Worst Date Ever

Worst Date Ever

When I was young and optimistic foolish, I dated a bit. Not as much, probably, as my contemporaries, since I had work and school obligations, but in hindsight perhaps too much for me. I was too trusting and too naive, really, so I now marvel at my survival of those crazy times. Many people were drinking too much and doing drugs, having sex with strangers, throwing their youth if not their lives away for a short-term thrill. Not so for me. I remember the 60s because I didn’t do those things. After a few close calls, I realized that even moderate drinking could put me in danger from seemingly innocuous friends, and I stayed away from drugs because they were illegal and I had no interest in being out of control. Those choices made it easier for me to avoid casual sex, as I’ve always believed you have to be in love to engage in sexual activity. I realize how prosaic and old-fashioned that sounds, but they were different times and I was raised that way.

As happens, though, despite my best efforts, and no matter how ‘nice’ my dates seemed, occasionally I found myself in precarious circumstances. I was dating a young man who had been in the army who was pursuing a college degree; his brother was married to my cousin, who encouraged this ‘match.’ We had a number of dates, most of which were to varying degrees disastrous, but he was a sweet boy who just didn’t have a clue. I learned during this time how immature, how undisciplined he was, and it was not long before I discovered he had more serious faults.

One Friday night, I had obtained tickets to a ‘Poe Fest’ at the Kent State University movie theater, which had a mandatory time frame—if you were late, you didn’t get in. Their reasoning for this arbitrary rule escapes me, but it was engraved in granite. Naturally, as with every other date we had, Jerry (I think this was his name, but my cerebral cobwebs hang rather heavily in this part of my memory bank) arrived late, with no explanation but numerous excuses. It was winter and I was wearing my white go-go boots (!) and my new fluffy-white winter coat, a necessity in his older, clunky car. I soon found that, despite its mechanical schizophrenia, Jerry loved that car more than anything. As we sped the 10 miles to Kent, we talked of nothing and nonsense, until Jerry heard a noise undetectable by humans.

He stopped the car, got out to look at the road from whence we had come, mumbling something. I sat in wonderment, as he began speaking of a (purely imaginary) problem with his car. We pulled into a service station. In those days, gas stations had attendants who pumped your gas for you, checked your oil and other things under your hood, washed your windshields, all for the price of your gas!– minimum wage was about $1 or $1.25 an hour and you could fill your tank for about $3.00. He asked the attendant to put the car up on the rack to check ‘something.’ So, here we were, me in my white go-go boots and fluffy-white coat and he in his casual slacks and grimy hands, as he tinkered with an exhaust pipe with more holes than Baby Swiss cheese and hanging by gossamer. He and the obliging service guy used wires and (I think) bubblegum to affix the pipe to the car in hopes we could continue with this amazing date and, at least, get home safely.

That ‘essential’ mission completed, and suddenly realizing that we were really late now (as if we hadn’t been late before he began his exhaustive tinkering), Jerry attempted racing through downtown Kent. On a Friday night, downtown Kent was comatose, except for the clubs where kids could dance to loud music and drink 3.2 beer, so we had little traffic with which to contend. Despite this, Jerry managed to time his efforts in perfect sync with the 5 or 6 trains zooming through the country town at that moment. Perfect in the sense that we hit every flashing light and crossing bar! At one point, he thought to jam the accelerator to beat an oncoming train (going around the crossing bar) and we became caught on the tracks on the wrong side of the bar. Cars up ahead and behind had stopped dutifully at their signals, blocking us in, at the mercy of an oncoming train. Screaming!

At the last minute (in movie-thrill fashion), the cars behind us backed up the street so that we were able to back onto the right side of the barrier, escaping the imminent squashing. It was at this point I remember thinking, this date is not going as planned. Nevertheless, ever hopeful, we arrived on campus, parked the car of Jerry’s dreams and my nightmares, and, running through the snow and ice, we arrived just in time—to have the door slammed in our faces! We were, perhaps, 30 seconds too late, but the attendants refused to admit us, refused to hear Jerry’s lame (-brained) excuses. And yet, that was not the worst date ever.

Youth is forgiving, youth is trusting, youth is dangerous. My last date with Jerry was even more exciting than the movie thrill ride, and that is why it was my last date with Jerry.

As in previous attempts, our date began with his late arrival. We were to go bowling at North Lanes and grab a pizza at Leone’s, and I was looking forward to a ‘normal’ date, since the bowling alley didn’t have mandatory arrival times and Leone’s was open to the wee hours. Before my back problems, I loved bowling; now I bowl on my phone. Leone’s had the best pizza in Cuyahoga Falls, maybe in the world, with home-made provolone and mozzarella so thick you practically needed a machete to cut it and pepperoni from Mama Leone’s special recipe, too. (It was never the same after the kitchen fire destroyed Mama Leone’s aged, grease-soaked oven).

I noticed immediately, however, that we were heading south on State Route 8 instead of north, so I suggested that Jerry was turned around. Oddly, men and boys hate it when you point out their mistakes, even more than they hate it when you beat them at games (I was a bit of a pool shark)! He wasn’t angry, though, he just chuckled a bit and told me to relax because he was taking me ‘somewhere special’ instead of bowling. I’m a simple girl with simple tastes, so I would have been happy with our original date idea. Finally, driving through the dark streets of Akron, we arrived at the Armory where we would, he assured me, attend a special speech. It was 1968 and a man Jerry admired and who was running for president was meeting with constituents and speaking of his plans for America.

We had seats in the over-crowded balcony; there were more attendees here than I had seen at a rock concert. Lots of men, a few women, lots of talking, gesticulating, flag-waving. Later, when he spoke to the massive crowd, the speaker enthralled the audience. They hung on his every word, cheering loudly and jumping up to clap repeatedly. I have never seen anyone control a crowd in that way. I never want to see anyone control a crowd that way. It was the most frightening thing I had ever seen. The stage and the speaker were surrounded by large, well-armed security guards and the erstwhile ushers were likewise armed and threatening by their very presence.

Why was this man so afraid of a public spectacle he had planned? Why were rumors flying about uninvited guests and trouble brewing for this eloquent speaker? What had my ‘boyfriend’ gotten me into? Why did the oxygen seem to go out of the over-crowded auditorium, now smelling of sweat, anger, and despair?

————–to be continued———————-

© 2015 Linda L Labin, PhD

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