Oh my – there she is and it’s now or never, I thought. She simply must be kissed immediately. My heart jumped as, this had to be one of those once in a lifetime chances, that if I passed on it, I would regret it for years and would never get another chance. No – a kiss it shall be and only seconds away. The execution plan was, of necessity laid down too quickly and ill thought out. I rarely stole a kiss, preferring to acquire them with a bit more forethought and agreement, not quickly thrown together with no mood setting or thought given to present circumstances and especially not with another girl sitting in the car seat next to me . . .
Have you ever been surprised with an alignment of circumstances that left you great opportunity, but with no time to think it through? This was one of mine.
In my college days @ Northwest College (now NW University) in Washington State I had one of these situations and this is how it unfolded.
I had just picked up Sarah Dukes, is a longtime friend from California at Seattle-Tacoma Airport in Washington. She had come for a visit. We had driven through Seattle instead of a faster route east of Lake Washington so she could get a glance at the city. Sarah was a hoot to be with; very smart with a sharp, almost surgical sense of humor and always making me laugh and always ready to help me get my foot into my or someone else’s mouth.
I’d been in Washington for over a year by this time and had made several local friends. One was a young lady about my age (mid 20s) who gushed friendliness, compassion, a touch of rowdiness and general joy for life. You would have loved her – everyone loved her. She absolutely loved a great gag, and, as an occasional recipient of her humor, I claim this incident was partially her fault as appropriate compensation for past deeds delivered.
But because I’ve lost touch so can’t get her permission to use her real name, I’ll call her Gina. Her most fun attribute was an ability to talk faster than she could think. You had to listen carefully, because her content came fast with minimal stops to breath.
One final small point is important. I had never been romantic with Sara or Gina; just great friends.
I sort of owed Gina an embarrassment, which was going to be tough to deliver because she was always so aware that she saw everything coming. That she managed to embarrass me so good was an accident – at least I think it was. We were both part of a small group of friends who did fun stuff together and one day, I was tasked with picking her up at a home several of the girls shared and bringing her to the event where we would meet the others.
I pulled into the driveway right behind her as she arrived home from work. She waved and invited me in while she changed. I was sipping on a glass of water while she talked from her bedroom down the hall. I had a full mouthful of water when she scurried back into the kitchen, talking almost too fast to follow, both hands in full motion, trying hard to make some point I immediately lost track of because she had fully forgotten to tuck in or even button her blouse and thus her hands were not the only things in flight and full view.
My mouth was full. Gina’s monologue had too much inertia to allow for a pause and she was completely insensitive to my urgent attempts to not spew the whole kitchen with water or chock. I could feel my face assuming a really embarrassed color as I managed to swallow the water finally and begin the honest effort to tell her how exposed she was. Somehow she read all this as enthusiasm for whatever she was saying and only increased her spoken words per minute. Finally, the amount of time that she’d had her lacy parts out front was getting ridiculous and, if I allowed it continue, it would become my fault for not alerting her. I had to break the flow of words so I reached out to catch both her forearms, which both shocked and stopped her. “Gina! You really — REALLY need to button up your blouse.”
Her eyes got huge as she glanced down, realized what she’d done, spun her back to me to begin correcting her very relaxed look with something more suitable to relationship but — but, she was immediately back to her monologue, picking up where she left off; but I was distracted so she might have been speaking Chinese for all I would recall. Of course she told everyone about it. A good laugh was enjoyed by all, sorta. Guys, you surely know the problem. Gina and I were not romantic and now that image of her weighted underwear in motion, that memory had to be managed, put away somewhere appropriate where it would not pop up and distract me from the more appropriate things to think about.
Anyway, that was then and this was now. Gina worked as toll collector at the Seattle-Bellevue floating bridge in the late 1970s. She used to regale us with stories of strange things that happened to her as she took tolls from drivers from her little booth. In all the time I knew her, she complained about only two things.
1 – She hated when drivers stopped too far past her booth so she had to step out to collect their toll.
2 – She hated when the male drivers stepped out of their cars to pay their toll, because, she was very attractive and she then had no choice but to get scary close to unknown strange drivers to take their money. Apparently this happened often and it scared her.
I rarely went over to Seattle and there were maybe 12 toll booths so even if Gina was working when I came through, I was unlikely to see her and it never ever crossed my mind that I might.
But this day was going to be memorable whether I thought about it or not.
This day, I was thrilled to have Sarah visiting. I had not seen her in a few years and we had lots of catching up to do. She’d known me as a young and wild teenager. After not seeing her for few years, I was anxious show her that I’d grown up to be a reasonable and mature young man.
So, I’m driving and Sarah is in the passenger seat. We’re talking, laughing and getting caught up. In the back of my mind, I’m thinking of ways to show her a great time. I slow to stop and pay my toll when I suddenly notice that, for the very first time, Gina is going to be my toll collector!
A gag opportunity came to mind (my turn had come up – she was going to catch the next wave of embarrassment) and without actually thinking it through (there was no time to) I decided to pull the trigger and go for it. Deliberately, I stopped the car about 6 feet past her booth and (of course) stepped out of my car so I could be in violation of both her hot buttons. I stand about 6’3” and easily fit the role of a thug, if I hunch up my shoulders and grunt.
Gina, as expected, stepped out looking angry (which was surreal – I’d never seen her angry).
My being there was unexpected and I was out of context for her. She came at me with a defensive take-no-prisoners look on her face.
- quickly dropped the thug persona (because I really wanted to survive the gag)
- smiled and spread my arms widely (she still did not recognize me)
- greeted her by name and loudly proclaimed how great it was to see her (causing a great wave of contextual disassociation)
- grabbed her (you should have seen her face…)
- gave her a big hug (now she’s trying to decide whether to panic)
- gave her a big kiss (panic was sounding better, but “he does kiss pretty good…”) (just kidding. I was most likely having a near-death experience and just did not know it.)
- backed away with a large smile and gave her my toll money,
- wished her a great day, turned and got back in my car (leaving her dazed and (YES – proving that it was possible) speechless ! )
- and drove away, watching Gina from the rear view mirror as she pieced together what had just happened.
I knew this would quickly get back to our mutual friends and a great laugh would be enjoyed by all, so I’m already laughing to myself about how great this would be. Gina was pretty hard to pull a gag on – but I had nailed her and left her completely flummoxed. It did get back to everyone and a great laugh was had by all. With a huge grin on my face, I drove off and returned to my own previous context – and (uh-oh) Sarah – still sitting next to me – having watched the whole episode , she was, I’ll call it “processing”. Umm, how am I going to explain this to her?
She didn’t miss a beat. She scrunched her lips, dropped the centers of her eye brows and rhetorically said with mock scorn in her voice, “Is this how you pay all your bridge tolls? Nice Wilson – real nice!”
I gave up pressing the point about having grown up. There were no words that would save that effort now…
Photo Note: This is the current Evergreen floating bridge on Lake Washington, between Seattle and Bellevue, looking east towards the long removed, toll booths where this story took place. It was a much smaller bridge in 1977 when I think I pulled this stunt. I visited there recently and could not drive across without recalling it with a mischievous smile.