Well, things change I guess. Life goes on. I no longer have a girlfriend.
So I must speak no more of Smittygirl. Instead I will speak in future of Smittyfiancée. Although really that's just such an awkward sounding word I'll probably still refer to her as Smittygirl.
Let me tell you how this happened--after the jump (yes, The Jump is back!). Oh, and I've had to make an important correction to my earlier description, which is in bold.
See, I first started thinking about this back in February or so. You know how it is: you start thinking about how you'd propose before you really decide you're going to. In our case it was clear from moment one that I'd be popping the question at a Devil Rays game. We met at a Rays game--in fact we met because of a Rays game. Smittygirl put an ad on Craigslist asking if anybody wanted to go to Rays games, since she liked going and often went alone. So there was never any chance, really, that I'd ask her anywhere else.
But how do you surprise your girlfriend, I mean, really surprise her? How do you pick a ring when you don't know her size and she doesn't fancy solitaires? How do you ask her parents' permission when they live in Naples but one of them is working in Kansas? And how do you do the asking, at a ballpark, when you think the Jumbotron proposal is corny and impersonal?
The first of these questions to find an answer was the one about the ring. Why not use a family heirloom? I know Smittygirl likes antique jewelry, and I know her taste moderately well... somewhat well. I'll go with somewhat. My grandmother Woore's ring was suggested to me by my mother and aunt some time before I firmly settled on asking the question in the first place. I got a few slightly blurry pictures of the ring (the best that could be done with available technology), and it looked nice to me. Given Smittygirl's taste I thought it might be just perfect.
And once I got into thinking about it, I decided that the perfect day would be June 4, our anniversary. We met in May, but didn't really start dating until June 4. I'd casually tossed out the idea of going to a game that night, which seemed a perfect way to celebrate, but we hadn't discussed it since probably April. It would be perfect. June 4 is a Monday, but Rays games tend to start at 7:10 in the evening so it would be a great day to pop the question while celebrating our anniversary.
As time went on I thought, wouldn't it be neat if there was a way to get the mascot involved? Our mascot, Raymond, is great, one of the best mascots in MLB in my opinion, and Smittygirl agrees. How cool would it be to get Raymond involved?
That... er, that's about as far as my thinking went on the matter. I had the idea in mind--I was going to ask her at a game. I'd use my grandmother's ring. I'd ask her on June 4th. I'd have Raymond involved in some capacity (did I check to see that this was possible? No). And that... um... er... See, I'm a planner. But I'm also a procrastinator. Ideas are great; action is overrated.
Well, in any event I had to ask her parents' permission. This is no mean feat given that her father is working in Kansas. But there was a window of opportunity: her brother's graduation. Dad was coming home for that event, and frequently he took a few days when he did that. Smittygirl and I went down to participate in the festivities, but I figured her father would be at home for a few days afterward. I'd cook up some story that my evil employer was sending me on a one-night business trip somewhere, and then duck back down there, perhaps on Tuesday night after Memorial Day.
So of course I was concerned when Smittygirl mentioned to me that her father was heading back to the midwest on Sunday. Hmm. This was on Saturday afternoon. I had very little time.
Fortunately Saturday evening we went to a high-school football game. Spring football, not a big crowd, but Smittygirl's brother was filming the game (he'll be directing Hollywood features eventually) and we were going to go... and so were the parents. Still, how was I going to ask? This was probably--almost certainly--the only chance I'd have.
At the beginning of the third quarter my future in-laws--who were sitting a few rows away from us--went to the concession stand to get something to snack on. This was it. I offered that I'd get Smittygirl a hot dog and ducked off to meet them.
I think this may have been the strangest place to ask this question--may I marry your daughter? At a high school football game concession stand.
My future in-laws were surprised, and happy, and didn't say anything bad at all, which I think is about as good as you can hope for. Of course, we talked for about fifteen or twenty minutes, so Smittygirl had to assume something was up since it doesn't take that long to get a hot dog. I claimed there had been a big line. It's awful, you have to lie to your future spouse to keep the surprise going.
So that was Memorial Day weekend--the weekend before the big event.
The next week, I had to work Tuesday and Friday but had leave Wednesday and Thursday. If you want to know why you can ask; it's an asinine rule created by my employer. In any event, the ring itself, which previously had lived in Winchester, Virginia, went into the mail on Tuesday. It had gone to a jeweler to have some work done--new shank, polishing, that sort of thing--and was due to arrive on Wednesday. Fortunately I was at home all day. But that's the day Smittygirl goes in late to work! And USPS says it delivers by noon! Aaack!
