When I tell this story, I always have to put in a disclaimer, sort of like Dickens at the beginning of A Christmas Carol, when he says
“It must be understood that Marley was dead, otherwise nothing strange and wonderful could have happened.”
In this case, this fact must be understood:
I was really, really nice to everyone.
Promise me you’ll remember that.
Once upon a time, I had a job at a law school. It was probably the most fun job I’ve ever had. I was the administrative assistant to a student organization, the BSA. The Boy Scouts of America, law school chapter. The BSA members were 2nd and 3rd year students who did a lot to make the first year students happier during their (relatively miserable and difficult) first year. They did orientation, taught legal writing, answered questions on where to go, what to do. The office was large, with comfy chairs and a couch, a full free coffee pot. A good, friendly place to hang out. The members did, and so did a core of 1st years who, naturally, tried to become members for their 2nd and 3rd years.
Mine was a wonderful job. I answered student questions and was nice to them. Always. A smile on my face, a laugh, a soft shoulder when needed. It was easy to be nice in such a fun job.
Of course there was a bit more to the job. Substantively, I had to know what was going on with the members’ various activities, because I was the one in the office when the 1st year students had questions. Because that was my job. The BSA members were all nice, and kept me up to date on their programs.
Except Monte. He wasn’t. He was a jerk. Totally uncooperative. He deserved that name.
Monte was in charge of a very important program that was one of two mandatory moot court programs for all 1st year students. Essentially, it’s where they learned how to present and argue a case. A whole case. They write the briefs and argue the case in front of a panel of judges. The students had a million questions, and they were also apprehensive, because it was an important part of their first year. They asked ME all of those questions.
But Monte was in charge and wouldn’t let me know what was going on. He wouldn’t answer my questions, so I couldn’t answer theirs. Monte wouldn’t keep me informed or involved. I invariably had no answer to give to the poor student who really needed one.
Now, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, I really hate to look stupid. One day, I’d had enough of being unable to help, unable to answer questions I was supposed to answer. Unable to do my job. So I took Monte into the back room and politely explained in the nicest possible way why he had to do things my way.
He responded, and I quote:
“Don’t worry your pretty little head about it.”
And he left.
Me, except I’m blond. And in color.
To this very day I have never been so mad at anyone.
I went back to my desk fuming, steam coming out of my ears, angry tears, the works. As I stood there, shaking mad, a tall, blond 1st year student entered the office, came up to me and said – oh I don’t remember what he said. But the poor guy asked a question about that program. Monte’s program.
“I DON’T KNOW. YOU WILL HAVE TO ASK MONTE WHO IS A COMPLETE JERK!” I screamed at the tall, completely innocent blond guy.
The blond guy stood there, put his hands on his hips, shook his head, and left the office. He never returned.
I remember it clearly. Well, except all I can see in my memory is the outline of a tall, faceless blond guy. Standing there, hands on his hips, shaking his head and clearly thinking “
what a bitch she is not very helpful.”
John did not propose to me then and there. The fool didn’t even ask me out.
In fact, we didn’t even cross paths again that we know about during the two years we were there together. We met again in DC through a guy I was dating who worked with John. Years after I broke up with the other guy, John asked me out after we met up again at a party.
Whenever someone asks us the “how did you two meet?” question, well, I make sure I tell the story. Because John claims I fired nuclear weapons at him, which is an exaggeration. And it makes me look bad.
Really, I didn’t shoot at him.
But hey, my husband can never claim that he didn’t know I could be a bitch. And that has been worth its weight in gold (or nukes) for more than 30 years.
* * *
This is an old piece that I’m replaying for Valentine’s Day because, well, it’s one of my favorite “love” stories. And because there are lots of new followers who didn’t read it. If you already read it, you can stop here. See? I told you I was nice!