Tuesday, April 17, 2012

the way we met

When I started this blog I said I was going to tell stories. At first I was thinking that I should do this in order to be part of some great human experience, because story telling is so important. Now I think I should because I never want to forget.

I really love this story.

It was about this time three years ago that I met my husband. We had talked on the phone in mid-March when I was making an appointment to get my car worked on. It was making this thumpety-thump noise on the highway and I was pretty sure it was my tires, except that my friend Liz had recently had similar symptoms with her car and it turned out to be a $350 problem with her engine. So I made an appointment for the following week with Liz's new car guy, Nate.

She met Nate about a month earlier on this rock climbing trip to Arkansas. I had planned on going on that trip, too, but ended up needing to work. Rock climbing was something I had done about once or twice a year and really enjoyed but since I didn't really know anybody else into it, I never really got that into it either. It kind of intimidated me, to be honest, because so many people into climbing are really intense about it and know all kinds of words and geology that were so foreign to me.

Liz and I happened to be in the same place in life and happened to both really enjoy things like adventure and exploring the city's great restaurants. I worked at one of those great restaurants and one of the benefits of working at a restaurant is that you can usually find somebody to pick up a shift for you. So I traveled a lot and really enjoyed the freedom of a single life. I just couldn't get anybody to pick up my shift for that rock climbing weekend.

When Liz got back we got together and she told me all about the weekend. She told me about how it was awkward most of the time due to all the people in their rock climbing world talking almost exclusively about rocks and climbing, using all their foreign words with great intensity. I understood.

"But," she said, "there was this one guy..."

She went on to tell me know nice he was and how even though he was this great climber and could climb all kinds of crazy routs, he took almost an entire day to show her basic stuff and climbed easier routes with her.

"He sounds kind," I said. Kindness is probably my favorite character trait in people so I recognized it immediately.

She continued to tell me how they hung out the whole time and both decided to pitch their tents up on a hill, away from the other people in their group. This was a common thing with Liz and myself, because usually the worst thing about camping in a campground is your neighbors. But still, I wondered...

"So... was there anything there, between you?" I asked.
"No," she said, "nothing." Simple as that.

But from that point on, Nate was her car guy. He fixed the thumpety-thump in her car so I called him up to see if he would take a look at mine. I figured that I would make an appointment with him and get my tires checked out earlier in the week. If I got new tires and still had the problem, then I would know it was something else. Otherwise, I would cancel my appointment.

The thumpety-thump turned out to be my tires. I was glad of this for two reasons: 1) I didn't want to have to pay for new tires and a $350 engine job, and 2) going to see Nate was bound to be very inconvenient. In fact, the first time I talked with him on the phone to make the appointment I got pretty annoyed with how inconvenient it was going to be. He worked on cars out of the garage at his house and he lived 25 minutes away from me. He didn't make appointments for you to wait while he was working, he wanted your car all day. He didn't even have a waiting room because he worked at his house. I was a single girl and it was the middle of the week and trying to get somebody who could go with me 25 minutes away to drop off my car and drive me home just to make the trip later when I needed to pick it up... that was next to impossible, especially for a typical, independent-single-girl like me who hated to ask for help.

So I called Nate a day or two before our appointment to cancel. I told him about what happened and he was very nice and later told me that he wasn't at all surprised. He had suspected the problem was with my tires all along.

That's how we almost met. Twice.

It might have gone on like this for a while but a couple weeks later Liz and I had plans to go to this film festival that one of the local outdoor retailers was hosting. One of Nate's friends was going, too. So John called him up a couple hours before show time and asked if he wanted to go. Nate thought about it for a second and, as the story goes, he figured if there was going to be a place to meet the kind of girl he would want to date, it would be there. So he got ready and drove into the city.

Truth be told, I had a pretty crappy day at work that day and I didn't really feel like going out. But this kind of outdoorsy thing didn't happen all the time in St. Louis and Liz and I had been planning to go for a while. I really try to be the kind of person who does what she says she is going to do, so I threw on a t-shirt, a cardigan and my coke-bottle glasses and I showed up.

That was the first (and only) time I went to the Moolah. It's this super-cool old theater in the city, the kind where you can buy adult beverages and watch the movies on a sofa. The festival was a traveling version of the Banff Mountain Film Festival. It was a two-day event and this was the second day, a Thursday. I was looking forward to sitting quietly in the dark, not talking with anybody but my friend.

We watched a couple short films about base-jumping or mountain biking or something, and then it was intermission. Liz saw some friends across the way and John was there, so I went over, too. Liz met John at the rock climbing weekend and I had been getting to know him because he would come to these parties that Liz and I would host every other Thursday: Gin Bucket Thursdays. We had these parties because it was getting harder to meet and hang out with people once we were in our late-twenties. It seemed like everybody our age was married with babies. Married people were not allowed to come to Gin Bucket Thursdays. It was nothing personal, it's just that married people had all kinds of things to do with other married people and it seemed like there was nothing for single people. So we started something.

As I was saying: it was intermission and I was chatting with John and Liz was chatting with Nate. And that's when it happened.

We had one of those ah ha, finally-a-face-to-a-name kind of moments where we said simultaneously, "Oh you're Nate/ oh you're Ashley," and we shook hands. He somehow thought I looked cute and I thought he looked a lot younger than he sounded on the phone. Nathan will tell people that he is really glad we didn't meet under circumstances where we were doing business. I will tell people that I really wasn't in the mood to meet my future husband.

Despite my best efforts not to make new friends that night, we talked for a few minutes. I don't remember what about, exactly, but I know he teased me at one point in a flirtations way. I was trying to be nice in a friendly, don't-get-your-hopes-up kind of way.

Before the theater lights dimmed a couple times to tell us to go back to our seats, Nate came to realize that John and I knew each other from Gin Bucket Thursdays. He had been invited several times by Liz or John but never bothered to come.

"Oh, that's at your house," he asked.

"Well, it was at my place last week but it's usually at Liz's," I said.

We both kind of turned to go back to our seats and I could see the wheels turning in his head. I could tell he was finally going to show up to a Gin Bucket Thursday. And he did, the following week.