Wednesday, October 26, 2005


In Which The Future Is In (and Out Of) His Hands...

I had considered myself so clever, having the engagement ring I had purchased for Her Lovely Self shipped to my parents. Not only would I be spared the anxiety of carrying that ring around with me for the next three weeks, I could also save a little money that could be put towards the wedding or the honeymoon. Assuming Her Lovely Self said yes.

That prospect that looked increasingly unlikely as I stood in the lobby of my future office in the Washington DC area. Having just accepted a job halfway across the country--without consulting Her Lovely Self first--I knew I was in deep doo-doo, doo-doo of a depth I'd never before experienced. This was no time for flowers or gifts or treasure hunts. It was time for the nuclear option. It was time to retrieve the ring from my parent's house.

At first, I announced to my dad that I was going to drive straight up to New Hampshire, a 6-hour drive from where I was in Virginia. I could be there by midnight or 1 AM. With the ring in hand, I could drive to Ohio, where Her Lovely Self was spending the weekend visiting her parents. I could be there by late Saturday night, early Sunday morning. I could make things right, propose to her there in front of her family, and--

"Stop," My dad said simply.

I shut up immediately.

"Take a deep breath and let's think this one through," my dad said. He then pointed out some facts, such as the fact that I had been up since dawn in my efforts to get to Washington for the interview. That I was exhausted. That there was some sense in staying put and looking for an apartment if I was indeed taking the job. Furthermore, my dad, a disciple of the Weather Channel, had been monitoring a weather pattern bringing heavy precipitation all across Ohio and New York in the next 24 hours. That coupled with the start-up of summer construction--and one-lane roads--on the highways I'd use put a serious damper on my plans.

"You'll be lucky to make it there by Sunday afternoon," my dad reasoned. "And where will she be by then?"

"On her way back to Chicago," I muttered.

"Ayuh. Never mind that even if you did make it to her folks', you'd still have to turn your ass around and drive back to Washington to drop off your rental car--and don't you goddamn think of driving it all the way to Chicago. Avis'll charge you an arm and leg in penalties if you do that. On the other hand, if you make the drive out to Ohio and try to make it back, you'll miss your flight, which puts you back in Chicago Sunday night. Which is when she gets back anyway."

"But--you don’t understand--"

My dad laughed. "I guess the hell I do. You fucked up sumpin big and now you wanna go jumping through flaming hoops to make up for it. But I am here to tell you, Mistah Man, all you're gonna get out of that is a red-hot asshole. I might know a thing or two about that, living with your mother for 30 Christly years."

I wasn't sure I wanted to pursue that line of thinking at all, but of course, he was right. "So how--"

"Tell you what," said my dad. "I'm looking at the ring right here. Been in the box ever since FEDEX delivered it last week. Can't do nothing on the weekend, and FEDEX don't do pick-ups out here. But come Monday morning, I'll call in late and drive down to Manchester and walk it on the goddamn plane if I have to. You'll have it Tuesday morning. Sound good?"

I was hugging onto the payphone now, all strength having fled my body. Tuesday seemed like years away. But my dad was right. It wasn't the way I wanted to do it, but it made the most sense.

"Abso-friggin-lutely," I said finally. "Thanks."

"Call me tomorrow and let me know how your apartment search went," he said. "Oh, and congratulations. Not every day someone offers you a goddamn job on the spot. Never happened to me, I'll tell you. I'd a taken it too."

"Really?" I asked.

"Cawse, your mother woulda torn me a new asshole if I hadn't talked to her first. But you'll find after the first couple of extra assholes you get, the new ones don’t hurt near as much."

We talked for a few more minutes, and once he was satisfied I wasn't going to do something stupid like show up at his door in the middle of the night, my Dad rang off.

He stood in the peaceful silence of the kitchen there in the woods of New Hampshire, staring at my little box of truth and beauty. It dawned him then that the box held a great deal more than that, and not just for his son, but for him too. Monday, and the pocked road to Manchester, suddenly stretched out before him like a vast and treacherous desert.

He looked over at one of the many cats my parents kept.

"Jesus H. Christ, Moxie, what in the hell have I gone and agreed to do now?" he asked.

Well, it was quite a weekend for all of us. I spent it hunting for apartments and feeling like shit, and so as a result selected for myself the most miserable, depressing, crack-neighborhood style apartment I could find. Her Lovely Self later wished she had been a fly on the wall (and she would have been lost in the crowd at the apartments I looked at) so she could have taken private delight in my misery, seeing as how I had caused plenty for her.

