"I'll be the brunette in the white oxford shirt and gray trousers carrying a red handbag."
Two days earlier my former boss called me to say she had met someone she thought I would like, and she wanted to set me up on a date with him. She thought we'd have a lot in common as he had been in the Marines. I wasn't sure I was ready to start dating, and I told her so, but she said, "Just one date. How bad could it be? If you don't like him, you don't have to see him again."
"Fine, Mary," I said. "Give him my number. Just one date. How bad could it be?"
The next night my phone rang, and I answered, after hesitating just a little. “Hi, Georgette? This is Andrew. Mary gave me your number. I'm not going to keep you on the phone: I’d rather take you to dinner so we can get to know each other face to face. Would tomorrow night work for you?”
“Sure, okay. Pick me up from work? I get off at 6:30 and I can wait for you outside the National Bank on 20th and Fleming.”
“All right that sounds great. I’ll be in a silver Toyota, how will I recognize you?”
I gave him my description, deliberately using terms I knew were pretentious just to gauge his reaction, to see if he questioned me. I mean, why would I want to go out with someone who doesn't know what trousers or handbags are??
The next evening, after work I freshened up a bit before I went out in front of the bank to wait for my date. I saw Andrew pull into the parking lot of the small shopping center the bank is located in and start looking around. I waved him over when he turned towards the bank. I opened the car door and got in before he could turn off the engine and come around to open my door for me. The first thing he said after handing me an already wilting rose was, "You'll have to excuse the car. I loaned my Mercedes to my son so he would have a decent, reliable vehicle to drive to Iowa for a job interview. So I'm stuck with this little piece of crap."
"Oh!" I said, only halfway joking, "I drive the exact same model piece of crap, only mine is white!" I wasn't sure he heard me, because I got no response at all. Just one date. How bad could it be? I had a sinking feeling I was going to find out. At best I was wrong and we'd have a great time. At worst, I'd have a story to tell, maybe a mention in the next Guinness World Records book for the worst first date ever.
So we headed out to dinner. When we pulled into the parking lot of the Country Barn Buffet I was a little surprised. I guess I never thought of this as a "first date" venue. I followed Andrew into the foyer and heard him tell the hostess he needed two "senior" tickets. I didn’t know Andrew's age, and didn't care, but I’m only fifty-two, hardly a senior citizen! The hostess looked at me and I looked at her and just shook my head. She asked Andrew if he was sure, and he said, ”Of course I'm sure, look at us! Just give me the tickets so we can get inside and eat.” She looked back at me and I mouthed the word sorry and shrugged. She smiled and gave him the tickets for the buffet. The hostess caught my eye as I walked past her into the dining room and mouthed the word sorry with a smile.
So now I knew which direction the date was headed, but I didn't want to contribute to its failure, and decided to continue to "play nice". We went in and found a booth and talked a few minutes before Andrew said we should go ahead and get our dinners. I had been to the Country Barn for breakfast before, but never for dinner, so I wasn’t sure what they would have to choose from. But I found a nice selection of salads, and my favorite comfort food, mac’n’cheese, so I was fine. When we sat down to eat we talked about different places we had lived in and how the military life had affected our families. Even though my marriage had ended in divorce, my experience as a military wife was wonderful. I loved moving around and meeting new people, learning about new cultures; Andrew dove into a diatribe about how horrible military life was for him. He had a list of grievances that included both personal and professional injustices. When he started getting so loud that the people around us were giving us uncomfortable looks, I reached over and touched his hand and asked if he was ready for some dessert.
“Dessert?!? You haven’t eaten my money’s worth yet,” he blurted out. “You need to go back for seconds before you think about dessert!”
I was stunned into silence. I smiled and picked up my tray and headed back to the buffet. I returned with a cup of coffee, a slice of chocolate cream pie, a sliver of chocolate bread pudding, and a bowl of chocolate ice cream with chocolate sauce and chocolate sprinkles, and I sat down across from him like everything was just fine, like he hadn't just said the stupidest thing I've ever heard.
When I'd eaten all the chocolate I could handle for the time being, and he had eaten "his money's worth", I thanked him for dinner, told him I had an early morning, and asked him to take me back to the bank.
The ride back was silent. He dropped me at the same spot where he had picked me up and sped off nearly before the car door had a chance to slam shut. I made my way through the parking lot to my lovely little white "piece of crap" and discovered a flat tire. Just perfect! Well, I could have called my insurance company and waited an hour or two for a service to meet me in the lot to change my tire, or I could have tried to change it myself. Or I could call an Uber and walk across the parking lot to the liquor store to wait for it. I described myself to the Uber driver:
"I'll be the brunette in the white shirt and gray slacks, drinking a beautiful Merlot straight from the bottle."