…and What Did you Learn Dorothy?

It really is a small world. Allen calls it the Six Degrees of Cookie Stoner. It seems that no matter where I go I will meet someone with whom I have a friend or acquaintance in common. Allen first noticed this on our honeymoon in San Diego. I called the car rental place and reserved our car. Since I am the wheeler-dealer in the family Allen always lets me do the honors. When we arrived I talked to the young man and got to know him. The young rental agent told me with his thick Greek accent that his name was Panos Sacopolous. He really sounded like he was straight off the boat from Greece. I told Panos we were from Alabama-Birmingham and moving to Montgomery. “Oh, Montgomery. I have a friend from there. The last name is Goldsmith” “Mike Goldsmith- I know him. I just interviewed with him. And, oh his daughter was just recently killed in an automobile accident.” His eyes widened with shock- “Yes, that was my friend’s sister. His son is my good friend.” Allen just stood there-amazed. He told me that he knew that I was always networking-but he could not believe that I had met someone with a mutual friend 2000 miles from home. The truth is it really wasn’t that surprising to me-I have always experienced the six degrees phenomenon.

Usually my encounters are harmless meetings where I find that I know someone who knows someone. But, a chance meeting with me taught a group of married men that what happens at the beach doesn’t always stay at the beach.

One weekend in Spring of 1987, eight girls and I road-tripped down to Pensacola Beach from Birmingham. Allen and I had dated for about a year when he decided he wanted to “date other people” aka as “having his cake and eating it too.” So we or I decided that he could date other people, no problem, but that he couldn’t date me too. It was Birmingham, Alabama in the late 1980’s-I was young and single with a great job and great friends. It broke my heart that we weren’t dating anymore, but Birmingham had many young men from which to choose. Professionals, medical school students and law school students. I went out with a variety of guys, but there was one guy I dated who was in law school with Allen. They didn’t hang out, nor were they friends, so it was fine for us to date. Besides, Allen dumped me. So I had a great time while he was out having his cake.

James was the guy’s name. He was a lot of fun. We weren’t serious, but we did go out quite a bit. I knew that Barrister’s Ball was coming up, but James hadn’t mentioned it so I figured he had no intention of asking me. So, I planned a trip to the beach with the girls. James called me a few days before the ball to ask me if I would like to go with him to the dance. I am not really sure what day-but I do know that it did not fall within my guidelines of-“if you want to go out with me on Friday you need to ask me out by Monday-and for a formal occasion a minimum two weeks is required.” That is something my mother taught me and I am passing it on to my children.

I thanked him for asking me, but I had already made plans to go to the beach. He was incredulous. He couldn’t believe that I didn’t want to go to this “special event” with him. After all it was Barrister’s Ball. I nicely reminded him of my dating rules and that “special events” require “special preparation.”

On our first night out at the beach we decided to go into Pensacola to eat and party at McGuire’s Irish Pub. It is always a fun place to go- with fun and good food. As we sat at the bar waiting for a table for our large party we attracted a group of men who were in town to play golf. They were 10-20 years older than most of us. The men asked if they could buy us drinks. We thanked them, but told them no. Another dating rule-don’t let some random guy-especially if you aren’t really interested in him, buy you a drink. He may think he owns you for the rest of the night. Or you, at the very least, have to be polite and talk to him while you are guzzling down the drink he bought. We didn’t want them to buy us drinks, but they still stood there. These guys were too attentive. We should have let them buy us a drink-at least they could have paid for the elixir that made our encounter with them much easier. We wanted them to say hi and move on. But, we were sitting at the bar so it wasn’t like we could have our superficial bar conversation and move on. There was a line of nine of us sitting on stools and standing next to each other at the bar while we were waiting on our table.

As a group of cute girls we were all pretty cocky-you know how we are when we travel in packs. But even we weren’t mean enough to make a mass exodus and move on. So we sat there and endured what many of us did when we were in the bar scene – we endured the bar leeches. Some of the girls were rude-they would turn away from the men and talk to one of our group-some talked to the bartender. Of course, I felt really sorry for the men because they were really trying very hard to score a prize for the night. We really wanted them to go away.

One of the men from the group was harmless, but he was a man my daddy’s age trying to pick up girls in their 20’s. It was gross. A couple of seconds later a question made its way down to my end of the bar. The question started at the other end and each girl turned her head to ask-“hey, do we know a guy in law school name James R. When it got to me I said, “yes, remember he’s the guy I’ve been going out with-who asked me to go to Barrister’s Ball with him this weekend, but remember I told him no.” Well the golf tan on this man’s face disappeared; he turned white. “Oh, he stammered-that’s my son.” He then went into daddy behavior, deacon of the church, upstanding citizen mode. Immediately, he quit acting like a “hey baby how ya doin’? kind of guy to a “well it is a pleasure to meet you” kind of man. He and his friends all got an awkward, but good laugh. They straightened up and began to act like the daddies and husbands they were. These men were all businessmen-leaders in their community. One was actually the mayor of their city.

On Monday after I returned from my beach trip I saw James at the gym. He had his head tucked in that kind of amused shame. He said, “My daddy is so embarrassed-they were all just having a little fun.” I told him his dad was harmless and to tell him hello for me.

Something tells me that this group of gentlemen learned something that weekend – what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay there.

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