Understand, I never, EVER want to say goodbye to Smittygirl for the workday. But that day in particular I kept thinking... man, I hope she has an errand she needs to run!
She didn't. We cut it close. The postman was probably waiting in the lobby when she came down in the elevator, that's how soon it was after she left that the package arrived. Whew! Surprise sustained for another day!
I really like the ring. Of course I immediately unwrapped the package to take a close-up look. I really thought she'd like it, it's just so pretty and so unique. It may not have been as unique in 1935--the style was very much 'in' then--but it was still a beautiful piece of jewelry.
Now, I had Wednesday off so you'd think I'd have done something towards planning this event, which was now five days away.
Thursday afternoon I went over to the stadium to get tickets. Yes yes, I know, I waited until four days before the game to get tickets, to the most important baseball game of my entire life. But bear in mind, this is the Devil Rays. They don't exactly pack the house every night. And... the opposing team was the Kansas City Royals, the only team in baseball that consistently challenges the Rays for on-field ineptitude. And it was a Monday night game.
Except, uh... correction. It was a Monday afternoon game. The gentleman at the ticket window said so. The game started at 3:10, not 7:10.
I called several people to ask for advice. Everyone agreed that I should try to get Smittygirl away from the office.
That would be easier said than done. I didn't want to buy the tickets yet, so I headed home and spent forty minutes on the internet trying to figure out who her boss was. I only knew his first name. Could I call her office and ask for Eddie? Would that be appropriate? He's like a vice president or something. I finally tracked down a number for him through the Chamber of Commerce website. And I called. And got his voicemail.
I left a message saying that I wanted to speak with him about stealing Smittygirl away from the office on Monday. Then I called back about ten minutes later and left another message telling him she didn't know anything about it. The secret was safe for another day! But my stress level was up about twenty points.
Friday morning I was at work. I was distracted. I didn't want to be there and, more, I had a proposal to get planned. I finally called the boss again around 10:30. We spoke briefly. I told him what I was planning to do and why the day was special--I figured I needed to give him a good reason to say yes. He said he'd look at his schedule and call me back.
Around eleven he called--and said I could do it. Hooray! And he'd keep the secret, of course... I left the office at once and said I probably wouldn't be back. Back over to the stadium, where I picked up really, really good tickets. Second row, right behind the on-deck circle. If the stadium had real grass we'd have been able to smell it. I mentioned what I was planning, and of course the ticket agent was very excited. She told me I could go in to guest services and discuss how to get Raymond involved.
Oh yeah... I still didn't really know how to do that. So I went in to guest services. If I wanted the jumbotron, of course, I could do that... but forget that. I wanted Raymond, I said. The receptionist called Raymond. Well, really, she called the actress who plays Raymond, who is not Raymond. It's sort of confusing. Left a message on her voicemail. I should expect a call.
Cool! I was going to talk to Raymond!
I had other shopping to do Friday and it was a very busy day. My stress level remained high.
Saturday was Smittygirl's birthday. She went to get a pedicure, and, great good luck, Raymond... uh, Raymond's... uh, the person who plays Raymond (TPWPR), called me then. Sweet! The secret remained safe for another day!
I suggested that I'd give Raymond--or one of Raymond's assistants--a fake ring box sometime during the game, and then later in the game, during the 5th inning, Raymond would bring the fake ring down and I would propose then. I still didn't have this exactly in mind as to how it would work, but TPWPR had a general idea and said she thought it would work. Cool!
My stress level remained somewhat high.
I took Monday off from work, of course. Good thing, too. I technically hadn't picked up the fake ring or ring box. Couldn't do it during the weekend, could I? And anyway, if I'd done it weeks before I would have had to keep that stuff hidden. I was thrilled to have kept the real ring hidden in my safe, but the less stuff to hide the better.
I dashed to Target and got a great little box and a Ring Pop. Of course they don't have Ring Pops in the candy section; they're at the checkout. But I wandered lost through the candy section for a few minutes. My stress level went up a few more points.
