Monday, October 3, 2011

What’s the Worst that Could Happen?

When it comes to getting enough nerve to ask someone out, the clueless will often impart this question and answer phrased advice:

“Go ahead and ask her, what’s the worst that could happen? 
She says ‘No.’”

People who say this have little understanding of psychology in general and geek psychology in particular.

“No” is not always the worst thing.

“No” does not require alteration to the current lifestyle.

Studies have shown that any change, good or bad, causes stress.  Rejection is easy, there’s no change, you just continue on with life as it was before:  go to the arcade, read some comic books, play a war game, whatever.

“Yes” is where the trouble starts.

“Yes” leads to “Holy crap! What do I do now?”

Here’s an extended account of “What’s the worst that could happen?”
Oddly, not the most dangerous thing in the place.

I was young, single, in good shape, with a budding career and my own condo.  The condo was not, as Garth Algar would describe it, a “fully functional babe lair”, for several reasons.

A large sword over the fire place

Plastic Dinosaurs covering the top of the entertainment center

Super Hero Action figures in the pass through between the kitchen and the living room (and nearly everywhere else)

A full sized cardboard Darth Vader, Boba Fett and Stormtrooper in the dining room
We'd be honored if you would join us.
The last was one of the selling points of the unit. When I first walked in it hit me that I could recreate the Bespin dinner scene from Empire Strikes Back using the place’s layout. Those standees were the first furnishings I bought, even before furniture, while curtains never even made it on the list. (All the blinds and the KISS throw over the bedroom window apparently don’t count, I’ve been informed.) 

It wasn’t so much a home as a cave decorated by a nerdanderthal.

Despite all these reasons, and my inexperience in general, I somehow ended up with my first girlfriend as an adult shortly after moving in.  Demonstrating how hormones can cloud one’s sanity: even though I’d never asked a non-relative woman to my condo for a regular visit before, I decided to invite her over for dinner. 

While I was able to feed myself as soon as I started living alone, cooking wasn’t what you’d call my strong point. I actually had to call my sister the first time I made Macaroni and Cheese. Before opening the box, I was under the impression that you merely poured it out, boiled some water and *poof* Macaroni and Cheese.  The whole adding butter and milk thing got me confused to start with and then there was the problem of the box specifying what size pot to use. None of my pots had volume markings on them, and I couldn’t use the measuring cup to figure it out as I already put the milk and butter I wasn’t expecting to need into it.  I did eventually master the Kraft, so to speak, although my sister volunteered to assist me in the proper pouch shaking technique on one visit. (Unfortunately that was after I had already started to open it.  This yielded a fine layer of orange cheese powder coating the entire kitchen.)

The point of that whole fromage festooned aside is: I had no business offering to cook for anyone else at that stage of my life, but I did anyway.  Her original answer was, “No” because she was going for happy hour drinks and food with co-workers that night.  My stress levels began to dive at the expected “No”, and rapidly ratcheted up again when she told me she’d be happy to stop over afterwards.

Now I still had to figure out “Holy crap! What do I do now?”, and while I wasn’t making an actual dinner (which I could fake) I wanted to have some food available in case she didn’t eat a full meal at happy hour.  Good thing I was running on adrenaline at the prospect that she actually wanted to spend time with me, or I would have hyperventilated and passed out.

I was a pile of preparation in the days leading up to the date.  Rugs were vacuumed, movies and books stacked, cheese powder removed from the kitchen, and action figures dusted. (There is no greater dust magnet in the universe than a small plastic cape.) I purchased all the ingredients I’d need, made sure the guest bathroom was clean, and made sure the master bathroom was nailed shut. (Choose your battles, kids.)

I bought a Tom Collins mix, as I knew it was her favorite drink. (I am kind of embarrassed by this now that I know all I needed was lemon juice, sugar and seltzer, but again, I didn’t even have curtains, or know my pot sizes, it’s likely one or more of those basic ingredients would be unavailable as well.)  I measured the mix and gin (using a butter free measuring cup), placed them in the blender, held the lid down to prevent spillage, and pressed start.  After waiting what felt like a Tom Collinsish length of time I pressed stop. 

