Friday, June 26, 2015

Our First Date: The Day I Almost Died

As far as first dates go, it wasn't a total disaster. I mean, I didn't actually die, right? Yes, there was a near death experience. But that's to be expected on first dates, isn't it? And I did manage to survive to tell the tale. So here it is.

Let me set the stage. My future wife and I first met at a dinner that was staged by a mutual friend. The evening went just fine, and the next day I got an e-mail from The (not-yet) Wife letting me know she might be interested in getting together again. (I covered this in more detail in: "The Fixer Upper")

Over the next two months we sporadically exchanged e-mails, but we were both pretty busy. She had just bought a condo, and was spending almost all of her time gutting and remodeling it. (I have never had a desire to tile a floor, and after hearing stories of her experience with it, I never will.) Meanwhile, I was driving to Idaho on most of my free weekends to be with my Dad, who was dying of cancer. (He passed away about a month after The Wife and I first met, and about a month before our first real date.)

Finally, the time came for us to actually go on a date. I called her up and asked her if she'd like to go to dinner and a movie with me. (Yes, I'm very clever and very original. I don't think anyone ever had thought to combine dinner and a movie as a first date game plan.)

This was the summer of 2006, and there were three movies that we considered going to see: Superman Returns, with Brandon Routh as Superman and Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor; Pirates of the Caribbean II, with Johnny Depp and crew; and the Disney/Pixar movie Cars, with Lightning McQueen and Mater. I hadn't seen any of these movies.

Unfortunately, The (not-yet) Wife had already seen Superman Returns, and Cars. So, that left us with Pirates of the Caribbean II, which I had absolutely no desire to see. (Two hours of watching Johnny Depp do an impression of Keith Richards sounded about as exciting to me as two hours of watching my toenails grow.) Luckily for me, The (not-yet) Wife acquiesced and said she was willing to go see Cars a second time. So, the date was set.

I got in my car, Trusty Rusty, and made the drive from Salt Lake, where I lived, to Orem, where she lived. I called my car Trusty Rusty because at the time it was an 11-year old car that I had owned for 10 years. I had spent relatively little on it mechanically over the years, (hence "Trusty,") but it did have a few large spots of rust growing in patches at various areas, (hence "Rusty.")

I got to Orem about a half an hour earlier than I needed. (Those who see me come in to church ten minutes late every week might not believe it, but I used to be way early getting places. Having a wife and kids can change that.) With some time to kill, I fueled Trusty Rusty up, then drove around a bit to kill the extra time.

With about five minutes to go until the prearranged date time, I started heading toward her house. I was heading west on University Parkway, just west of State Street in the middle lane when it happened. An RV was passing me in the left lane. Suddenly, something came flying at me from the direction of the RV. I'm not sure if it was a bottle or a rock, but whatever it was shot right toward me, hitting Trusty Rusty in a spot that, if not for my windshield, would have struck me right in the face!

The windshield didn't completely shatter, but the impact did produce large, round, spider-webby cracks that covered the entire driver's side of the windshield. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that if not for my windshield, I might have died that day.

Here's a picture of what it looked like:

Trusty Rusty on the day of the First Date. I might be dead if that windshield hadn't shielded me! (If you look closely at the bottom of the driver's door, you'll see one of the reasons I called the car Trusty Rusty.)

I quickly pulled over into a parking lot. Tiny shards of glass had sprayed from the windshield into the front seat of my car. I cleaned them up as best as I could.

Having stared death in the face (kinda, sorta), I told myself, "This date hasn't killed me yet! I might as well keep going and see what happens." I drove on.

When I got to her house I was more than just a little embarrassed by the appearance of my car. Here I was, picking her up for a first date, in an old, rusted-out car with a shattered windshield. I felt that it looked like I drove the car straight from a junkyard.

