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Journals of an Insane Genius -- April 1999

I'm sitting in the lobby of a local garage while the oil in my car is being changed. It's Friday afternoon and the only other person present is the cashier. I'm minding my own business quietly reading a magazine when she interrupts me to ask how I've been getting along since my divorce. The only time I have ever mentioned this to her was about four months ago during my last oil change. She asked if I still had the red car and I told her that my ex-wife got it in the divorce. While we're talking she mentions the fact that she is also divorced. We have an enjoyable conversation, chatting for somewhere between five and ten minutes.

She has to leave the office to drive a car into one of the bays. While I'm alone I have a silent debate with myself over whether I've been getting "signals" from her (yes) and whether it's appropriate to hit on her while she is at work (a question of ethics). I finally decide that in the past I've missed opportunities and then regretted it. For once I'm just going to ask someone that appears interested if she would like to go out. But before she gets back a woman with four kids comes in and they start bouncing all over the place. Then an elderly couple enters and they have a lot of questions about the work being done on their car. Then the mechanics start wandering in and out. I lose my nerve, I can't ask in front of all these people. We exchange a smile as I leave in frustration.

A couple of days pass. In the mean time Iíve asked three of my trusted female friends whether they think she was interested. They all feel that she was and they are also all quite disappointed with me for not asking her out. I get a stern lecture about my need to stop being a highly intelligent idiot from my buddy Melissa. I decide that I'm going to go back to the garage to ask her out. This is not an easy thing for me to do. Mel thinks this is a great idea and helps me develop a strategy. She dismisses my idea of going back to have something else done for my car arguing that it would be much more impressive for me to return for no other reason than to ask this person out. Mel also instructs me to ask her within a week or else just forget about it. Otherwise it will look like I had to think about it too much. I briefly consider mentioning that I have been thinking about it too much before recalling the topic of her previous lecture and deciding I donít require an encore.

It's Wednesday afternoon, about 2:00. I've picked a time when I think the garage will be empty and she won't be busy and there won't be a lot of other customers. During the drive over I'm talking to myself out loud, "You can do this... You can do this..." I almost never talk to myself so I know I'm stressed. While sitting at a red light I progress to incorporating hand gestures into my little self-coaching session. I suddenly realize that I am quite visibly the only person in my car. I sheepishly glance around to see if anyone has noticed. Thereís an old white pickup truck next to me. The gentleman in the passenger seat is one of those tanned, rugged old-timers that has the rare quality of being able to wear a cowboy hat without looking the least bit silly. He has a great big grin on his face. He slowly leans out the window gives me a big thumbs up and says, "Sure you can do it little fella". I smile and wave while thinking that Mel was right on the money with her lecture.

I pull into the parking lot, they're not crowded. This is perfect. I take a deep breath and walk in. She's not there.

The manager and two mechanics, all male, are lounging around. Before I can say a word the manager comments on what a great necktie I'm wearing (part of my Ralph Marlin pigs series - this one features pigs shooting pool in a smoke filled room). I didn't think there was anything anyone could have said to put me at ease, but this does. I make a joke about it and they all laugh. I'm relaxed now, my stage fright is gone.

"What can I do for you?", the manager asks in a friendly manner.

"The young lady that works here (I don't even know her name), is she at lunch right now or is today her day off?"

The two mechanics exchange nervous glances. The manager replies in a less friendly voice, "No, is there anything I can help you with?"

"Not really, I just wanted to speak with her for a second. Will she be in later?"

All three men look awkward. One mechanic gets up and walks out of the lobby and into the garage.

"She no longer works here. She won't be back.", he says using the tone of someone that has finally solved an annoying problem.

"Oh." Having no other reason to be there and sensing that there is a lot that is not being said I bail out. "Well, thanks anyway."

Iím back in my car talking to myself again, although this time the conversation is limited to randomly exclaiming, "Unbelievable!" This garage opened about three years ago and she had worked there from the day they opened. What kind of incredible timing could lead to this sequence of events? I decide that it canít be an accident. Casting a nervous glance in the rear view mirror I conclude that some sinister, covert agency, possibly space-aliens, must be monitoring me. They must have known that I actually had a shot at getting a date this time and took the appropriate countermeasures, which in this case appears to have been "disappearing" the poor woman. I hope that sheís happy in whatever kind of Witness Relocation Program theyíve placed her in.

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