Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Youthful Adventures - Sweaty hands and a rotary phone

I didn't date much in High School. My brother Ace, who was 4 years older than me seemed to have an endless parade of girls coming to the house on a regular basis, but that wasn't the case with me.  It took me a while to get comfortable in my own skin, a truth that most people who have met me as an adult will struggle with, but it is the truth nonetheless.  I could have been uncomfortable with my social status, or insecure with my looks, or just plain unsure and uninformed on how to start this process called dating, hell it could have been those red jeans of mine, but the point remains, I didn't reach out much to the opposite sex in my first few years of school.  When I did, however, boy did it make a nice blog.

     Towards the end of my sophomore year I had developed a nice group of friends in school. Although I never reached the pinnacles of popularity at Canandaigua Academy, I could see it from my house (Thanks Sarah).  My circle of school friends intersected at a couple of spots with some popular kids, and in my eyes, that was enough.  Truth be told, from where I started in my social status, with almost no one knowing me, to where I was that year, with a few popular people knowing my name, it seemed a huge leap.  Only years later did I realize how ridiculous these self-perceived barriers were, but also how common and widespread the belief or misconception, but I digress...   I'm 2 paragraphs in and I haven't even introduced the main character, Jeez I'm slipping.

     I had met her in a few classes in my freshman year, and wound up at a table during study hall with her most of my sophomore year.  She was better friends with my best friend Dan, as they grew up down the road from each other, but that year, I got to know her better with that 45 minutes each day.  Our group would frequently be gently chastised by the school librarian for laughing a little too much, or too loudly, but honestly I think Mr. Chapman liked overhearing our stories or jokes, so the rebukes were short and well spaced.  It was during this time that I developed my interest in this girl and started my plan to try and move our relationship from friendship to something more.  It was a huge risk and a move seldom tried in high school, as she was at the top of the popularity pyramid, and I was still placing my blocks at the bottom.  I was a geeky, non athletic, poor kid, who wore red jeans and smelled like a fry cook.  She was a smart, beautiful, head cheerleader, popular girl, who came from a fairly affluent family, and she smelled like flowers.  It was an epic mismatch (in my eyes), and the ending of this story surely writes itself, or does it?
                                                                                                                                                     
     The end of that school year I started to ponder the best way to approach
Not me, not her, but you get the picture.
her.  My options for a first date were limited, I had little money, no car or license, and she lived out of town and I lived in the center of it.  She didn't seem the type to accept a ride on the handlebars of my bike, although she was athletic enough to do it.  The months passed and no good opportunity presented itself, or my lack of courage stalled me from moving forward with my plan.  The summer came and those months started to ebb away too, until finally it was August and my church festival was a week away.  It then dawned on me that this could be the perfect first date.  Hadn't I seen her at the festival before?  Sure I had.  It was walkable for me, and her family would surely be attending.  It was well within my budget and it had rides like Ferris Wheels, that would put us in close proximity.  If I could get her there, with me, couldn't I charm her enough to start this dating thing?  I thought I could, I only had to reach out and invite her..... over the telephone!

     You need a little background on my parent's house and the telephone technology that existed at that time.  The phones of the day were heavy and had big dials on them. You would put your finger in the corresponding number and dial it to the end, and then release it to turn back so you could dial the next one.  You hated people that had 9's in their numbers.  My parents had one phone, mounted on a wall in the center of the house, with an upstairs vent conveniently placed nearby to deny any user any semblance of privacy.  It was at this phone that I found myself one evening, with hands so sweaty that it was tough to get the friction I needed to turn the rotary dial.  I had put this off long enough, I was now determined to do this thing.  No guts, no glory I thought, and a hundred other idioms that would give me courage.  I lifted the receiver, listened for the the loud dial tone and dialed the first number.
"WHO'S ON THE PHONE" bellowed my Dad from the living room.  "I have to call a friend for a minute"  I yelled back, my voice cracking slightly.  I dialed the second number (dammit, a 9!).  The dial took forever to come back from that one, and meantime a brother entered the room.  "Who ya calling" he asked, "just Dan", I lied and he passed through on the way to another room.  I dialed the 3rd number, man was it hot that summer?  And so it went for the next 15 minutes, with me starting to dial the number, hanging up, restarting, answering my siblings inquiries as to my intentions, and then finally when the coast seemed clear, I got the whole number dialed and it started to ring.  My heart was beating as fast as it ever had at that point in my life, and wasn't its position supposed to be lower that my throat?  Her Father answered and I squeaked out a "Hello, is *** there?  The dining room was suddenly full of my curious siblings, with the all knowing smirks on their faces (you know I have 11 right?). OK, they weren't all really there, but it seemed like it.  When she came to the phone, I stuttered through my well thought out semi-soliloquy (I had to get it all out before she could say no, right?) It went something like this..."

