Zero Degrees of Separation

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“The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day”*

We’ll call her Judy. Not her name but if you’ve been around Indianapolis for 30 years or so you’ll remember her. She looked like a news anchorwoman because, well, that’s what she was.

She had me at “Film at 11”. And I was gunning for her.

I was young, single, and had absolutely no fear about asking women out. Even women I had known for about 30 seconds. A lot of times I struck out. Okay, probably most times. But not always…so I did not feel like I was dreaming when I set out to meet this striking newscaster. You just never knew until you tried.

I had friends that worked in broadcasting…but not at that station. They were friends that knew people that knew her. Two degrees of separation as the saying goes. Not as good as one degree but a hell of a lot better than six. They were helpful, they had a few suggestions on how to get in front of her but they were all like “we can introduce you to someone that knows someone that knows her.” Nah. If you are going to go the “introduced by a friend” route they needed to know you better than that. So I decided I was on my own. I laid a plan.

That year I was running the Indianapolis 500 Mini-Marathon and her station was a sponsor. They were talking about it on the air. They were going to have a table at about the ten mile mark where they would be giving out water, shooting some video and cheering people on. She was looking forward to being there. I was looking forward to her being there. My grandfather told me that an important skill for a man was being able to make a woman laugh. My uncles all had that gift and as always I did my best to emulate them.

My plan was simple. When I saw the TV station’s tent I would change pace, maneuver and do whatever it took to put me close to her. Stretch goal was to get a cup of water from her if she was giving out water. Then I would say something witty, she would laugh and I would follow up with a phone message. I am aging myself I know, but email was not yet in widespread use. I had no idea what I was going to say to her but I was going to make it up on the fly…often worked best. I could not control whether she called me back or not, all I could do was execute my part of the plan. Like most simple plans there was little that could go wrong.

Now it’s race day and I’m slowing down at about nine miles so I can look like I’m not working too hard when I get to the TV tent. I can see it up ahead. I start trying to figure out exactly where she is. I see her co-anchor and a few intern looking types. I am not seeing a tall blonde. I am going really slow now, maybe she is hidden behind the remote truck. No. I look over at the male anchor and yell “Where the hell is Judy????”. He yells back, friendly like, “she got pulled off to do another assignment”. FML. Oh well, it was a shot in the dark anyway, and I laugh at myself as I am running. I don’t think about trying again. The gods have spoken, she would have been there if it had been meant to be.

Life goes on and I am sitting in the waiting room at the former Metro Health facility over off of Lafayette Road. Don’t remember why I am there. It doesn’t matter. As I am waiting a pretty girl comes out and sits near me with the usual and customary one-seat of separation. We exchange nods. She is pretty. She is friendly. She looks familiar. While we are chatting it sinks in…she is a TV reporter. Holy shit. From the same station as Judy….one degree of separation! Man, this was as good a chance as I was gonna get. As we are talking I am trying to figure out how to leverage this new opportunity when I realize something. The young lady I am talking to is sending signals. Was it a sure thing? No of course not, but I was pretty sure she would get a drink with me or drop her phone number if I asked her. The crazy thing is she was really cute but I couldn’t shift gears. I could not figure out a way to take the conversation from “hey we seem to be hitting it off” to “oh by the way do you know Judy?” How rude would that be? Why didn’t I just hit on her? I don’t know. My mind was locked up and not doing anything seemed like the best thing. FML. Again.

There is a small theatre a few floors up from the main stage at the Indiana Repertory Theatre. Not the roof ballroom…below that. I was a season ticket holder and so I sometimes took a date, sometimes a friend to see shows with me. In this case it was a date but not someone I felt real strong about. (If you are thinking it might be you, it wasn’t. I swear. ). The layout is a little fuzzy all these years later but I remember we were seated at round tables, the kind you sit at when you are listening to a lunch speaker at a conference. Except this was a play and it was dark. Which play? I don’t remember, I saw a lot of plays there. It might have been Strindberg or some other depressing Scandinavian crap. It might as well have been. Maybe one where the wife kills herself because she thinks her husband is dead but then he comes home after taking a detour to get a loaf of bread and a carton of milk and schtup his sister-in-law. Anyhoo, we all turned our chairs around to face the stage, maneuvering so that no one was blocking our views. My date was sitting to my left and a bit behind. I scooted more to the right so she could see better and I bumped into someone from the next table who was also maneuvering. We apologized and I looked into her face. I was staring at Judy. Zero degrees of separation. She was sitting with a table of women.

If I had brought a male friend with me it would have been game on. Not tonight. I was with a woman. You know there is no way to make this happen. Even had I wanted to be rude to my female guest, it would have been noted by Judy and her table of friends and I would have been placed in the “jerk” category never to emerge. (Jerk is much higher status than friend zone, but to make it work you actually have to be a jerk). And so there we sat. Judy, oblivious to the trauma she was causing, and me. Occasionally bumping elbows, her legs crossing and invading my space. I felt like I was in the plot of “Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy” and someone had turned on the Improbability Drive.

Can you imagine the phone message I could have left her? “Hi, you were driving me bat-shit at the play the other night but I was with another woman so I couldn’t properly flirt with you. I was wondering…”. FML over and out.

And thus ended our one sided relationship. I regret nothing but at the time it seemed like the Gods had it in for me.

“Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
the band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
and somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
but there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out.”*

*“Casey At The Bat” – Ernest Thayer

© Glenn R Keller 2021, All Rights Reserved

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