Imagine my surprise when absolutely nothing happened. 

Imagine my even greater shock when frantic pushing of any and all buttons continued to have no effect on the now possessed demon blender.

Image my utter astonishment when I realized that I was too far away from the outlet to reach the plug without letting go of the malevolent mixer.

I stood there trying futilely to use the force to pull out the plug.  No amount of life size cardboard Sith figures in the dining room was going to help me with that, however.  Resigned to the inevitable, I released the appliance of the dammed and sprinted across the kitchen as the lid flew off in a cloud of gin, seltzer, lemon and profanity.  This yielded a fine layer of translucent cocktail coating the entire kitchen and me (sadly, mere days since I got rid of the last of the cheese powder).  I poured the bit of Tom Collins residue that remained into a pitcher to stash in the fridge, toweled down the environs, and ran to change before continuing onward.

I returned in a mix of buckles and buttons. In a rare bit of forethought, I realized I had never used the fireplace before and should probably get it going before she showed up to protect myself from ridicule and her from pyrotechnics.  I had purchased a premade “fire log”.  I was forced to do this after reading the little leaflet addressing in house fire safety.  It listed a myriad of things one should never do in an inside fire place because that would lead it to “flare up” and possibly cause a chimney fire.  Unfortunately, my life long experience of building fires in shopping carts Up the Lake was completely based around the art of making it “flare up” often to spectacular proportions.  The fire log was the only method open. (Choose your battles, kids.)

With time rapidly getting away from me, I set up the fireplace, and proceeded to fill my trusty Illuminatus Zippo.  I remembered that the initial flick of the lighter could produce a mini “flare up” after filling, which is why I tested it over the sink before using it to begin the romantic fire.

And when my hand burst into flames…

I realized that I had NOT remembered that when I filled the lighter (particularly in a hurry) the fluid poured through the wick onto whatever is below it.  In this case…me.

There was a brief, albeit larger, cloud of profanity, coupled by a great deal of blowing and frantic arm waving to extinguish the bright orange and blue inferno before the hair on my arm became caramelized.  I washed up (again) and managed to get the fire going without immolating myself this time.

Her arrival was imminent, and I threw myself into the last minute details. The hors d’oeuvres were heated, the crackers were spread, and the Entenmann’s boxes for the dessert were hidden in the bottom of the trash can. (Choose your battles wisely, kids.)  All that was left was getting something to serve everything with. 

As per usual, all of my place settings were in the dishwasher. In an unlikely wave of good luck, I had actually remembered to run it this time.  I threw open the dishwasher and all the cabinets as I became a whirlwind of putting stuff away, setting out food, and rebuttoning and buckling.  The plan would have been flawless, but for the fact that my dishwasher was directly below my plate cabinet, which I was now rapidly bending down below and standing up underneath

As my head viciously impacted with the corner of the cabinet door, the whirlwind promptly vanished into the largest and most concentrated cloud of profanity, in what was an unusually cloudy day for profanity.  I staggered over to the couch, attempting to fasten the last couple of buttons while staunching the high rate of blood flow from the large gouge in my cranium.

Then the doorbell rang.

I don’t really remember anything else that evening, but it must have gotten somewhat better as the relationship surprisingly continued for another couple of months. Even more surprisingly, there was no need to call the fire marshal, paramedics, or insurance company in those months.

The experience did help increase my confidence, and when I finally met someone who bought the pick-up line of:

“Do you want to see me juggle fire?”

I asked her to marry me as soon as possible.

And the first thing we bought together…

was curtains.
(Choose your battles wisely, kids.)


Anonymous said...

LOL Thats great! I felt nervous just reading it. I would have thrown up. I still think the life size star wars things are hilarious.

Jeff McGinley said...

Thanx. Fortunately, the near concussion relaxed me some.