Monday, February 27, 2006

Memory Lane, Avoided

While retracing some of the steps described here, I decided to take a drive by the house of my first "real" girlfriend. She lived about 15-20 miles from the lake, and the drive is a pretty one, so I thought it might be fun to swing by and see that area again. I hadn't seen her in just under 30 years, and, out of curiosity, I thought it might be interesting to see if she still lived in the same house I visited as an earnest young Sophomore/Junior in high school.

The odds of Robin living in the same house she did in 1978 may seem astronomical, but we are talking about the country here. The odds are lower than one might think.

In any event, as the drive took me closer to her house, I actually started to get nervous. What if she were out in the yard? She I stop and talk to her? Wouldn't that seem strange to her? I decided I would roll with the punches when I got there.

As I drove by her house, it looked exactly how I remembered it. This increased the odds that she still lived there. But there were no cars in the driveway and it didn't look like anybody was home. I was relieved.

About a quarter mile from her house is a bridge that serves, during summer months, as a canoe dropoff for those who wish to take 1/2 day trips down a beautiful meandering river. As such, there has always been a run-down convenience store at the intersection of the roads near the bridge. The store is the size of a large living room in one of the ubiquitous McMansions that litter the suburbs of modern America. Prominently advertised on the store is the availability of hunting licenses and various fishing paraphanalia, and, of course, the great lubricant of rural America: booze.

I decided to stop in. As I was getting out of my car, a sense of panic hit me. What if she works in the store? Will she be embarrassed to meet an old boyfriend while working in this little dump of a store? These are the kinds of questions/excuses extreme introverts make to avoid uncomfortable social settings, and in case there is much question about it, I am an extreme introvert.

So I went into the store. Nobody was behind the counter. I heard voices, even children's voices, in the back of the store behind the walls where customers are not allowed to tread. Now I was really tempted to abort this mission. Instead, I went to the pop cooler. I looked out of the corner of my eye to see if I recognized anybody, walked to the counter and waited for somebody to come out. I was sure it would be my old girlfriend.

Out popped an Elmer Fudd look-alike: 75 years old, pleasant, a hunting cap on his oversized head. "That'll be $1.09. Thank you very much."As I went to push through the door, I asked him whether Robin or her family still lived up the road. "I really don't know, but I don't think so," he replied.

Good for her, I thought. And good for me too.