I suppose I should have known better. I mean, everyone knows about blind dates, right? And it’s not like I hadn’t any previous experience—I went on a couple in high school, which should have been enough to teach me the wisdom of politely saying “no.”
But Donna was a good friend, and I really liked her husband, LeRoy. He was a fireman at the time, although he had already started the process of applying for an air traffic controller’s job. Maybe I had better back up a bit.
I was divorced and working at an insurance company, which is where I met Donna. Since LeRoy worked shifts, Donna and I got together for dinner fairly often, and she knew I was bored and a bit lonely. At the same time, LeRoy was providing a shoulder for a fellow fireman—call him “Bill”—who was also recently divorced. He had married quite young, and was very nervous about starting to date. You can see how it all came about, right?
OK, Bill picked me up on a Thursday night and we went to an Italian restaurant he liked. It was not bad, although really good food would have been wasted on us; we were so nervous. We chatted about our jobs, our apartments, former spouses, and—amazingly—we began to relax and enjoy ourselves. Not bad at all, I thought.
Then he took me to his favorite bar—“the best place in the world,” he called it—for a nightcap. It was pretty ordinary-looking on the outside, and when we walked in, on the inside as well. A bar, some tables, beer signs, a ball game on the television up near the ceiling—very ordinary. But Bill led me to a doorway at the far end of the bar, and we passed through into darkness! There were some stairs down, with tiny opera lights next to the treads, and the walls and ceiling were painted black, with some sort of fluorescent effect here and there. We went down about six steps and curved abruptly to the left into a man-made rock grotto. It was amazing; the walls, ceiling, and floor all looked like water-washed rock, with the very low lights picking up fluorescence here and there, just like on the stairs. There were couches and tables, seemingly carved out of the “rock,” with nice colorful (and comfy) cushions. There was a slight sound of water trickling, although I didn’t see any. We sat on a low blue couch, and a waitress in what looked like a miner’s coverall took our order.
Well, I was almost speechless, looking around at this elaborate cave. Bill grinned and watched me, waiting to see what I would say. Finally, I told him it was everything he had said it was, and he relaxed. He said he had never brought a girl here before, not even his former wife, since he wasn’t sure how they would take it. Okay, it was a little strange, and certainly not the greatest place in the world, but it was certainly unique and kind of nice, so we sat and drank and chatted some more.
In a lull in the conversation, my eye was caught by a rectangular bar of light high up on the wall, near the ceiling. It was about two and a half feet long by about five inches high. Bill saw me looking at it, and he remarked that it was for ventilation, and the light was coming from the barroom we had passed through to get here. While he was talking, I looked at it for several minutes, trying to figure out what it reminded me of.
Suddenly, it hit me, and I blurted it out without thinking, “Wow! It’s just like being in the sewer looking out!”
Funny thing, Bill never called me again.