Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day

Everyone has their least favorite holiday.  I used to think it was Thanksgiving, because being born on Thanksgiving means that I was never able to plan a birthday party and to be quite honest, having spent far too many birthdays alone, however, in my dotage, I understand that is not about the holiday, but really my dislike of gatherings.  Halloween is a holiday, which certainly had its ups and downs over the years as well, but I can think of quite a few good Halloweens in my life.

However, I cannot think of one solitary good Valentine's Day.  Heck, most of them are not even memorable, just an empty day in my life.  In fact, I believe I was paired off for eight Valentine's Days, the best and most memorable of which involves me coloring a guinea pig with colored pencils as part of my recuperation.  However, I can think of one exceptionally poor Valentine's Day, a masochist's tale from my year in the courthouse.  I think being rejected by a girl with uneven legs was quite the emotional blow for me, but with a history of having an eye for beauty in things and people which are broken, it was not quite as terrible as it might have been.  Also by 26, any semblance of confidence or ability to deal with women productively was lost in the scorched earth of my love life, self-inflicted to the last.  So, without further ado, I present my favorite Valentine's Day story as a present tense encounter from 2005 entitled Mountain Climber:

We've all watched The Price is Right. I mean, it's a staple of American life. As a child, I was horribly frightened by the game Mountain Climber. It's not the fact that man in the shorts with a pick ax predictably fell to his death every time they reached the third item, but rather it was the freaky yodeling that accompanied the game. As I got older, I was able to withstand Mountain Climber and laugh whenever someone guess the price of a $29 blender was $54, leaving the mountaineer precariously perched on the edge of the mountain, just awaiting the bid on the juicer to send him plummeting to his ultimate demise and the contestant to the front of the line when it came time to spin the wheel.

Today was much like one of those harrowing games of Mountain Climber, only in my mind. The day started off well enough. Then I was a few minutes late getting started on my day. The mountain climber slowly rose, maybe two or three dollars. Nothing major and still leaving the day in the prize winning area. Then, I couldn't find my watch, which was expected as I couldn't find it yesterday either, though now it is safely sheleved after finding it under the foot of my bed. Another dollar, nothing serious. Then, I showered, shaved, dressed to the point of the tie. Normally, I can tie a tie in two shots or less. Using a mirror is out of the question as for some strange reason my mind wants to use the hands in the mirror rather than the hands attached to my arms, leading to some awkward knotting at best. This morning, I may as well have been using your arms, dear reader, as it took no less than ten tries and two ties to actually get one tied properly. Slowly, the yodeling began to get louder.

After a boring drive to work with little in terms of good radio, I arrived at the underground parking area about ten minutes late. Not really a problem, since my boss cares more about what gets done, which is everything plus, then the exact moment I show up. So, I'm putting on my suit jacket and walking towards the elevator with a bottle of water, a can of soda and an umbrella in my hand. Then, somehow the can leapt from my hand, as if urged by a suicidal impulse and hit the ground below. Realizing that concrete is never smooth and learning from the time this happened in the outdoor parking lot, I sprung backwards, just out of harm's way as the can explode with full fury, leaving a foamy, brown puddle on the ground. I picked up the can, threw it out and felt good about not actually wearing a soda for most of the day. Only one or two more dollars up the mountain went our intrepid explorer.

Walking up the street to work, something dawned on me. The fact I probably should have shown up at 8 AM, instead of 8:30 this morning, since my judge was issuing a decision from the bench. Up the mountain we go.

I get to work and decide that I am going to hide at my desk for as much of the day as possible, as I would be less likely to get bit by a dog, run down by a criminal or have a dirigible crash upon my head there, then out in the halls of the courthouse. Staying at my desk was actually quite safe and productive. I managed to say only one stupid thing, which is about par for the course in any conversation. I didn't light myself on fire, douse myself in acid, nor accidently unleash a nuclear holocaust on the world. The yodeling had all but stopped and the little mountaineer in his shorts, with his pick ax held high felt very safe, almost secure and content.

At about 12:35, I headed out to lunch. Lunch is always safe. I would be alone, far removed from the courthouse and anyone I could run into. Nothing could go wrong, other than my lunch not being very good, which would have only pushed the mountaineer towards the edge, rather than over it.

Alas, we would not have much of a story were the tale to end here, as there is no point in discussing Mountain Climber if the yodeling fool is not pushed to a traumatic and early demise by the cruel world around him. Out the front door I go into the arms of fortune and disaster.