I did find the ring pops, though, and got one, and brought the box and the ring pop home and fixed it up so the ring pop was nestled in the box just like a ring in a ring box. But there was a snag, you see. The box... was about six inches on a side. How was I going to sneak this into the stadium without Smittygirl seeing? And get it to one of Raymond's assistants? Not to mention that the security people have to examine any containers or packages you bring into the stadium. I could see the secret slipping away. My stress level reached the point where I needed a Xanax.
Because I was pinging I couldn't think any more, so I called my folks, who fortunately still had their wits about them and suggested that I simply take the fake ring box over to the stadium now and tell TPWPR what I was doing. Of course!
I showered and changed and shaved and grabbed the tickets and the real ring and went back to the stadium. I left the fake box with Guest Services. The receptionist called TPWPR and left a message. I headed back across the bay. It was 1:00 when I left the stadium. I was still somewhat stressed, but the Xanax and my favorite de-stressing CD were keeping me from going completely crazy.
Smittygirl works in north Tampa. I headed straight there, but the traffic was smooth so I had time to grab lunch at McDonald's on the way. This was a good thing because I needed to eat something or I'd have lost my mind entirely.
I had agreed to show up at the office to meet Smittygirl at 2:00. At the appointed hour I showed up and talked to a receptionist. I said I'd already talked to the boss and that I was hear to pick up Smittygirl. The boss came out and shook my hand and chatted very briefly, assured me she still didn't know what was happening.
Ha ha! Did she ever! She finished with her client and came to the receptionist to get the next customer. The receptionist called my name. Of course Smittygirl was mortified. She told me that A) I'd just lied to her boss (because her boss told her that "a client is waiting for you who worked with you last week") and B) she'd talk to me after she just took this next client.
"Uh, no. See, this is your anniversary present! I'm taking you away! We're going to the baseball game." Again, she was mortified. But pleased. And definitely surprised!
Off we went back across the bay. Smittygirl seemed excited--you always are, of course, when you're playing hooky from work. If she was tipped off by the really good seats, she didn't let on. After all, this was my anniversary present to her, right? Of course I'd spring for the good seats.
It was a good game, with the Rays in the lead the whole way. The section was far from full, and people around us were friendly. I was finally enjoying myself and getting excited, rather than being stressed and nervous.
It was the bottom of the 5th inning with one batter retired when Raymond came down the steps to our section. Raymond was wearing a little tuxedo costume, it was great. And had a silk bouquet. And the box! Whew.
Raymond set the flowers down, and opened the box and handed it to Smittygirl. Why, Raymond was proposing to Smittygirl! I could let this go on, of course, so I pulled the ringbox out of my pocket and went down on one knee.
Actually, I did not go down on one knee. I thought I had, but then the memory is a funny thing made up of electricity and synapses and chemicals and things, and if I learned nothing else in high school science classes it's that electricity and chemicals don't work the way you want them to. Smittygirl absolved me of my error by saying there really wasn't room there in the row of seats to drop to a knee... but still. Oh well. It was romantical enough I suppose, one knee or not.
Honestly, I don't remember exactly what I said. I think it was along the lines of, "I can't let this go on! I just can't let this go on any longer, not without making you my wife."
Okay, not the most romantic wording ever. I'm an off-the-cuff kind of guy. Sometimes that's not the greatest. But it didn't matter. Smittygirl knew what was coming already, of course, as soon as she saw the ring pop. And she was already crying by the time I got the words out anyway.
She said yes! Yaay!
After that... well, there was a ballgame, but I was relaxed down to the point that I barely noticed. I was going to get married! Wow. And I felt really lucky to have somebody like Smittygirl who was actually willing to say yes to my proposal.
Comic relief: the little girl sitting behind us wanted everything she laid eyes on. She wanted a drink, a bat, anything. When the little girl seated next to us--who was totally awesome, she cheered on the Rays and yelled at the Royals like a pro and she was only four--was given a baseball, the little girl behind us whined that she wanted a ball. For like the next inning and a half.
So of course, once Smittygirl had a ring on her finger... well, the little girl wanted a ring. Too funny. Fortunately there was a ring pop available, although it had rather a lot of Raymond hair stuck to it. It was funny.
So anyway. That's the story. Yep, Smitty is engaged. I know, many of you probably never thought that would happen. Sometimes neither did I. Life is funny like that.
Now, of course, if you want to hear the story from Smittygirl's perspective, you must go and read it on her blog. I strongly recommend it. She has a picture of the ring and everything!