Part 2: How I Met Your Mother

Here's the summary from today, so we can get on to the good stuff:

-- I slept in until 8:30 a.m.

-- I had four pieces of pizza for lunch.  Yes, I had salad too.

-- I enjoyed white rice with my chicken bowl for dinner -- bad carbs... scandalous!

-- And Carvel ice cream for dessert!

Yep, my down-time is going great.

But that's not what I'm going to blog about.

Instead, I'm going to write about the first time Stephanie and I met.  Why?  Because today we took the second-biggest step any modern couple takes when signifying a committed, long-term, stable relationship.

We changed our relationship status on Facebook.

Yep, I know.  Huge.

So how did this five-year odyssey begin?  Some of you know the story, many do not.  My future children certainly don't!

Kids, this is how I met your mother.

Friday, January 20, 2005 started off like any normal day for me.  I worked for a few hours and was preparing to enjoy our company's free catered Friday lunch when I realized we were having sub sandwiches.  Yuck!  I can't stand sub sandwiches, especially the kind that are catered to events because everything is soggy and you can't get rid of the smell in the kitchen for hours.  I left the office immediately, which worked out conveniently enough since the Beastie Boys' new album, To the 5 Boroughs, was hitting stores that day.

I used to think I was the forgotten fourth member of the Beasties.  I suppose every Jewish kid does at some point!

BTW, future children: An album, in this case something called a "compact disc" or CD, is what old people used to listen to their music in the late 20th Century and early 21st Century.

Fortunately, there's a Best Buy and food court a few blocks from where I work.   (Kids, places like Best Buy were referred to as a "retail stores", where people used to go IN-PERSON to buy their goods. Crazy, I know!)  It would be the perfect spot to grab a bite and the new CD before heading back to work.  I ended up going to Sbarro for a slice of pizza.  Funny thing is that I NEVER go to Sbarro for a slice of pizza.  In fact, I hadn't been to that Sbarro in the entire year of working at my company prior to that moment.  I have no idea what motivated me to do so.  This is important because I had gone to my usual spots in the food court (e.g., Sharkey's, California Sushi Roll) I would likely have been eating indoors.  Instead, I chose to enjoy the warm weather and slight breeze outside at a table by myself.

I had been minding my own business at the table or a few minutes when out of the corner of my eye I saw three people walking towards me.  No, wait... they're girls!  No, wait... they're three GOOD-LOOKING girls... and they're still walking towards me!

Who's the one in the middle, I thought.  Wow, she's gorgeous!

That would be Stephanie, wearing a pink sweater and white collared button-down shirt, hair flowing, hips swaying.

Pretty woman... she's walking back to me?  Really?

"Care for some company?" That's what Steph said to me.

I looked around.  There didn't seem to be any other tables available, so it made more sense that they would want to share a spot with a lone guy.  Still, I wasn't complaining.*

Now, my inner monologue was far different at this point than what came out of my mouth.  I realized immediately that this situation was not normal, and if I acted like my "normal" self I'd probably screw up a potentially Good Thing (TM).  So I instantly decided to be like George Costanza in Seinfeld and do everything opposite what I'd normally do in a moment such as this.

That meant playing it cool.

"Sure, go ahead," I said casually.  Meanwhile, what I was thinking was, "OH HELL YEAH!"  Followed by, "Am I being 'punk'd' by Ashton Kutcher? Game developer dude gets three pretty women surrounding him at lunch and hi-jinx ensue?"

Stephanie and her two friends started their lunch, giggling and chatting excitedly about women's shoes.

There's a lot I can take, but if you're going to crash my lunch party of one, PLEASE don't talk women's footwear.  I mean, come on.

"Ladies, I don't mind you sitting here at all, but is there anything else to talk about besides women's footwear?"

Why yes, yes there was.  Me!

Stephanie changed the subject to what my story was: What did I do for a living, where I was from, etc.  Turns out that she wanted to pursue a career in communications and marketing, which is what I was doing.  At the time Steph was an intern for The Walt Disney Company, hence her reason for eating lunch in Burbank.

It was her first time eating in that food court.

Are you sensing the "meant to be" factor yet?

Steph and I proceeded to entangle ourselves in debate about whether an MBA was necessary for marketing professionals. (Steph was pro and I was anti-MBA).  The chemistry was evident from the very start.  We spoke rapidly back and forth; it was as if Steph's other two friends weren't even at the table.  We maintained eye contact the entire time, which was easy considering I was hypnotized by her beauty and uncharacteristic poise, polish and charm.  I kept thinking to myself, "who IS this girl???" But I had to keep playing it cool.  This whole moment was just too good to be true, I thought.

So, I did what any cool, calm and collected dude would do -- I finished my slice of pizza and excused myself from the table.

"Ladies, it was truly a pleasure meeting you.  I'm going to pick up the latest Beastie Boys CD now and headed back to work.  I hope you have a great weekend."

And I started to walk away.  I was literally prepared to leave the conversation, which is mind-boggling now considering that Stephanie is going to be my partner for life.

Thankfully, Steph's friends caught on to what was happening and intervened.  One of them butted in and said, "You two have so much in common, you should exchange business cards or something."

THANK GOODNESS!  I was jumping up and down inside but had to play it cool.  So I did exactly the opposite of what I'd normally do: I reached into my wallet, pulled out a card, casually flipped it on the table and told Steph, "Sure, call or email me any time.  Happy to chat."

And that was it.

She emailed me that night.

I served as her mentor for six months.  The chemistry was explosive.  We began dating in June 2005, a story I'll save for another time.

To this day, Steph tells me how stunned she was that I didn't ask for her number.  I honestly figured that the moment was so unexpected that I shouldn't over-reach because I might spoil it.  Those gals already made that Friday special for me, so why screw it up by being like all the other guys and ask Steph out in front of her friends?

I can't be more grateful that one of Steph's friends saw the situation differently and gave me the perfect opportunity to continue the conversation.

A conversation that blossomed into a friendship, into a romance and into the greatest thing that's ever happened to me.

So, kids, that's how I met your mother.  And there's a lot more where that came from.

242 days and counting.

* = Years later, Stephanie would admit that there WERE other tables available. She spotted me and wanted to sit with me.  It's at this point that I should point out that Steph has trouble seeing clearly from far away, so her judging if I was good-looking should be balanced accordingly!  I should also point out that I was wearing beige pants with a subtle plaid pattern.  Had Steph seen those pants sooner, which I referred to as "angry grandpa pants", she is the first to admit that she probably would have sat someplace FAR away from me!  Can't say that I would have blamed her.