That First Date. I’m talking about in the olden days, the golden, olden days. If I were young enough now, I’d have no idea how to ask a girl on a date, and certainly would not know what to do if she accepted.
Back in our days first dates were complicated. The girl had to wonder if the boy was going to be as nice on a date as he was in school. What movie was he taking her to? A romantic movie, and she might consent to a second date. A horror movie, and she’d think he was creepy, and tell him to shuffle off to Buffalo.
After the movie would he splurge, and take her to Grayson’s Spinning Wheel for a chocolate malted milk shake? And what about that lover’s lane coming up 20th street out of Birmingham, just below Vulcan in that small parking lot. The police swept that only twice a night, and if you slipped in behind them the first time, you’ve have a long time before they chased you off. Would that be his next destination?
The boy faced a different set of circumstances as well. First there would be the rumors circulating around school about the girl’s father. If you made a composite of all the available info, the girl’s father stood 11 feet and 12 inches tall. He weighed 450 pounds, all muscle, ‘cause he worked with his hands and outdoors. A friend or two reported there would be a bunch of questions to be answered when you walked in the door. How they knew that, I’m not sure.
While I was driving over to her house, I thought it might be best if I had a brief conversation with The Man. I wanted Him to distinguish in a subsequent conversation to be had with her father between strategic calculations and just plain lies. I thought He might not subtract as many points from my balance sheet for strategic calculations.
Sure enough I was sitting in a chair directly across from not only her father, but her mother, just beside him on the sofa. They first stared at me without saying anything. My date was not ready, probably by design. They wanted their time with me.
They stared at me more. I had gone through my check-off list to make sure everything was A-Okay before I got out of the car, but their stares prompted me to think something was wrong. Of course I couldn’t look around at myself. The date might end before it ever started.
But I was self-conscious something was wrong. My pants must be unzipped. What could I do? I ran out the front door, looking back over my shoulder, and telling them I was checking to see if the car had been stolen. I could see her father standing just inside the screen door staring at me. I circled around to the other side of the car, and put one hand and arm on the roof in a hugging motion that I was glad the car was still there. Her father did not see my other hand check to make sure my pants were zipped up.
I walked back in the house, as casual as I could be, and sat down again for the interrogation. Her father looked at his watch, then he looked at mine. The first words he said to me were simple, “Let’s synchronize our watches.”
Synchronize our watches? That meant if I was one minute late getting his darling daughter home, he had something planned. I didn’t ask what it was.
Her mother was still silently staring at me when he began the interrogation. “What do you plan to be?”
What do I plan to be? Right now I’m just am, and haven’t thought much about be. I thought to myself, Lord, we talked about strategic calculations. “I have been thinking about becoming a doctor.”
Now you must remember to get to this point, I had dashed out of the grocery store at “quittin’ time” of 7 o’clock, went home, took a bath, and just had arrived at her house at the date time of 8. Time was wasting.
Another question from him. “Where are the two of your going?
“Where are the two of you going?” Two is more than one. He is going to let me take his precious daughter on a date. Lord, I thought, hopefully not out loud, prepping for what I was about to say. “You know they’re showing “Gone With the Wind” at a downtown theatre, and it’s three hours and forty minutes long.” I had no intention of taking her to see GWTW.
He looked at his watch. “That means if you drove as fast as you could downtown now, you’d still miss the first of the movie, and wouldn’t get out until about midnight.”
“You know my daughter’s supposed to be home by 12.”
“Considering the circumstances, could we make that one?”
He stared at me. Her mother had not stopped staring at me. The two stared at each other.
Then her mother crunched the exact words I needed for absolute confirmation. “”He worked all day so that he could have a date with our daughter.”
“Okay.” Her father said.
Then my date came out of the back of the house. I mean you should have seen her. A doll. A class beauty, and no doubt a senior beauty when she reached that grade in school.
There was one last comment her father made as we were going out the door, “Let’s synchronize our watches again.”
Never has the balcony of the Alabama Theatre meant so much to two dating for the first time. I wish I could remember the name of the movie.