Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"Happiness is having a scratch for every itch." ~ Ogden Nash


When I got my first teaching job, I also got my first apartment. Boy, was it little! My apartment was located in the corner of an upside-down-U-shaped, 2-story building. It was all I could afford. My tiny abode had one window in the living-room/dining-room/kitchen, looking out over the alley. The bedroom window looked out on someone's grassless backyard where an old dog paced back-and-forth. I'd found a dark red fishing net for a dollar-and-a-half, and I'd stretched it "artfully" on the wall... That was my tiny apartment's only decoration!

One day the apartment manager knocked on my door. I'd just returned home from a weekend trip to see my grandparents. It was early Sunday evening, and early the next morning I would get up to go teach art to 240 high school students, all in one day!

"Terry, I just moved one in right next-door to you! He's perfect for YOU!"

"Dog? Cat? Human? Whaddaya talking about, Al?"

"He's a lawyer for a corporation! He's right next-door, ya dope!" ... and he ran back upstairs to his apartment.

Now, remember... I was very, very shy. The only place I wasn't shy was when I was in my classroom teaching my 240 students. But I've always been a sort of curious person... I wondered what he looked like... wondered if he was nice... wondered...  Hmmmmm.... 

I hadn't checked my mailbox yet, and I'd have to walk right by "his" apartment to get to it. Good!

His curtains were wide open, and I peeked in as I ambled by. There was NO furniture inside the tiny apartment except for an Army cot in the corner with a sleeping bag on top of it. Across the room in the kitchen area there was a square red metal kitchen table with four red plastic-covered chairs. A blonde-haired man was sitting on the floor in a well-tailored gray suit reading the Sunday newspapers. Hmmmmmm....

On the way back to my apartment, clutching my mail in one hand, I suddenly knocked on his door with the other! How I got the nerve, I will never, ever know.

"Hi! I'm looking for Al, the manager. Have you seen him, by any chance?" I lied when he opened the door.

"No, I haven't..." and we chatted. 

"Have you had dinner yet?" he finally asked.

"No."

"Would you like to go to the Elks Club with me for dinner tonight?"

Now, you have to know that this happened the week before I would get my monthly paycheck from the school district. I made $350 a month. My furnished apartment cost $150 a month, and after paying what few bills I had and buying necessities, every fourth week all I had left was gas-money. I'd eat the free lunch they gave teachers every school day, and pretty much live on popcorn every night until pay day.

"Why, I'd love to," I said, trying to hide the hungry growling of my stomach.

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"The special tonight is barbecued spareribs with baked potatos and green salad," said the bored, tired waitress.

My eyes, on the other hand, lit up like fireflies! My favorite food in the entire world, besides artichokes, were barbecued spareribs. My lucky day! I think I let her finish announcing the special before I said, "Yes, OH YES! I'll have the barbecued spareribs! Yes, yes, oh YES!"

And then she brought THEM, with all the trimmings. The salad was good, I think, but what did I know? I'd lived on school cafeteria food since I'd started teaching school! You know... "mystery meat" and canned vegetables and jello... every school day.

Then, when I'd finished my over-flowing plate, that darling angel of a waitress said these words to me, "Would you like more? Tonight it's "All You Can Eat."

All I could eat? ALL I COULD EAT??? My Mom always said that I had a great appetite, and she was right. I can tell you that in all the world there are only about 5 things I don't like to eat, one of them being mushrooms, if you're curious. This waitress hadn't seen anything yet... 

Richard and I talked, I'm sure... well, Richard talked. I think it's very possible that I just nodded my head a lot and kept saying, "Pass me the rolls, thank you... oh, and the butter, please."

Suddenly, I noticed that Richard was looking past me and not saying a thing. Just staring... past me! He had a dazed look on his face. I didn't have time to turn around to see who he was looking at because the waitress was bringing another full plate of barbecued spareribs to OUR table! Yum! Richard had stopped eating, though. Ah, well... more for me!

He doesn't like me, I decided. This is our first and last date, I thought. "Ma'am, are there any more rolls? Oh, and can I have another baked potato, please? Lots of butter, too" is what I said, though.

************************

After the feast, we drove back to the apartment building, Richard said good night to me, and I closed the door. I wondered how uncomfortable it was going to be, living right next-door to someone who took me on a date, and then decided that he didn't like me at all. But I only wondered for about a minute and a half. By then I was sound asleep with a FULL tummy to keep me warm!

Funny, though... Richard asked me for a date for the next Friday night. Then it was for the following Saturday, and then we started seeing each other regularly.

On one of those dates Richard asked me a strange question, "Do you remember our first date?"

"Of course! We had barbecued spareribs, 'member?"

"Did you know what was happening right behind you that night?" Richard asked. "You never even turned around!"

"What? What was happening?" I asked him.

"A man began to choke on his food, and then he fell out of his chair onto the floor! Someone, probably a doctor, came over to him, and checked his heart, and they carried him out of the restaurant on a stretcher! I think he had a heart attack!"

"They did? He did? Really?"

"Yeah, and you never even turned around! You never seemed to know that anything was going on. And it was happening right behind you! Everyone in the whole restaurant was watching it, except you!"

... It wasn't until we were married for several months that I finally told him the background story of "The All You Can Eat Night at the Omaha Elks Club!"  

2 comments:

  1. What a GREAT story! Thanks for making my day.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks even more, Donalee, for reading it! So glad you enjoyed it.

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