Meanwhile, in Ohio, HLS's parents were not quite sure who had shown up at their house, but it wasn't their daughter. In her place had arrived a crazy woman, someone who had jumped clear off her track and was in the midst of an emotional crisis. It was as though every feeling she had kept bottled up for the past 18 months--perhaps even the past 23 years-- was now bursting forth. First, she was weepy, telling her parents how she had driven me away, how I had taken a job in another state and hadn't told her, obviously because I wanted to be rid of her. She told them she loved me more than any other man on earth and she wanted to marry me and have my babies (not a million, but a few) and now she had blown it.

Her father, who knew his daughter, asked, "Honey, did you ever tell him any of this?"

HLS blinked at him for several seconds, then wailed, "N-o-o-o-o-o-o!"

Then she was hysterical for a while.

Then she was mad.

By the end of the weekend, she was done with me.

She informed her parents that when she saw me in Chicago again, she was going to break it off. By "it," one could only hope she meant the relationship. I wished I had been there for the first part, the emotional part, the part I never got to see in all our time dating. It would have been nice if HLS could have admitted these things under other circumstances, of course, but who was I to quibble?

Later, though, we both agreed that neither one of us wanted to be in my dad's shoes.

During the week it had been sitting on the kitchen counter, my dad hadn't given it a second thought. Now, the ring began to weigh on him.

All day Saturday, whether he was on his way to the barn to get a tool or heading down to the pasture to collect firewood, he'd stop in at the house and cast an eye over to the corner of the kitchen where the box sat. One nasty moment after lunch he looked and saw the box was gone and cried out. My mom informed him that she was afraid the cats would knock the box over and damage it--plus she was sick of him coming in and staring at it--so she had relocated it to the bedroom.

By Sunday, my dad was carrying it from room to room, so he could keep an eye on it. When his alarm clock sounded at 5 Monday morning, he sat up and reached across the nightstand for the box before he even shut the alarm off. box!

He leapt out of bed, and it was then that he saw it sitting partially under his pillow. Had he placed it there? He couldn't remember.

Within a half-hour, he was on the road to the highway that would take him to Manchester. But his first cup of coffee was already having an inevitable physiological effect.

He pulled in to McKenna's, a local diner near the highway. He locked up the truck, something he had never done before, living as he did in a small New Hampshire town. He started towards the diner, then stopped, went back, unlocked the car and grabbed the box. He carried it into the diner, order a cup of coffee and a sausage biscuit to go. Then he stepped into the single-stall men's room to have his morning sit-down.

A few minutes later, he stepped out, paid for his coffee and sandwich and headed back to the truck.

He had driven halfway across the parking lot when he realized he'd left the box on the back of the toilet in the bathroom.

With a squeal of brakes and a high whir of wheels turning in reverse, he fishtailed back to the diner and leapt out of the truck, leaving the motor running. When he saw someone was in the bathroom, my dad almost broke the door down. Instead, he held a muffled and awkward conversation with the current occupant and finally got him to hand out the box. After a quick inspection to confirm the contents, Dad raced back out to the truck and peeled out of the parking lot.

He got to the Manchester airport with hours to spare. When the man at the FEDEX desk told him they had a full service depot up a Hanover--a mere 20 minutes from my parents' house--it did nothing to lighten his mood.

But mine was lightened considerably when, on Monday afternoon, as I sat in my office in Chicago, typing the same line of the same story over and over, the phone rang and my dad rattled off a tracking number. I'd have the ring by 8 AM tomorrow.

Now if only I could get Her Lovely Self to talk to me again...

Now this was neat, seeing the viewpoints of different characters. You've done it briefly before, but never on this scale.

Your poor dad :)
my brother did the same thing and sent the ring to me in another state to save on taxes. i was EXTREMELY nervous about having it and couldn't wait to get rid of it.

i don't understand how women can wear them and not feel weird about it. i know for a fact that i would drop mine down the drain or leave it on a windowsill somewhere. not only would i worry about losing it, but every time i looked at it i would think either: man, this would buy a lot of RAM; this would pay for a cruise to Europe; or, this would feed a village in a third world country for a good while. instead, it would just sit on my finger, like a very expensive, silent pet rock on a golden leash.

i know these are not the things you are supposed to think and that it sound pretentious and extremely unromantic to be anti-diamond. i just wish they would come out with ones that double as a flash drive.
Crikey, you're keeping me at the edge of my seat here, MM. I'm practically hovering over it. Good thing we all know this story has a happy ending, and HLS does get to have your babies. Eventually.