Hi  ***, listen, I was wondering if you were going to the St. Mary's festival this weekend, I think you've gone before, right, I was planning on going there too, and was wondering if we might go together and catch up since we haven't seen each other since June, if your folks could bring you in, I can meet you there and we can hang out and maybe do some rides, and games, and I don't have a curfew so we can stay until the end if you want, I can pay of course what do you say?"   

This may well have been the longest run on sentence of my life, over a hundred words tumbled out and they did it all in a matter of a few seconds.  The pause that followed was equally as long.  Her voice that came back was sweet, polite, but ultimately firm and she said " Oh, I don't think we are going this year, but thank you for asking".  We finished with some small talk and the obligatory "maybe another time" but my words were no longer rushed and my heart had moved lower into the pit of my stomach.  The crowd around me dissipated and then the worry started about whether I had endangered a friendship that I enjoyed by trying to move it further.  I went to the festival and saw her across the midway, but carefully avoided her all night to save us both the embarrassment of seeing each other there.  When September came, it took a little while for our friendship to return to it's previous position, but it happened, and this call became a distant memory for me, painful as it seemed at the time.  High School is like that, every emotion seems overwhelming, every event the most important one, and yet years later try to recall them all, and you can't.  How so many of us survive it is amazing in itself. 

     Now I teased a possible surprise ending to this story earlier, and maybe it is coming, but if it is, it is coming in Part 2 of "Sweaty hands and rotary phones"  If I get over 20 comments on Part 1, I will post it sooner (Yes, it's blackmail, but I like an interactive blog better).


To be continued......


13 comments:

beeg said...

You had to talk fast, Bill. We had a 5 minute limit on phone calls...remember?

Anonymous said...

Being of the "Those who meet me as an adult may struggle" camp I can completely connect with the self imposed false self perceptions...I wasn't popular, and very uncomfortable in my skin. Mother Nature and genetics combined in an unfavorable (at least in my eyes)Platypus of a teenager..parts that don't seem to fit and look as if they belong to some other creature altogether. Never mind the try to actually TALK to the opposite sex...Fortunately, high school doesn't last forever and when you have the chance to go back in time and talk to your high school crush---(I find alcohol seems to make this much easier)you may just be surprised to find out that geeky kid in the red jeans and you are far more alike than not.....then....and now.

Karen Yarger said...

Hahaha. I do remember your red jeans, Bill. Kind of went with your personality! But if you really were that "insecure"- you never really showed it. But I laughed when you quoted your dad yelling from the phone! I could hear it loud and clear. That was truly it!

Molly said...

part II, part II! There, I've posted my one comment. There's three others thus far, plus the two on your FB page... that makes six total. So I'll be the one to post the next fourteen if I have to, damnit.

...PART II!

Daphne Mays said...

Even from the other side (not of this phone call, but others) this has a very familiar ring, right down to the siblings passing by. Only 13 more needed for part 2!

Mary Colf Nix said...

Bill, you weren't the only one who's phone was placed in the most unfortunate place in the house, right in the middle. I believe this is where my "phone phobia" manifested itself at a very early age. We were given a five minute call once in a while, determined by whether there was a possibility of someone else calling the house for Dad to come do a job for them. I'm not sure who had the psychic ability, Mom or Dad, to know this could happen, but they used it to keep all the teenagers OFF the phone! I could totally relate to that nerve wracking part of trying to call with all the siblings walking through too! Thank goodness we can grow out of those awkward years of uncertainty and self-torture so that we can fully embrace life and loved ones who love us for who we are as adults! Great story Bill! Now, let's hear part TWO!

nolan said...

part 2

Anonymous said...

I love the description that every event is the most important. As time goes by we seem to be able to recognize the relative insignificance of these events. I spend every day working with members of the golden generation and am amazed at the laissez faire view of even the most monumental of events. Is this what they call maturity, learning not give a crap?

krisada said...

I gotta admit Bill, I almost didn't make it past the athletic handlebar images swinging around my adolescent imagination, but fortunately you dialed up a lot of images that I think we all shared.

Introspectively I find my high school days mirror very closely to how you describe your own, right down to the non-popular unfashionable geek status with little confidence in the company of the opposite sex.

I also find it interesting that although we are aware of the insignificance of high school events, we still spend a lot of time reminiscing about it even after all these years later.

Hell, I've heard stories of the more unbalanced amongst us who will travel great lengths to explore an unrealized high school romance.LOL.

So if it's of any encouragement to you to share our affinity for those days please write on....

cdyarger said...

I know part II already, but I am VERY anxious to see it in print, so get writing!

Anonymous said...

Bill,
Love, love, love your writing, and just so you know we could listen through the heat vent in the dining room :)

Anonymous said...

Bill

OMG this is so funny! If I knew you in school I would have said yes! Part 2!

Anonymous said...

Part two please. Can't leave us hanging!