, ha, ha."
We got in the car. I was silent. We left the parking lot and I handed the attendant six bucks. He did not offer to pay. We drove over to Restaurant Row. Six blocks of trendy restaurants and parking lots. $12 parking. $20 parking. $10 parking. The six dollar lot was just as far as the movie theatre - we could have walked and I would have saved those damn six dollars. I just kept driving in circles. I couldn't bring myself to pay for parking and I just KNEW - I KNEW that I would end up paying for dinner and I honestly thought that if I had to do that, I would lose it. In the sushi restaurant. I would start screaming and/or crying and that was not something I wanted to do. We drove past the parking lot (again) across the street from the sushi place. "Oh, look!" Blane said excitedly. "There's one spot left - only $16 to park."
That was it. I lost it. I pulled over, tires screeching, into the adjacent parking lot. He looked at me. "No," he said, "You don't want to park here. That other lot is closer." I just glared at him. "This date," I said, and paused mightily, "Is over." He looked stunned. Now it was his turn for his mouth to drop open. "What?!" Clearly, I had shocked the hell out of him. "What? Why?" I'm not sure my answer even made sense. "You seriously think that it's okay for me to pay for parking twice tonight when you won't even pay for it once?!?" He looked both relieved and mystified. "That's
what this is about?" he asked. "Oh, come on. I was just kidding." I highly doubted that. "You need to get out of my car. I'm tired and I'm broke and I want to go home." He looked completely flabbergasted and then sputtered, "Yeah, well, it was nice seein' ya!" and slammed the door.
I found out later from a co-worker whose spouse worked at the same bank that he was NOT in management. He was an "account manager" in the credit card department of the bank. That is code for "customer service representative." He answered the phone when people called to ask a question or complain about their credit card statement. I'm guessing he was looking for a woman to take care of him financially and decided that I fit the bill. And I guess I sort of did, for one month.
Labels: How I Met My Husband Series