Friday, November 30, 2007

The Worst Date of All Time

I hope I have the strength to type all this out. I may have to do it in installments. You may want to go grab a beverage.

I was probably about nineteen or twenty years old. I was living at home with my mother. And I had inexplicably found myself dating a man who was just off the boat from Ireland. He lived in Brooklyn, had a beautiful and completely incoherent Irish accent, and we met in the city (Manhattan). He picked me up in a bar and then we got together the next day and walked all through Central Park. Boy, that really glosses over a lot though. We met in a bar in the city. I wasn't staying over at my friend's place for whatever reason so I returned home around 4am -- but not before pulling a mildly inebriated U-turn on the West Side Highway and getting sideswiped by a cab. I then had to turn around and leave Jersey the next morning at 9am to meet him in front of the Plaza. "How about a walk through the park?" "Suuuuuuuuuuuure." He dragged my hungover ass from one end of that park to the other. And during this forced death march, I discovered that he had no idea when I was being sarcastic. He was the sweetest man I had ever met, and thanks to the language barrier, he thought I was the sweetest woman he had ever met and well, we all know that's not true!!

But hey, he was gorgeous (think young Patrick Duffy), and had the most beautiful blue eyes. I agreed to meet him the following Saturday night at a coffee shop on a specific corner in the city. We were going to go out for dinner and then go to see "Born on the Fourth of July." I couldn't stand Tom Cruise even back then, but he really wanted to see it.

I set out from my house with plenty of time to spare. There was some area around the Pulaski Skyway before you got to the Holland Tunnel that was essentially a tunnel. I think it went under train tracks or something. It was backed up, which wasn't surprising, so I sat. I knew I had factored traffic in and still had plenty of time. And I sat. And I sat. Eventually, people started getting out to see if they could figure out what was going on. About 30 minutes into our wait, word got back to us that there had been an accident at the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, three people had died, and they were waiting for the photographer from the medical examiner's office to document the dead. We all surrendered to our wait of unknown duration and turned our cars off. After an hour, I began to worry about Seamus, my date. This being the dark ages before cell phones, I had no way of contacting him and even if I could find a pay phone, I didn't have the name of the coffee shop, just the address. And I sat. Somewhere between an hour-and-a-half and two hours, I began to worry what Seamus must have thought -- that I had stood him up. I would never do that and I would never want someone to think that I had. And then around hour two-and-a-half, I began to worry that Seamus had called the house. Doing so, I imagined he would have initiated my mother's panic mode because the last she heard was that I was driving into the city to meet him. If he was calling, something had gone terribly wrong.

Around three hours or so, we finally learned that the tunnel had been reopened. I was torn between turning around and heading home or just pushing forward to Manhattan to see if I couldn't somehow track him down. Because surely he wouldn't still be at the coffee shop.

It was like a scene in a movie. I found the shop, walked in the door, was STUNNED to see Seamus, and then a roar and a round of applause went out as everyone cheered my arrival! Seamus had in fact waited and a good many people in the coffee shop seemed to be rooting for him as he did so. Several people patted him on the back and I could hear others saying, "I knew she'd show" or "I can't believe she showed!" I explained to everyone what had happened and apologized profusely to Seamus. I was exhausted from just sitting in the car for three hours and really would have preferred going home, but I couldn't possibly leave him after he had waited so long. Besides, he had been drinking coffee the whole time and I suspected someone had to keep him occupied!

Since it was now so late, we decided to just head to the movie. It was opening weekend and the theater was packed. By the time the movie started, there wasn't a single empty seat. I had never seen a movie theater at full capacity. And somehow, in that sea of patrons, I found myself sitting in an odor web of women wearing old lady church perfume. Around the time Tom Cruise is in the VA hospital (in the movie), I decided to excuse myself and go to the ladies' room. I can't remember what was happening in the movie, but I know it was gory, and it didn't bother me.

