The Wizard of Odd
Doug types too much...
February 15, 2018
For whatever reason, some people don’t have a valentine in their life. I’m one of the lucky ones.
Valentine’s Day intrigues me. In my adult life, February 14th has become my favorite holiday. It is a day where I celebrate my best friend’s presence in my life. I really enjoy the process of doing that. And may I say, I carry it off pretty well. I may look like I dig tunnels with my face, but I can turn into a pretty debonair sort on V-Day.
Every year, I watch clueless guys with deer-in-the-headlights expressions messing this holiday up. I’m not throwing stones, just making an observation. You can see it for yourself. Just go to any florist shop on Valentine’s Day about an hour before closing time and you’ll see what I mean.
It’s just planning, guys. Seriously. You should not be wandering around on Valentine’s Day asking, “Oh, is it on the 14th every year?”
This isn’t hard. I drag out pretty much the same bag of tricks every year.
The tricks aren’t complicated. I take the time to pay attention. I cook. I dote. I come bearing gifts. Some chocolates. Champagne. A homemade card. And flowers. I’m big on flowers. You will never see me with a blank stare at the florist shop. I’ve got the flowers thing down.
I’ve known a lot of couples in my life. Some connections I get, others make me wonder how they ever got together. But couples are complicated, so I try to be non-judgmental. Even solid relationships require a little heavy lifting from time to time.
I can’t predict who comes into my head or when that’ll happen. This year, I flashed on a co-worker I knew in the 90s named Jonathan. He was a strange animal, but very likeable at the same time.
During my first few days as the new person in the office, he sat at a desk behind me next to a woman he’d worked with for a while. They jabbered about anything and everything all day long and one of his favorite topics was movies. This was good because I’m a movie fan, too. I figured we’d have something in common.
Initially, I kept my head down and said little. I listened. Each morning, Jonathan would run down his reviews of movies he’d watched the night before. I’d seen a lot of the same films, so I was interested in hearing his thoughts. But there was something really off. Even though he talked about seeing the same pictures I’d seen, his reviews were oddly splintered. Like he hadn’t actually seen all of each movie.
Within a week, I realized Jonathan was watching an average of 5 or 6 movies a night. How was that even possible?
I felt comfortable enough to ask.
“So, Jonathan, let me ask you a question. Do you ever sleep?”
“Oh, yeah. I need my 8 hours every night.”
At which point I laughed. “So how do you have time to go home from work and watch 10 to 12 hours of movies every night?”
He looked at me innocently and said, “It’s easy. Every night I stop on my way home at the video store and pick up a half-dozen tapes and then I watch them using Fast Forward.”
My face corkscrewed into a question mark. “So you’re not actually watching them.”
“Oh, no,” he assured me. “If I see something interesting, I hit Play and watch that scene.”
He went on to tell me he preferred watching movies that way.
“That way I don’t waste any time on boring stuff.”
Jonathan was an egghead. Smart in so many ways. But odd.
Jonathan went on a lot of business trips. Sometimes we went on trips together. The crowd we hung out with liked to have fun. People got inventive on these trips. Drunk people can be very creative. This was all pre-9/11, so if you went to the lobby and smarmed the front desk clerk, they thought nothing of handing over an “additional” key to your room. Even if it wasn’t your room.
For instance, on one occasion, an adventurous sort abducted a duck from the hotel pond, got access to a co-workers room, and locked the duck inside. Hours later, when the actual tenant of the room went to retire and collapse from a wild and loud night of singing with his friends in the hot-tub, his freak-out was twofold. One, there was a big bird flapping around his room. And two, his room was splattered with duck shit from top to bottom.
Jonathan existed on a different plane of inventiveness. On one trip, Jonathan was delighted to find his rental car had one of those new-fangled airbags in the steering wheel. He spent a fair amount of time one evening slowly ramming his car over and over into steel pipe bollards at the end of the parking lot. Jonathan had a curious mind and he wanted to know what it felt like to have an airbag explode in your face. Not everybody wants to do that, but Jonathan did.
Only thing was, he was banging his car into the pylons too slow. The airbag never went off because he never got up to the 15 MPH required to deploy it. But ignorance of that technical detail didn’t stop him. He was out there for a while. Undeterred. Banging the bumper of the car repeatedly at 5 MPH. You’d think he was toasted, but unlike his fellow partiers, alcohol was never a factor in Jonathan’s thought processes. Jonathan didn’t drink. He was high on life.
Jonathan was married. By his own admission, happily so. I wondered more than once what kind of person would subject themselves to his unique filters. They’d have to be a special breed. A person of great tolerance.
And finally I met her at an office Christmas party. Of all the people at the gathering, she was the one I wanted to talk to the most.
She was surprisingly normal. Pleasant and chatty. Not at all what I expected.
I couldn’t help but ask.
“So how did you and Jonathan get together?”
She told me they’d been dating for a while before they decided to tie the knot. He always came to her place. She’d cook dinner and they’d settle into the couch with a bowl of popcorn to watch a movie.
But she started to get annoyed with him.
“It was almost like he was mooching off me. And I told him, ‘Jonathan, this isn’t fair that you never contribute to the food.'”
She insisted he bring something to the table on his next visit.
About a week later, he showed up on her doorstep with a peace offering.
She smiled sweetly as she recounted their moment of bonding.
“I opened the door and he was standing there holding out a head of cabbage. And right then and there, I thought, ‘He can’t help it. He really needs me.’ And that was it for me. That’s when I knew I loved him.”
I watched them interact during the rest of the evening. They laughed at the same things. They were kind to each other. Gentle.
I like to think they’re still together. A unique lid and a pot that fit perfectly. And even though they might not do Doug Bari Penn and Teller tricks, I suspect they are happy.
Watching 5 or 6 movies a night.
And eating the hell out of some coleslaw.