When she got to the door, I apologized profusely for how my car looked. She was cool about it, seemingly unfazed that she would be getting in a car that looked like it had been on the losing end of a scrape with the General Lee on The Dukes of Hazzard. After a quick chuckle, she made it clear that the appearance of my car didn't matter at all.

We had met once before, but I hadn't realized how tall she was. She's 5'10" and was wearing shoes with a bit of a heel to them. (I didn't actually notice the shoes, just the height. It turns out she was glad I was considerably taller than her, because it freed her up to wear the heeled shoes she couldn't wear around shorter guys.)

I opened Trusty Rusty's passenger door for her, and she sat. I was worried that I might have missed some glass shards on her seat, but apparently I got all the ones big enough to matter.

We went out to eat first, at one of Orem's finest dining establishments. (It doesn't get much fancier than the Outback, does it?) The dinner went well. The food was good, I didn't spill anything on myself, and I didn't make any audible bodily noises. (No burps or farts!) And, the first date chit chat had been just fine, without any incident. Yet.

We got in the car and started to drive to the movie theater. That's when the chit chat took an unexpected turn. I had just turned 40 years old about three weeks earlier, and I knew she knew this fact because her neighbors (my high school friend and his wife; the ones who initially set us up) had been to my birthday party and told her about it.

I knew she was significantly younger than me. I was thinking late twenties. So, I decided it was time to ask her exactly how old she was. But, I knew better than to directly ask a woman, "how old are you," because some women don't like to tell you their age. My way around this was brilliant, or so I thought. I asked her, "So, what year did you graduate high school?"

Me, I graduated high school way back in 1984. (We're the best, why say more? We're the Class of '84!) I knew she was quite a bit younger than me, so I was prepared for any answer that began "Nineteen-ninety...."

I was most definitely not expecting "2000."

What?! 2000!?! That can't be possible! When I graduated from high school, the year 2000 was the far-flung future! 2000! That's a difference of 16 years! (It turns out the difference is only 15 years and 3 months, but still.) All I could think of was the old Conan O'Brien sketch where they would, in a high, falsetto voice, sing "In the year 2000," about the distant, distant future.

The chit chat pretty much came to a grinding stop. I was a bit dumbfounded and a bit flabbergasted.

We made our way to the movie, and it was enjoyable. (I sometimes wonder how and/or if our lives would have been different if we had seen Pirates of the Caribbean II instead of Cars. About a year later, after we were married, we rented Pirates II and tried to watch it, but after about an hour of it we shut it off because it was just so bad.)

The movie was good, and although I was a bit hung up on the age difference, it didn't seem to bother her. At one point during the movie, our knees were almost touching, and The (not-yet) Wife had moved her hand down on her knee in a signal I took to mean she was looking to hold hands. What she didn't realize is that she was dealing with Slow Joe from Arimo! You don't get to be a 40 year old virgin by holding hands on the first date! Still, it was nice to know she might actually want such a thing to happen.

After the movie we got some ice cream and then she showed me the condo she had bought but hadn't moved into yet because they were still doing renovations. But, all I could think of was, "In the year 2000."

At that point I figured this first date would be like most first dates I had been on, meaning there probably wouldn't be a second date. But, luckily for me we kept talking some, and in that conversation two things came up. 1) I had always wanted to hike to the top of nearby Mount Timpanogas, but I had never done so. And B) that very next Saturday her dad happened to be volunteering as a ranger at one of the trailheads for the Mount Timpanogas hike.

Before I knew what was happening, we had agreed to go out again on a date the next Saturday, and that date would be to hike the Mount Timpanogas trail.

When I dropped her off at her house, I actually felt a little guilty. Because of the age difference, I didn't think there was much of a chance that we would have any kind of a real relationship. I felt that I was using her that next week in order to do something I had always wanted to do, to climb that mountain. I felt kind of bad for using her in that way. Of course, it turned out I needn't have worried about it.

As I got back in Trusty Rusty, I looked at the splattered windshield and thought about how I had "narrowly" averted death. Little did I know that my life was really just about to start.



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