Your dad is such a cool guy; a post with a collection of all his advice, perhaps? It was hilarious to read how he freaked when he realised he left the ring in the restroom! I can only imagine the conversation going on in there...he must've been totally flushed.
With bated breath...
Heather--If you like differing viewpoints, stay tuned for an upcoming post told from the perspectives of HLS, my kids, and...well, that would be telling...

Beth--Don't feel bad for voicing "anti-diamond" sentiment. The funny thing is, when I was single I used to have this great speech about how I didn't believe in engagement rings either. Why not spend the money on an engagement stereo, or an engagement PC, or an engagement escrow account? The speech was part of a series I used to give to women about Life as a Modern Guy. Other topics in the series included, for example, How I Expected My Future Wife to Keep Her Name. Interestingly, that speech was far more popular than the Engagement Stereo speech.

The Engagement Stereo speech was also easy for me to give, because for years--dating back to before I cared--my grandmother had promised me HER grandmother's engagement ring, so I had the money-saving Heirloom Factor in my favor.

And then Grandma went senile and gave away a whole bunch of stuff to the Salvation Army. Including an old jewelry box in the bottom of her closet. THAT was a shock, I tell you. But not as big as a shock as waking up the next morning and realizing I wanted to buy something that could become the next heirloom. You just never know what crazy thing you'll do until you're in that situation.

And anyway, as my Dad helpfully pointed out, if at any later point I really needed that money back, I could always hock the ring out from under her. Best to keep your assets diversified, he always says. :-)

Kurt--Over in the Maximum Dad listing at the right, you'll find a post about management advice from my Dad, but you're right, I should do more.

And "flushed" indeed. Not that he had anything to be worried about. After all, it was I who was planning to take the, er, plunge. :-)

Gwinn--You can exhale soon. I believe this wraps up tomorrow. Sorry for all the cliffhangers, but all told this was 11,000 words--more than most can--or would want to--read in a lunch hour.
Gah!!! I thought this would be the proposal one! Anxiously waiting....
I was actually very conflicted before I got my ring. On the one hand, I really, really wanted one. On the other, I thought of all the other stuff I could do with the money, like buy more stuff on the honeymoon (we went to Japan), or get some awesome computer equipment, or even (gasp) save for a downpayment on a house.

Of course, if it hadn't been for my mother-in-law, I wouldn't have a ring at all...

(Was that MMish enough? No, you're right, it should've been longer.)
I have never been so tense about a story to which I already know the outcome.
I suppose it's a testament to your writing skills.
Either way, you got me on the edge of my seat here.

Good job.

just out of curiosity ... did you get her agreement on posting up all this stuff?

I would not know about the new asshole not hurting that much part ... mine still hurts plenty.

arghh ..... will have to wait another day for this.
dude this story, or should I say series, is so edge-of-the-seat. excellent writing as always, and yeah it was definitely interesting to see things from your dad's perspective :-) esp. teh part when he left it in the bathroom! knew that had to happen...

in other news, many bloggers are participating in Blog Quake Day to raise awareness/aid for the earthquake (magnitude 7.6) that happened in South Asia on 10/8. See my post on it for links, etc: Thanks MM.
Great stories, you have got me hooked. Anxiously awaiting the next entry......
Hi MM, I'm back. I know it seems I haven't been around and I feel an explanation is in order. You see, I began crushing on you really hard after the treasure hunt story, and being a happily married women, albeit with a raging Walter Mitty complex, I felt it neccessary to exticate myself from the situation, you know, regain my bearings. I have a soft spot for many writers, you, Dan Kennedy, Teddy Wayne, Chuck Klosterman; and often I imagine elaborate scenarios which leads to even more elaborate scenarios, it's a vicious cycle really. Anyway, after my self imposed exile I began thinking of you on a purely platonic level again which made me think it was safe to return. So here I am. To much information? Really enjoying the story btw :)
Your dad is a wise man. Slightly anxiety riddled, but wise.
Ah, yes. My dad is a fellow disciple of the Weather Channel. He would've done exactly what your father did.

:: "...all you're gonna get out of that is a red-hot asshole." ::

Funniest damn thing I've heard all day.
So when can we expect your next post?
Have you inherited your father's Weather Channel-watching gene?
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