Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Great Expectations


Shortly after my wife Marilynn died, I received a Great Expectations bulk mailer. After 25 years as a married man, I realized I would need a lot of help getting back in the dating pool. So I paid my $2,000, filled out the forms, provided pictures, and they shot a video of me. The video probably repelled many potential dates – I was so earnest, so solemn, not at all the sort of happy fun-loving guy that San Francisco Bay Area babes would be attracted to. Also, my military and defense contractor background was bound to be a turn off

But I launched my campaign like a good soldier. I went in, looked at the stacks of books arranged alphabetically by the first letter of the young lady’s first name – no last names, addresses, or phone numbers given at this stage, of course – and adopted a course of action. I decided to start with the “A” book, and work my way all the way to “Z” no matter how long it took. I didn’t want to take a chance of overlooking a prize pick.

Not far into the A’s I came upon a picture of a leggy blonde beauty in white shorts sitting fetchingly on the lawn in front of the Great Expectations building. I didn’t have to see or read any more. One click, Alice became my first pick! I was limited to ten picks each day, so I soon filled my limit and went home to await developments. Nothing happened, so each day I dutifully returned and made my ten-pick limit.

After about a week of this, I was about halfway through the books, when I got a note from Alice delivered through the Great Expectations system. Alice thanked me for choosing her, but declined my offer, saying that she had a serious boyfriend, but maybe, if her situation with the boyfriend changed, who knows?

Shortly after her turndown, I finished “Z” without much reward for my efforts. I dated a lot, but the ladies who chose me did not interest me, and the ones I chose were similarly disinterested. What to do? I entered my “international” phase.

A gorgeous 21-year old swim suit model from Christ Church, New Zealand visited. She had a lot in common with my youngest son, Jeffrey, -- he really “digged the chick” -- nothing with me. Then I spent some time in Mexico City with a 29 year-old receptionist at Televisa, only 5’ 2” but also very pretty. Her family, including her invalid brother, liked me too. I think they saw in me their financial salvation. I decided to become active in Great Expectations again.

About six months after my initial unpromising contact with Alice, I got three Great Expectations notes from her on the same day, dated over a two-month period. First, she had dumped the boyfriend. He seemed more interested in her house than her, and was very upset to find she had refinanced her mortgage to pay for remodeling it, leaving not much equity. She had noticed I was back in the active group, and like she said in her first note, who knows how these things will work out? Then she was upset I hadn’t replied to any of her notes. Was I upset because of the initial turn down?

Actually, no. As a result of Great Expectations clerical incompetence, I hadn’t received the first two notes. Apparently when Alice sent the third note, someone noticed the first two in my folder and then sent them all together.

The day I received the notes, I had a dilemma. I had invited one of my brothers-in-law to go to a San Francisco Forty Niners football game with me the next day, and he had cancelled because his grossly overweight condition caused him to suffer the gout. In one hand I had Alice’s letters, in the other the soon to be wasted ticket. Did I just hear a blast of Heavenly trumpets? Was someone trying to tell me something? I picked up the phone and dialed Alice’s number. She accepted. I picked her up in the Jag XJ6, a memento of my long service in England that Alice would later dislike with a strong passion reserved for unreliable mechanical devices.

We went to the game. The Niners were behind late in the game, Joe Montana knocked out of the game by a hard hit. Steve Young came in, and immediately made the winning play, which is still shown on football highlight collections these many years later. Rolling left to pass at midfield, he tucked the ball in and began an Odyssey through the entire Minnesota Viking team, possibly beating some of the defenders twice along the way. At the end of his run, just a couple of yards from the goal line, he fell down untouched, probably exhausted, and crawled the last into the end zone. Everyone in Candlestick was in a state of high football-induced delirium, save one. While we were all watching the play on the field, Alice was more interested in watching us. She was delighted by our euphoria. She didn’t understand a thing about football.

I drove her home, walked her to her door, started to say good-night (I was too unsophisticated in dating to know that I had obligated myself to also take her out to dinner after the game), and she asked me if I wanted to have some left over spaghetti. To make a long story short, and set the stage for later story telling, I proposed five weeks later. She accepted.

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