This essay was published in this month's new CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: the power of dating book.
By 1989, I had been happily divorced two years, having weathered a few semi-relationships that failed to get off the ground for various reasons, and several disastrous first dates. The closest I had come to a serious boyfriend was an architect who lived in New York. Since I lived in Virginia and worked in D.C. at the time, the distance between us was perfect. But this relationship also fizzled out. I was fine with that. I was happy with my work and enjoyed hanging out with friends, my family, and my cat.
So I was unprepared for an encounter with destiny when my editor-in-chief tossed a project on my desk with the command to “interview this person.”
As the associate editor of an architecture magazine, I was responsible for writing features on new projects, news developments, and products. This particular design project, soon to open in Austin, TX, was a combination piano/pool hall. Not many of those around, I hazarded to guess. Eric’s Pool Hall, as it was called, was executed with whimsy and flair, and I looked forward to talking to the imaginative and witty architect responsible. I picked up the telephone.
Usually, when an editor from an architecture magazine is on the line, explaining the nature of the call, you can hear the excitement in their voice when they find out they are about to be published. The first words out of this guy’s mouth, however, sounded like a sneer.
“What’d ya do? Pick that out of the round file?” he replied flatly.
Feeling chastened and not a little awkward and offended, I quickly replied with as much starch in my voice as I could muster that I could tell he wasn’t interested, thanked him for his time, and hung up.
As I sat there wondering what to tell my editor, the phone rang. It was Mr. Surly Guy, all apologetic and charming. He explained he had been caught up short; he had tried to retrieve the project slides a year ago and had been told the art department had ‘lost’ them, and he had been annoyed. As he made his apologies I couldn’t help but note how warm and masculine his voice sounded over the telephone. We agreed to set up a phone interview the following day.
Typically my interviews are a mix of handwritten notes and a tape recorder used as a backup and safety measure. As I had hoped, the interview was a lot of fun -- more so than usual, in fact. As I replayed the tape, I was struck by the realization there was about a 50-50 spread of business and all ha-ha-ha personal information flying back and forth. We had gotten pretty flirty.
Over the next two weeks while I worked on the piece and chose slides for the layout, I was always pleasantly excited when I had a reason to call him up to confirm a fact or ask about a detail. I couldn’t deny I called him more than I usually did a designer when writing up a project. Finally the article was finished. I was satisfied with it, knowing he would also be pleased with the result. A bit regretfully, I called for the last time to thank him for his time and input, and let him know when the feature would be published. I made sure to get his address to send a complimentary copy.
The following day the phone rang.
“Hey, kid. I just missed talking to you,” he said.
As much as I enjoyed it, too, it was obvious I couldn’t have a personal conversation at work. The next thing I knew he had my home phone, and it became a habit for him to call around 10 at night. Both of us were night-owls, and we’d stay on the line for an hour at a time. The nightly routine was one I looked forward to.
After four weeks, he began broaching the subject of meeting in person. I brushed it off each time. He lived in Maryland, more than an hour away from D.C., but truthfully, I was enjoying my new telephone buddy and didn’t want to jeopardize our friendship. I was afraid the bubble might burst if he was short, fat, or bald. Enjoying my flirt fantasy, I continued to put him off. After a few more weeks he finally he told me was driving down that Saturday to take me to lunch.
“I can’t, I have to work,” I quickly countered.
“You have to eat; I’ll meet you in the lobby at noon,” he said in a voice that broached no further argument.
After brief descriptions “I’m tall and dark-haired,” “I’m tall with auburn hair,” we hung up for the night.
That Saturday as the noon hour approached, I was nervous as I reluctantly sat on a bench in the lobby awaiting my fate for the next hour. (Or so I thought).
Soon a very tall, good-looking, slender man with shoulder-length wavy hair pushed through the entry doors. My heart did an actual flip-flop as these thoughts bubbled in my head: Shit! I don’t want to get married again!
Many years later as we were having lunch with a friend, she asked us how we had met. As I told her this story with my now-husband listening beside me, I laughed, since I had never told him my first reaction to our meeting.
“You don’t know the whole story,” he said with a chuckle.
Apparently, when we hung up after my initial interview request, he had called my boss.
“What’s the matter, Don? Am I slipping? You or a senior editor have always reviewed my work before, and today I just got a call from some associate editor.”
“You want to meet this girl,” my editor-in-chief replied. “Don’t you have a restaurant you designed up there somewhere? You should take her to lunch.”
“What?! I’ve never had to take my editor out to lunch before!” now-hubby protested.
“You aren’t listening to me!” my editor replied, “You need to meet this girl.”
Don Canty. My crusty old editor-in-chief. A romantic, and I never knew it. How I wish I had learned the whole story before he had died. I would have written him to thank him for steering me into a relationship with the love of my life and into a very happy marriage, now in it’s 23rd year.