“Wanna go to a concert?” Tall, dark, and handsome asked. Derek wore his Albertson’s uniform: navy blue baseball cap, polo, and black pants.
I was in my Albertson’s uniform, too: white button up, navy blue apron, and black pants. I was standing at my register. As a recently separated single mom, I was surprised he asked me. After all, an attractive man had options.
“Sure, ya,” I said. “Which concert?”
“Awesome! Saturday, Motley Crűe. You can buy your ticket from Ticket Master; I’ve already got mine. Should be about 20 bucks. Cool! So I’ll get your address later.” He winked at me and went back to the Seafood Counter.
Ok, so he asked me out—but I’m buying my own ticket? I was a little thrown off, but still excited. I’ve got a date! My first date in almost two years!
Fran, a fellow cashier, saw the exchange and came over to chat. At 9 a.m. on Tuesday, no customers in sight, we had time to talk.
“What did Derek want?” Fran asked, dislike clear in her voice. At 5’8”, she had two inches on me, but my long brown hair was 6 inches longer than hers. She was average in every other way: average weight, average looks, and brown eyes. We had worked together and become friends over the past 4 months.
“He asked me to the Motley Crűe concert,” I answered.
She made a face. “Why would you do that?!”
“Uh, I said I would. He’s nice enough. And cute,” I said in defense of my decision, confused that I had to defend it.
“I went out with him before. We were sitting on the couch, kissing, and he tried to—you know—do stuff. I wasn’t into it.” She shuttered with revulsion.
Again, I wasn’t sure what she wanted from me. If you don’t want to kiss a guy, don’t kiss him. If he tries more and you’re not into it, tell him to stop. Still, I was concerned. “When was this?”
“I dunno, months ago, maybe even a year. I tell ya, stay away from him.” She went back to her register to check out a customer.
“Thanks for the advice,” I said, though I wasn’t sure what to do with the info.
Fran’s customer was a regular; he was in his late 60’s. Still very spry, but maybe as old as my grandfather (65). He always made small talk and made us smile. I went over to say hello.
“Always a pleasure to see you lovely ladies smile,” he said with a grin of his own. Fran had finished checking him out and was standing in the bagging area at the back of the register. She gave him a hug.
Now, I’m naturally a hugger; my friends and I hug “hello” and “goodbye.” I have never before hugged a customer, but I figured that it couldn’t hurt.
That old man had a young man’s dirty mind! He hugged me and then pulled his hands over the sides of my breasts as he pulled away. To a casual observer standing at a distance, it might look incidental. His eyes followed his hands, which pressed hard enough that I knew it was intentional. I was stunned; I felt violated.
The man left and I told Fran, “He just felt me up!”
She looked at me with disbelief, “Mr. Reynolds? No way. I was standing right here; I didn’t see anything.”
I tried to explain what happened, but she thought that I made it up. I realized that reporting it would be useless; it would be his word against mine. It wouldn’t help if Fran sided against me. One thing was clear: I wouldn’t be hugging any more customers!
And if Fran wasn’t going to believe me about Mr. Reynolds, then I wouldn’t listen to her about Derek.
I got felt up by an old man! EWWWW!!
My ticket cost $30 and I had to drive across town to get it.
Then I had to figure out what to wear. I wanted to make a good impression and look nice for Derek, so I tried on several outfits before settling on a black silk tank top, gray skirt, and heels. I fixed my hair and makeup and asked my sister, “Well? What do you think?”
Sister made an effort to be nice, indicated by the way she scrunched up her face and hesitated a minute before answering. As a single college student, she was the closest thing to a dating expert that I had.
“Uh, sweetie, you look very nice, but aren’t you going to a concert?”
“Yes,” I said, in a small, sheepish voice.
“Um, ya. Sweetie, you’re a little over dressed.” She led me back into my bedroom, where she pulled out a t-shirt and blue jean shorts. “This is what you should wear to a concert.”
I balked. “It’s a first date! I have to make a good impression!”
“You’ll most likely be sitting in the grass. You’d ruin that skirt.”
We compromised. I wore my black silk tank top with blue jean shorts (nice ones, with the ends folded up neatly). Sister lent me her gold chain necklace.
“Whatever,” Sister said. “It’s a little dressy, but okay.”
The doorbell rang and I was so excited that I nearly ran to the door. Sister put her hand on my arm and said, “Wait. You don’t want to appear over-eager.” She counted to ten, then let me open the door.
I hardly recognized the man standing there: brown Mohawk (not spiked up, thank goodness), plaid button up with the sleeves torn off, dirty cut-offs, and shades. How did I not know that he had a Mohawk? I asked myself, stunned. Oh, ya, he wears a baseball cap at work. He looked like every parent’s nightmare.
“Let’s go!” he said. No comment on how nice I looked. No, “How’s it goin?” Just, “Let’s go.” I smiled stiffly and followed him to his car, which was almost as dirty as his shorts.
