Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Date Did NOT Set My Best Friend on Fire


One February, way back when we were teens, my best friend, Kate, talked me into yet another blind date. The guy she liked lived ten miles away. He didn’t have a car, but his friend did. We met the guys at a nearby restaurant where we sat and talked for a couple hours.

Well, Kate and “Donnie” talked for a couple hours.

As for me, I wished that I had stayed home and read a good book. My date, I’ll call him “Joe,” was not someone my parents would have approved of. I won’t go into details, but I did notice that he had a lot of gray in his hair. I suspected that he had probably graduated from high school shortly after the end of World War II. Fortunately, Joe dozed off about twenty minutes after we were introduced.

Hey, I wasn’t that boring.

Thirty-plus years later, I wrote an anecdote about that bizarre double date and entered it in a Worst Date contest sponsored by a newspaper that no longer exists. Of course, being a writer, I, um, embellished the story a bit.

On Valentine’s Day, the newspaper published an article written by one of its reporters. The article included several worst date anecdotes submitted by readers (with no last names mentioned). Mine was the lead in. I knew it couldn’t miss. It began with, “My date set my best friend on fire.”

My entry related how Donnie had lit a cigarette and tossed the match into the ashtray. The hot match scored a direct hit on the cellophane cigarette wrapper, which burst into flames. I wrote that my dozing date woke up, assessed the situation, and started huffing and puffing. Thanks to Joe’s lung capacity, the mini torch went airborne and landed on Kate’s fuzzy black sweater.

Well, that was my story then, but I’m no longer sticking to it.

The reality: My date did not set my best friend on fire. I confess that I combined the blind date story with another “incident” that happened when Kate and I were at the restaurant a few months earlier. Yes, the ashtray fire really happened the way I wrote it, but Donnie and Joe were nowhere in sight.

Today, when friends read the tear sheet of that article, I tell them the truth: “Actually,” I say, “I’m the one who set Kate on fire.” But not to worry, Kate wasn’t hurt. Her sweater was only slightly singed, and the Pepsi stains came out in the wash.

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