For unknown reasons there is a theme of sorts to this post. Sort of. When I was driving to hockey, iTunes had one of its little fits and strung together several songs by Patti Smith without being asked to. Among them was this. And that song spent the next several days stuck in my head. I don’t think this has anything remotely to do with the story — I just thought that it was entertaining. When I wasn’t thinking GET OUT OF MY HEAD.
As of this week, Ms. Rose and I have been together for twenty-five years. A quarter century. (She clearly has vast depths of character.)We went on our first date about eight years before that.
I was the chaperone.
Let’s back up. That summer, a friend of mine (who I’ll refer to as ETCO) and I were looking to play a prank on a mutual friend of ours. I don’t remember the details of our deliberations, but ultimately (for various reasons that appeared to make sense at the time) it was decided to have him sent an anonymous love letter. From, like, a girl.
That was the first snag. Both of us recognized that we’d be unable to compose such a thing ourselves and, since both of us were physics students, we were a little short on female friends. I mean, most women (indeed, most people) either avoided it in school, didn’t like it or didn’t do well when they did take it. But ECTO was a resourceful sort of fellow and, after a while, announced “I know just the person.” So he contacted her, a letter was written and Hilarity Ensued.
Not so much, actually. The Victim (let’s call him TV) asked a couple of cautious questions but there wasn’t the hoped-for Reaction. Oh well, not all pranks work as expected.
This is where the date comes in — TEOC had, apparently, promised a movie or some such as some sort of incentive to write The Letter (the scented paper was her idea). I was invited along as what? Co-conspirator? Referee? Homer Clodthrop Noodleman III? (More on that later.) It struck me that ‘chaperone’ sounded as good as anything. I don’t recall what the movie was.
Fast forward a few months. Ms. Rose, also being a resourceful sort of person (it strikes me that most everyone in this story was resourceful except, perhaps, for me. Perhaps I shouldn’t pursue that line of thought any further.) had determined the identity and appearance of The Victim and one day, while he wasn’t looking, dropped another letter on his notebook in the library. I’m told that this time Hilarity did Ensue as TV accosted various people and demanded to know who had left the note. (Unfortunately, though, I wasn’t there to see it. I had to be satisfied with various retellings. But it appeared that the prank had finally worked. Yay us.)
Things escalated somewhat from that point.
A brief aside. At that place and time in history, the ‘main’ campus rag had someone on the editorial staff that had enacted/evolved an ‘unclassified’ section. She (I think it was a she, but my search-fu has proven inadequate to the task of finding out) was clearly a clever (dare I say ‘resourceful’?) person — this resulted in a page (sometimes more) that was probably one of the most-read pages in the paper. There were ‘for sale’ ads mixed in with personal ads mixed in with movie promos mixed in with sophomoric attempts at humour mixed in with….
It was kinda-sorta like a social media construct but with, perhaps, a slightly higher signal-to-noise ratio. Campus media being what they are, of course, this ended after the clever young lady departed and ‘enough’ personnel changes led to, well, changes. But for a time, it was a gem.
But I was talking about escalation. TV put in an unclassified ad that said something like “Who are you?” Ms. Rose responded using the same technique but in a different campus paper (there were at least three in those days — the ‘main’ one and various faculty rags.).
A third ‘voice’ was also heard from — the jilted Homer Clodthrop Noodleman III (and one guess as to who that might have been) which resulted in a bizarre three-way ‘conversation’ via unclassified ad; one where two of the three voices technically belonged to people — or at least personas — who didn’t actually exist.
We’ve both retold this story multiple times over the years but even twenty years later we were finding people who would say something like “I remember those ads. I always wondered who was doing what to whom.”
I guess it was a successful prank after all — in several totally unexpected ways.