By Larry Teren
As I got past the teenage years, my father stopped trying to do me favors; well- for the most part. Once in my very early twenties he suggested I make a date to take out the sister-in-law of a younger friend of his. I emphatically explained to him that I did not call up girls on blind dates. I first had to, you know, see what they looked like. Not that I had Errol Flynn looks but I had to protect my fragile ego.
Dad pushed the issue. He was even willing to lend me his car on a Saturday night. Huh? The only time I got his gold colored 1970 Chevrolet was when I would first drive Ma to the Mayflower Supermarket to let her shop for food. Then, and only then, could I use the car afterward. Of course, with the deliberateness of the method Ma employed while out shopping in a large grocery store, it meant that I could expect to have the car to myself no earlier than 9pm.
I reluctantly agreed to make the call to the blind, I mean, unknown girl because I could not stand the nudging. With trepidation I dialed the number and she came to the phone. I should have known right away that I was going to be in for a miserable Saturday evening. Her voice sounded deeper than mine and she spoke with- how should I put this- a cocksure attitude.
Her sister and brother-in-law lived on Lunt Avenue just east of California in Chicago’s West Rogers Park, not too far from our townhouse. I parked on the south side of the street which was the only side that was legal for cars to stay. Crossing over to the north side where her apartment building was located, I rang the doorbell downstairs, was let in and came to the floor on which she was staying. I stood in front of the door, took a deep breath and then knocked. The door opened and my worst fears were realized. There she stood- all of her. Built like an offensive nose guard for the Chicago Bears. Not only that, but she had more facial hair than me.
She obviously saw my jaw drop about two feet lower but was nonplussed. In fact, she acted as if she was probably used to this reaction. She didn’t give me a chance to run and hide although I realized that I couldn’t. Facing the fact- I was stuck. But, using a football analogy again, I called an audible. As it was already around 9pm, I decided that we were not going to a movie or the old second standby of bowling. In fact, we were not going anywhere we could be seen in public.
I purposely drove through Evanston- the suburb immediately to the north of us. The street lights were not as intense as in Chicago or Skokie. I kept past Evanston and into Wilmette and then Winnetka knowing that the citizens there were also too cheap to spring for better street lamps. I used the ruse that since she was a visitor to Chicago, I would show her the nicer areas.
I then employed my ace-in-the-hole- I told her that I belonged to a Sunday morning softball league and that I needed a good night’s sleep as we had an important game the next morning. The truth was that there was no league and that the games were choose-up. If I didn’t show up, no one would shed a tear. But, she didn’t know that, right? I drove back in a direction that made sure I pulled up in front of her building on the north side of the street so I had an excuse to let her out without calling into question the obligation to be a gentleman to properly escort her. What? Yeah, sure. I drove the few blocks home not knowing whom to blame- myself, my father or fate.
I got my comeuppance not too much long after. I had the hots for a local girl who lived a couple of blocks east of me. I didn’t recall why as I hardly ever talked to her but she agreed to go out on a date the first time I asked. Since I did not have my own car yet and Dad was not giving it to me that particular Saturday night, I finagled my sister and future brother-in-law to agree to a double date.
We went to see the movie The Andromeda Strain. I guess you can imagine the uncomfortable feeling I had on a first date along with my sister and her fiance who were- shall we say- not watching the movie. It got worse going home. We reached her place and as she was getting out of the car, my brother-in-law motioned me to follow her to her door and maybe I would get lucky. It was kind of awkward because the entire time we were out together I had felt no vibes coming from her that she was the least bit interested in me.
When we got to the door, she thanked me and said goodbye. I turned around to head back to the car and saw that my rat of a future member of the family had driven off. I was forced to walk back the two blocks home a dejected and wounded man. Rejected by the love of my life for that week and abandoned by family. Oh well, off to fight another battle in the pursuit of happiness.