Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Risky Proposition

I haven't posted anything sappy since MLK Day, and with Valentine's Day upon us I figured, why not keep up the holiday tradition here at VLV?  Many of you have probably seen the headlines (you can enjoy the whole moment here) about Matt Grevers, the Olympic swimmer who proposed to his girlfriend over the weekend on top of the medal stand.  As a former high school swimmer, its nice to see swimming in the headlines at a time other than the Olympics.  For the record, if I had tried something like that, I would have suffered an unceremonious 3 foot drop because my wife would have pushed me - not in a surprised/shocked Elaine Benes way, but in a "I don't have a weapon, so knocking him on his head on a hard floor is my best defense" kind of way.

I'll grant him that it was a unique way to pop the question, and it appears that this particular proposal had a happy ending.  Unfortunately, every once in a while this happens making the whole sport of public proposals a terrible lottery that ends with lots of winners and one loser that will never rebound from that kind of public humiliation.  Or you just end up like Michael Scott.

In addition to all this thought I'd given to proposals over the last couple days, I got a call from a good friend last night who, after several years of my wife badgering him, finally popped the question to his long-time girlfriend.  So I guess with all this love in the air, I thought I'd share my own story of one of the most terrifying nights of my life.

Back in 2005, I had just graduated, spent a month in Greece, three months continuing my career as a pool boy, and a month looking for a job.  I had no money, my wife was in grad school, we were both living with our respective parents and I thought - what a perfect time to propose!
I could make this in to an entire "How I Met Your Mother" episode, but I'll try to keep it somewhat brief.  What follows is less about the events of that evening, which are hazy, and more about what goes on in the mind of a 22 year old that is about to ask the most important question of his young life.

To set it up - I bought tickets to see Chicago the musical on December 2 (in Chicago), made dinner reservations, bought the ring, and asked her parents for their blessing.  Luckily she was already in Chicago the night we went out, so I had a nice hour long drive to think about how I was going to do this.  At that moment, every thing that could possibly go wrong, was absolutely going to - I would hit traffic, I would get lost, one of us would get deathly ill and cancel, the ring would fall out of my pocket, the restaurant would be a hell-hole, I would get hit by a bus - it all crossed my mind.  I did nothing to prepare for what was going to happen in a couple short hours.

Thankfully, the drive was uneventful, I didn't get lost and I even found nearby, same side of the street parking.  We met at Petterino's and were a little early so I had time to get some alcohol in me - this is going great!  At some point between the drive and my 3rd jack and coke, I realized that if I wanted to actually enjoy the meal I was about to spend $50+ for, I am going to have to find a time soon to propose.  Otherwise, not only will I not be able to eat, but anything I might force down my throat could come back up all over my soon-to-be-fiance.  And then they took us to our table, and my head nearly exploded.

Imagine tables about this close, with dividers in between that actually
made them seem like one table
I had never been to Petterino's, nor did I think it necessary to ask ahead of time what the seating arrangements would be.  What I found was a table for 2, connected to another table for 2, connected to a third table for 2.  I had never seen anything so intrusive in my life.  Didn't they understand my wife didn't want a public proposal?  Didn't they know I actually wanted to eat more than a bite of my steak? How could they do this to me??

So we sat down - the first ones at our table - and things started in a fairly typical manner.  Waiter got our drink orders, brought them back and got our food order, then came back with the salad.  About the same time the salad came, they seated the first people in our nice little table for 6 that they are trying to pass off as three tables for 2. They were on the far end, and out of earshot.  But in my mind, the restaurant staff was conspiring against me in an attempt to ruin my night.  They wouldn't seat the multitude of empty tables around us - the next couple through the door would undoubtedly be right next to us.  I had to do this and I had to do it NOW.  There are too many knives within her reach for me to safely attempt anything close to a public proposal.  Screw getting down on a knee, just do it!

But she was still eating her salad - does it always take this long for her to eat salad?  She has to see the sweat dripping down my face or my fork banging against my plate.  Dear Lord, she's going to run out of here when she sees this freak across the table.  Hurry up and finish your damn salad!  Crap, those three jack and cokes were a bad idea - I really need to pee.

And then she finished.  Whew.  That was close.  Before she could get a word in - she might not have even finished chewing - I whipped the ring out of my pocket like I was freaking Wyatt Earp and muttered something along the lines of "Nataliewillyoumarryme."  It was quick, to the point, and without any poignant speeches like the ones they try to fool you with in the movies.  In fact, I'm not sure she had any idea what I said, but instead saw my outstretched hand with the ring-box in it, dangerously close to her now-empty salad plate and figured out what I was trying to accomplish.

And for some reason she said yes.   I remember the meal being good, but I have no clue what I ate.  I think I enjoyed Chicago, but it wasn't until I saw the Richard Gere movie version again that I actually knew what it was about.  This weekend we'll be going to Chicago to see a different musical - American Idiot - and might be going back to Petterino's for the first time since that night 6 years ago.  Hopefully I can report on the food and entertainment this time. 


  1. Awwww. Young love. Good story telling NPress! Happy Valentine's to you and the Mrs.