Outside was one of the law clerks that I know and work with. There is nothing scary about that in abstract. Of course, I've left out details like how at one point in time, I was very interested in, as something about her shy, awkward beauty spoke to me. Mostly, in the form of horrific plans that I will not recount here, due to their extreme length and utter failure. But we remain friendly enough, as I never really exposed my hand to her.

So, she is standing in the middle of the long path out of the courthouse and she sees me and stops. I walk up to her, umbrella extended as we are in a driving, wet snow. I offer her my umbrella like a gentleman, because that's just who I am. She refuses and we start to walk and talk. Our conversations are almost never meaningful or interesting, almost always staying in the safe zone of work, rather than the meaningful realms of anything important or personal, save one conversation about her love of sitcoms on HBO. So, we are walking along and I'm thinking about how pretty I think she is, despite her limp. I don't think everyone realizes that one of her legs is shorter than the other, but I'm dead certain of it. So, she mentioned she was meeting another of the law clerks for lunch. About this time, I put the umbrella away, as I was about to put someone's eye out with it, due to the high winds. Little in life is less emasculating than being blown around like Mary Poppins. If you don't believe me, wait for a day of high wind and take a flimsy umbrella for a stroll.

After a block, she asks, where was I going. In truth, I had planned to go to the book store, then swing back to one of the local eateries. Of course, faced with a situation between the rational walking away before I drag myself into regret or dragging myself into regret, I always choose the dragging, so I say the same place she is going, which in fact was partially true, since I had every intention of coming back there. So, we cross the street to the restaurant, where I've locked myself into the conversation and lunch.

We casually converse for a few minutes, with only one awkward reference to stalking after I pointed out one of the judges in the restaurant from behind. She seemed to think it was funny, but that was probably due more to the animation of myself, then the content of my words. I was thinking, how is it that I just couldn't figure out how to make things work with the girl with the pretty face, the cute speech impediment and the limp who finds me amusing. You would think I was playing to my strengths here, yet that ended up not being the case.

So, her friend came along and we went inside, just as the last table was taken. Perhaps I was going to escape with some small shred of dignity and leave the mountain climber stranded at $25 up the mountain. Of course, it was then recommended we dine in the small jury room upstairs, which apparently also doubles as a place for breastfeeding. So, I guess it has a variety of functions.

They order, I order. We stand around and converse, the two of them doing more of the talking as they are better friends. So, as you may realize, today is Valentine's Day, my second, least favorite holiday after St. Patrick's Day. So, the friend starts talking about what her boyfriend was doing for her for Valentine's Day. And then she asks the girl I like(d) what Brian was doing for her for Valentine's Day. Now, of course, in a perfect world that Brian was me and the great light of God would be shining on my wretched self. However, we all know that I don't believe in god or good fortune.

That Brian is one of the other two guys of the same job title. He of the square jaw and regular guy ways who I felt was real competition since early September and was certain of it by a long and arduous Family Law Christmas party I went to, as I neither drank at a public gather nor enjoyed watching her look at him and gentlely touch his sleeve in the way women do when they are interested in the short man. I was crestfallen after that day, but being isolated due to the different nature of my job, I was unaware he made his move and things worked out.

I would repeat what happened in real life here, but I was lost solely in the dark recesses of my mind as the poor Mountain Climber watched in great horror as I screamed the two slice toaster cost $186 when it really cost $20. The Mountain Climber was just shot off the mountain over the Plinko machine and to a certainly painful demise as he lay broken at the base of the wheel. Of course, my next horror was that I was to be drawn into the conversation, be asked what are you doing for your girlfriend for Valentine's Day and be forced to withhold the hilarious, but highly inappropriate comment of switching hands.

Needless to say, lunch was a long, drawn out meal in a small room with a bricked up fire place that where the conversation mostly turned on how much they disliked certain people, while I realized how really good my job and most of the people I worked with were in comparison. Of course, this was interspliced with the image of the poor mountain climber being vaulted and my wondering where did I go wrong in estimating this one out.

I then returned to my desk after taking some work from her, walked to my desk and sulked for a decent while at my desk, finished up everything I needed to do and went home on time in the driving rain. Now, I sit here having written this utterly ridiculous story about my day, which you were drawn into and have completely read and had a good laugh at my expense. And I deserve it.

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