We arrived at the coliseum without incident. Walking from the parking lot into the building, Derek stopped and picked up a discarded cigarette box. He looked at it, then threw it back down. A couple of feet later, he repeated those actions. I looked at him quizzically.
“I’m collecting Marlboro Miles,” he said, matter-of-factly. “You know, Marlboro cigarettes puts a certain number of miles on each pack near the UPC. You collect ‘em and trade ‘em for stuff.”
“I know. I smoke. I used my miles to get a beach blanket, a tote bag, and some lighters.”
“Cool, so you know what I’m talking about.”
“You don’t smoke, do you? I haven’t seen you outside with the smokers.”
“No, I just pick ‘em up when I see ‘em,” he said, and continued to check every empty box in our path.
We passed a trashcan and I prayed, Please don’t dig through the trash! He looked like he might, but we heard the band playing, so he rushed us to our seats. Out of every twenty boxes, he found 1 with miles attached. That day, he collected 2 total.
We were there only a minute when I started having trouble breathing. I looked around and couldn’t identify the source of the cloud of smoke that was aggravating my allergies.
“Derek, I think someone is smoking pot,” I said.
He laughed. “It’s a concert, of course someone’s smoking weed!” he snorted, like that was the stupidest thing that I could’ve said. “Why, you want some?”
“Uh, no, I’m allergic. And I’m having a really hard time breathing. Can we move?”
He looked like I had punched him: shocked and hurt. “Move? But these are great seats! If you want to get away from the smoke, we’ll have to move to the lawn.”
I looked at him pleadingly. “I can’t breathe,” I repeated, and wondered if I should leave without him.
He hesitated, and I suspect that he was thinking the same thing. He sighed, then said, “Come on.” He led me high up on the lawn. “If I had known that we’d be sitting up here, I would’ve brought a blanket.”
Finally able to breathe, I ignored Derek’s grumbling and sat back on the grass to watch the show. We went to the grass to avoid the grass smoke! Hee hee! I giggled. I turned to share the joke with Derek, then saw his grim face and decided against it.
Motley Crue was rocking on the stage flanked by big screens that showed them up close. Looking at the nearest screen from here was a better view than down in our seats and there wasn’t anyone directly in front of us. So when the lights danced across the stage, I could see their shapes clearly: swastikas.
Shocked, I looked around at the other music lovers. None of them seemed to mind or notice. I looked back at the screen to see if I was mistaken and saw a close up on the lead guitarist. His armband was red, with a white circle, and in that circle was a black swastika, as clear as day.
More shocked than before, I again looked around. I had a nice view of the crowd and all their white face and/or arms. The only black face was one of the ushers walking down the aisle; he had a white coworker by his side, and neither was looking at the stage. I felt sick to my stomach, again. If I had known that MC were racists, I wouldn’t have come. Jules, what did you get yourself into?! I asked myself.
The concert finally ended, and we walked towards Derek’s car. Very casually, he asked, “So, what kind of birth control are you on?”
He repeated the question.
I was flabbergasted. It was our first date, we hadn’t even kissed, and there was zero possibility of sex that night. “None of your business!” I replied indignantly.
He mumbled, so that I could barely hear him, “Well, if we’re dating, I should know.”
Well, since this is the only date we’re ever gonna have, you don’t need to know, I thought, and ignored him.
I had cooled off by the time we got to the car. “I’m hungry,” I announced.
“Me, too. There’s another band playing tonight that I want to go see. It’s free with our MC ticket stubs. Starts at 7, in this little club, not too far from here. Wanna go?”
I thought about it. It was free, it’d be so loud that I wouldn’t have to talk to Derek, and it would get Motley Crue off my mind. “Sure, why not,” I acquiesced.
“We don’t have time for a nice sit down meal,” Derek said, obviously torn between food and the concert.
At that point, I knew that I wasn’t going out with Derek again, so I didn’t care too much. “Let’s have some fun,” I said. “Just get me a happy meal.”
“Really?” I could tell that Derek was thinking, “Cheap Date!”
“Really.” I smiled reassuringly.
Derek drove towards Mickey-D’s. “Uh, is it ok if we eat on the way? I don’t want to be late.”
I sighed. What could be more perfect than ketchup spilled in my lap? “That’s fine,” I said.
Derek was so grateful that at the next stoplight, he bought me a $1 rose from a homeless guy. As he handed it to me, he beamed like a child who had picked his mother a wildflower bouquet. It would have been completely charming if it hadn’t been bought from a dirty tramp and we weren’t on our way to McDonald’s. As it was, I wondered if I could catch a disease from the rose; or maybe it was really a weed; the way the rest of the date was going, I wouldn’t be too surprised!
I had only eaten half my happy meal when we pulled into the parking lot at the club.
