Just as every superhero has an origin story, so too does every super marriage. Even crappy marriages, I suppose, which were undoubtedly super at the beginning. That origin story inevitably involves a first date. First dates are something everyone tucks away in their memory banks for eventual sharing with family, friends, future children and obscure cable channel biography programs. “How did you meet?” and “Where was your first date” are the peanut butter and jam of marriage origin stories. Whether they be fairy tale evenings with surprise limo rides, flowers, gourmet food, and late night flights to Paris or simply a one hour stand in the back of a smelly cab, first date stories are treasured by happily married couples and haunt gratefully divorced couples alike.
Here, then, in honour of my twelve wedding anniversary (we fall into the happily married couples category) is me and my wife’s first date story. It’s a memorable one that in some ways defies classification, but “typical Schmidt” would be close.
Between Jailbait and Cougar
It was an ordinary autumn Tuesday afternoon with a singularly extraordinary exception; I had been blessed with the accompaniment to a movie of a stunningly beautiful girl. Or is that woman? I never know what they are at this age1. Girl always sounds like they’re illegal and woman always sounds like they’re old enough to be my mother. Perhaps a new term is needed for females in this transition phase between jailbait and cougar, something like pretzel, maybe, or perhaps a completely fabricated word like scooble?
I was a little nervous about the evening, anxiety around scoobles being one of my failings, but I was managing to stay relatively calm. That afternoon I went about seeking date night advice from co-workers, most of whom had encouraged me to ask this scooble out in the first place. Sadly, even in my mid-twenties, I was far more rookie than veteran in the big leagues of courting, so procuring last minute advice from successful pros seemed a wise course of action. They all emphasized the importance of staying relaxed and being funny, though, oddly, none suggested not using the term ‘courting’ in any non-Victorian era context. Staying relaxed was as likely as the growing pit stains under my arms suddenly evaporating but apparently being funny is something I’m adept at, although I wonder if they know I am often trying not to be funny. Wisdom absorbed and confidence momentarily fortified I called my date to confirm the evening’s gameplan and, not one to shun sage advice, I took a stab at some light-hearted wit by saying, “I’ll pick you up at 6:30 … … unless I’m in an accident or something.”
Finally, it is 6:00 and I rush out the door of my house to begin the epic journey to the other side of Calgary to pick up my waiting conquest (allow me to butter up this story with cocky terms like conquest, huh?). It is the tail end of rush hour and traffic is appropriately busy near the downtown core which I have no option but to drive through. Approximately five minutes from her apartment, I am forced to cross a bridge on which three major highways converge. It is a brilliant bit of civil engineering worthy of Dark Ages style death penalties to all involved.
Demonic Bastard Child of Gridlock
The road I’m on is extremely congested and traffic is stop and go as merging from on-ramps and onto off-ramps couples with traffic signals up ahead to propagate a demonic bastard child of gridlock. Unbeknownst to me, one of my fellow Calgarians in a brand new Ford pickup truck has decided to ignore the stop and focus solely on the go. This is unfortunate since I am still riveted with the stop, the go having been absent for a few minutes now. As you astutely suspect, these two methods of driving rarely co-exist peacefully and I was quickly made aware of happenings behind me as my fellow Calgarian’s Ford was soon sniffing the rear-end of my Nissan like a poorly trained dog in an off-leash park.
The following minutes were consumed by a flurry of emotions from anger to fear to bewilderment2. I pulled over to the side of the highway to go through the necessary exchange of information with this unknown truck defiler. As I sat there, those all too infamous words I spoke a mere three hours previous swirled in my mind. “I’ll pick you up at 6:30 … … unless I’m in an accident or something.” My truck was still drivable and I did eventually make it to my date’s residence and was able to explain my tardiness. Having a freshly mangled tailgate and bumper to present as proof certainly helped me earn forgiveness. Obviously, the movie and thus our first date never happened.
Looking back I can’t help but chuckle and shake my head knowing that only me; only me! On the bright side, the impact appears to have realigned my neck and back. They have never felt better in my memory. I think they were all twisted and misaligned in the previous four accidents I’ve had the pleasure of partaking in. And I was, thankfully, given a second chance at that first date soon afterwards. It too was a surprise only this time it was she taking me out.
The Secret To A Happy Marriage
I was kept ignorant of where we were going until we had actually arrived, traffic incident free I might add. I love surprises, so this was extremely cool. And what was that surprise? We went (ready for this?) to the Imax theatre for the world premiere of “Bret Hart; Wrestling With Shadows”! If you don’t know who Bret Hart is you should be ashamed of yourself. He is the single greatest professional wrestler this country has ever produced3! This was a documentary about the past year in Bret’s life in which he suffered through the biggest double-cross in wrestling history. Hey, this is my ballet, my symphony, okay? It was absolutely the greatest surprise I’ve ever had.
So there you have it, the romantic beginnings to a now solid and blissful 16 year relationship and 12 year marriage. A jinxed first date automobile accident and a second date wrestling documentary. It’s the stuff of legend.
1 I was 26 and she was 24, which in hindsight was obviously “woman” territory but this is where my head and, yes, maturity was at.
2 Keep in mind this was a time before ubiquitous presence of cell phones so I was freaking out because I had no way to contact my date and let her know that I was not, in fact, standing her up!
3 Trust me, rereading my exuberance over a wrestler is equally embarrassing for me!
[this is adapted from a letter I wrote soon after the event in 1998]