I got out to the lobby and asked the popcorn guy where the ladies' room was. He pointed, I turned to see where he was pointing, ...................and then I awakened on my back on the floor of the lobby, with someone handing me my wallet and someone else handing me my glasses. It took me a second to put it all together, but then I realized I had passed out! I must admit, I do this fairly regularly. I have really low blood pressure and it's not uncommon for me to get lightheaded. I've dealt with it for so long that I can usually control it when it starts happening so that I don't pass out. I didn't even feel this one coming. I think that between the exhaust fumes I was inhaling in that tunnel and the hideous perfume that engulfed me in the theater, my poor brain just couldn't take it anymore. But according to popcorn guy, it was due to the scene at the VA hospital. He said I was the fifth person to pass out that day at that very scene. I told him that wasn't it, but he didn't believe me.

The folks in the lobby were wonderful and the popcorn guy helped me up and took me outside to get some air. It was winter and cold and just the hint of flurries had started to fall. The cold air was refreshing and was just what I needed. Popcorn guy propped me up against the wall outside and talked to me as I composed myself. He asked how I was doing and as I was telling him I felt better and was okay to go back inside.......................I woke up on my back on the sidewalk!! Poor popcorn guy got me up again, handed me my things again, and stayed with me until he was convinced I was okay.

I think I was gone for all of 20 minutes, although it felt like a lifetime. I couldn't imagine what Seamus was thinking! I shimmied back down our row and into my seat (and damned if the area didn't still reek of perfume - I nearly threw up!) and Seamus whispered, "Did you have a cigarette?"

Now, I was tempted not to tell him right there and then, but I'm usually not one to pass up an opportunity for absurdity when it arises. So I whispered very innocently, "No, I passed out two times in the lobby."

"WHAT??!!" was his very loud and appropriate response. I shushed him, told him I was all right, and that I'd explain after the movie. And so we sat. I can only imagine what was running through his mind this whole time. As soon as the movie ended, he hammered me with questions, and I filled him in.

Once again, all I really wanted to do was go home. I had really had enough at this point and my head was still pounding from passing out. Seamus was worried about my driving and tried to convince me to stay in the city a little longer. We kept talking about it as we left the theater and walked back to my car. As we were walking along, I noticed that the flurries seemed to be picking up a little bit. The city was absolutely beautiful.

I finally convinced Seamus that as much as I'd like to stay, I really needed to get on the road. I was exhausted, my brain had suffered two bouts of oxygen loss, and I thought it was time to call it a day. He said he'd phone the next day and I was on my way.

I'm not sure exactly when the light flurries turned into a blizzard, but I know at the very least that it was before I got on the Pulaski Skyway because by the time I got up there, I couldn't see beyond six inches in front of my car. The Skyway was a special slice of hell on a clear day, let alone at night in the middle of a blizzard. If I remember correctly, it was elevated to a height that could accomodate the passage of a space shuttle, the lanes were just wide enough for travelers on horseback, and there were no places to pull over. And so I soldiered on. My typically 45 minute drive that took upwards of 4 hours earlier in the day now took over two hours on my return, thanks to the snow. Would this day ever end???

When I finally pulled in front of my house, I turned off the car, climbed up the stairs, sat down on my mother's bed and began to cry. I had never in my life been so happy to be home. And my dear mother knew exactly what I needed: a hug and some soup. That was the best soup I've ever had.

What of Seamus, you may wonder? We had a couple more meetings in the city, none as dramatic as our movie date. I found it impossible to talk to him over the phone because of his thick brogue. The only chance I had of understanding him was in person when I could read his lips. The poor dear never did understand when I was being funny and I eventually grew tired of explaining and re-explaining everything. He was a beautiful person inside and out, but it had to end. I'm sure I had developed a crush on one of my female friends by then anyway. Time to move on! But I will always remember Seamus. It's a shame I associate such a lovely man with The Worst Date of All Time!

1 comment:

glo said...

I am so glad you had a warning at the start - I really had to use the bathroom. That is just too funny! I lost it by the time I got to the blizzard. In fact, I really haven't regained my composure yet. Yep, you've always been you.