“We can sit here while you finish, I guess,” Derek said, fidgeting like a 5-year-old.
I popped the last chicken nugget into my mouth and said, “Done!”
“Oh, you aren’t going to eat those fries?” asked my date, who hadn’t ordered anything at McDonald’s. He said that he wasn’t hungry, but I suspect that he was just broke.
I shook my head and he shoved most of them into his mouth in one big bite. I had to turn away.
At the door, the hostess asked for a ten-dollar cover charge.
“We have Crue tickets,” Derek said, and showed her. “I heard on the radio that we get in free.”
She nodded and held out her hand for the ticket. He was willing to let her look at it, but he wouldn’t surrender it. “Sir, you have to give me your ticket if you want in.”
“No! It’s a souvenir! Why can’t I keep it? Oh, Man, that’s so bogus!”
I narrowed my eyes and he looked like a five-year-old throwing a temper tantrum. I hope I don’t see anyone I know tonight, I thought.
Finally, Derek gave up his ticket and we got in. He immediately rushed the stage; not difficult to do, since less than a dozen people were standing in front of it. The band looked at him like, Where did this weirdo come from?, while Derek continued to whoop and cheer. “Zebra! All right! I love you guys!”
I hung back, embarrassed. Derek seemed to have forgotten that I was there, so I looked for a chair. I sat down next to a nice couple in their 40’s. In fact, most of the patrons were their age. This wasn’t surprising since Zebra was at their climax 20 years before.
The singer said, “Ok, we’re going to take a little break. We’ll be back in 10.” The band members went to find refreshments.
Derek jumped onto the stage, grabbed the drumsticks, raised them triumphantly and said, “WHOO!! I got Zebra’s drumsticks, WHOO WHOO!”
The drummer looked perplexed. I imagined that he was thinking, How am I supposed to play the second set without my sticks? Who does that guy think he is? He sent the band manager to retrieve his sticks.
Derek finally realized that he was missing something: me. He spotted me talking to the nice couple (and pretending that I didn’t know him) and came over. “Great band! Aren’t they? I love ‘em, they’re great.” Derek was sweating like he had been on stage.
“Ya, Derek, they’re great,” I said indulgently. I might’ve enjoyed the music if Derek had quit hollering.
He noticed the drink in front of me. “Got yourself something already, eh? Guess I’ll go get me a beer.” He walked toward the bar. A few minutes later, though, he called me over to the souvenir stand. “Jules! Hey, Jules! Which one of these shirts do you like better?”
I was surprised that he was getting me one. After all, I thought that he was broke. “That’s tough, they’re both cool. Hmmm; the one on the left, I think.”
“Cool, thanks!” he said, and bought himself an XL.
Stunned, I wandered back over to my drink. Could the man really be that thoughtless?
When the band was finally done, Derek drove me home. It was a 20-minute drive, so (unfortunately) we had time to talk. As usual, I babbled nervously, “Dad has a job down in Austin. He’s been living there for the past 6 months in an apartment; Mom’s moving down at the end of the month,” I told him. “I think I’m moving, too. Don’t tell anyone at work; I haven’t submitted my two-week notice yet.”
“Ok. Wow, Austin, huh? Whatcha gonna do down there?”
“I dunno, probably work for Albertson’s if there is one, maybe go to school. I could learn how to type and be a secretary, like my Mom,” I said. I turned the conversation to him. “How ‘bout you? You gonna work at the seafood counter the rest of your life?”
“Hell no. I’ve been talking about moving to the meat counter. There’s more variety and the manager gets paid well.”
I was stunned. I didn’t think that people really planned careers at grocery stores. I mean, now that I think about it, some must. For me and most of the front-end employees, it was just a job until we could go back to school or find a more lucrative position.
We pulled up to my house. Thank God I’m home! I thought. “Thanks for driving, Derek, good night!” I tried not to run inside, but I did get away as quickly as possible. As I shut the door from the inside, I sighed with relief, glad that was over!
Derek called the next week and told me what a great time he’d had. “I know that you’re moving to Austin,” he said. “I’ve got friends down there, and we visit 6th Street every once in a while. So let me know your phone number and I’ll call you when I’m gonna be in town, ok?”
“No,” I answered, wondering why I had taken his phone call at all.
“No?” he asked, in disbelief.
“No. I didn’t have a good time, ok? Don’t call me again. Bye.” Was he really oblivious to the fact that I had a lousy time?! Go pick up some Marlboro miles, Derek, and leave me alone! Why is it that I always think of the best things to say after I hang up the phone?!
- Even though you may work with someone (in this case, for 4 months), you may not really know him. People are different outside of work.
- Personable. (Not a jerk!)
I hope you enjoyed this chapter out of my book, Jules Rules: The Best Worst Dates of My Life. If so, order yourself a copy for Christmas! Then order one for your BFF. And another for your favorite aunt – it’s PG-13, after all.