Originally “published" as an email on January 17, 2000, back when I was newly married, without children, and all but chained to my gift store Tom Foolery.
Let me tell you about my day Saturday. I must record this now because the story is sure to get better with age.
Just before noon, an hour before I was due to be released from my slavery to the store…for the weekend, anyway…a young man walked in to order some engraved glassware for his ushers. I recognized him from an engraving order earlier in the week, when he bought gifts for his groomsmen.
“Aren’t you getting married TODAY?” I asked, incredulous.
“5:30,” he answered calmly. “Can I pick these up by 3:00?”
I called to check, but the engraver wouldn’t be in until 2:30 at least.
“Can you guarantee me these will be done by 3:30?” he had the you-know-whats to ask.
“Nope,” said I. "We usually require a day, and this is a weekend, which makes it even more unlikely. But if you want to try, we’ll try. Okay, he wanted the glasses.
Fast-forward to 4:00pm. I’m sitting at home by the phone, forced to watch all manner of sports programs while I wait for the call. Even call to check, but the engraver has been delayed getting to the shop. The phone rings. It’s someone from the wedding party, calling to check. I promise to deliver the glasses to the wedding or the reception, and put them near the other gifts or give them to someone in a tuxedo. Did I mention that Gubby is coming over for dinner at 5:00?
The engraver finally calls. I hop in my car, wearing my best jammie pants and Big Dog sweatshirt, and drive across town. After picking up the glasses, I drive through the rain (did I mention the rain?) to my store, where I gift-wrap and label the glasses. Then off again in yet another direction, to the Presbyterian church downtown.
In the car I have rehearsed what I’ll say to him if he is snotty, and enjoy a particularly satisfying reverie in which I scold him for forgetting his ushers until the day of his wedding. Ah, but in retail one seldom says what one really thinks, and besides, he is a nice guy. And most importantly, the wedding is supposed to start any minute, so I’d just be dropping these off and flying home to cook fish.
Next problem: the church is right across the street from Tres Hombres Bar & Grill, and there is NO WAY I’ll get a parking spot near there on a Saturday night with wedding congestion and rain and all. But the Delivery Gods smile on me, and there is a spot RIGHT IN FRONT. Better still, since no wedding in the history of western civilization has ever started on time, I will probably have my choice of penguins to hand the package to. As I run up the steps I think, “This isn’t nearly as bad as I thought.”
NEVER tell yourself that.
I open the door onto a wide entry hall, empty except for the wedding coordinator and some guy in a ski jacket. Beyond the open swinging doors to the cavernous interior the entire bloody congregation AND the penguin party are all LOOKING BACK AT ME. I am instantly reminded of my plaid jammies and my white-socks-with-penny-loafers ensemble, and that I look like a confused homeless person. I head for the guy in the ski jacket and hide behind him, safe from the eyes of the penguins. NOT, however, safe from the eyes of the bride and Daddy, just waiting in the wings for the big entrance. I take her audible gasp to mean, “Oh! the plucky retailer, braving the elements and missing televised golf to deliver $28 worth of afterthought gifts!” I cling to that delusion.
Meanwhile, the ski jacket dude. He seems not to care (notice?) that I am using him as a human shield. He won’t shut up, even as I make every hand signal and grimace I know, short of throttling him, to make him stop talking. After the bride heads for the assembled penguins I stammer an explanation for my intrusion, and ask if he knows the bride or the groom?
“I’m the ja-ni-tor,” he whispers, as if I were slow.
The rest of the story is neither eventful nor important, which implies that the first part of the story was both, and for that I apologize. Speaking of apologies, I’m practicing one for the bride, and I never got a good one from Gubby, who was TWO AND A HALF HOURS LATE for my fish dinner. Next time he’s getting pizza.
We’ll have it delivered.