Green Jello Wrestling

date

How many of us remember our first date with our then-just-friends-but-later-to-be spouses? Mine was unforgettable… for some very unusual reasons.

When I first met Rob, he had just moved to Phoenix, Arizona, as had I the year before as part of Honeywell Information System’s effort to add young blood to their core of aging software engineers by hiring just-graduated college students. They actually had a name for this effort… the “Fresh Out” program, meaning students fresh-out of college.

My move to Phoenix was a big risk and adventure for me, being from a small town in Washington State, with all my family there, and knowing no one in Arizona, let alone the Southwestern US. But I was young, naïve, and full of hope for the future. Fortunately for me, it all worked out and my first year at Honeywell was full of meeting new people, living in my own apartment, and learning about the surrounding area, which included joining the Honeywell hiking club. On the weekends I did day hikes with the club, or hiked the local mountains – mainly on Squaw Peak and Camelback mountains, which are really very big hills rising up from the flat desert floor in the middle of the Phoenix/Scottsdale area.

When the following college school year ended, the new crop of “fresh-outs” were about to arrive for interviews, and those of us hired the previous year were told we’d be taking these recent grads out to lunch on their interview day. One presumes the management thought this would be good PR for Honeywell, and make the potential new hires feel more at ease.

I took several of these people out to lunch, and so did my new Phoenix girlfriend Deby, who worked in the department adjacent to mine. One day she told me she’d just taken this really hot guy out to lunch, and hoped Honeywell would hire him. It was Rob, and of course they did hire him – to work in MY department.

Deby had only told me about him, and I remember that when he started we were thick as thieves talking about him for the first few weeks. Robert, however, was all business. In fact, he and Bill (from Louisiana I think) became the single most productive pair of workers in the department, staying there late at night and on weekends, and busting out code to beat the band. The two of them were incredibly focused at work, and although pleasant, didn’t indulge in much chit-chat.

The holidays came and went, and Deby and I had surreptitiously learned his then-girlfriend from New York had flown in during the holidays to see him. Rats we thought, he was unavailable. Ah well, it had been fun thinking about it.

So… we all got back to focusing more on our work, and I started seeing someone else. It didn’t last though, and when it ended I was pretty much pissed off at the world of men.

Evidently about that time, Rob was going through kind of a break up of his own, but of course I didn’t know that.

So one day, while driving home from work – just a couple miles from Honeywell, I saw a hot guy jogging down the sidewalk. It was Rob. I watched him run along easily, and I remarked to myself that he had a good stride. It turned out that he was running about 8 miles a day at the time, though I’d no idea how he managed it in that heat.

The next day at work, I decided he might like to go hiking (since he liked running), and stopped by his office. He and Bill were, as usual, grinding out code. I don’t know why I was so fearless at the time, but I guess I wasn’t thinking “date” since I was pretty much still pissed off at men, I was simply thinking “friendly company” for the hike. I mentioned that I’d seen him out running, asked about it, and then wondered if he’d be interested in hiking. To my amazement, he said yes.

That weekend, and for several weekends following, we began hiking either up Squaw Peak or Camelback. I treated it strictly as a friendly, platonic relationship, and chatted away about my family and background. He responded and I learned where he was from, about his family, where he went to school and how he could manage to run in the incredible Phoenix heat. It turned out he’d survived 4 years in sub-zero temperatures at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester NY, where the winter snow drifts sounded like the mountain pass snowpack in Washington State (12-15 feet deep). From his perspective, the temperatures in Phoenix were fabulous and he was still thawing out, so much so that he didn’t even bother with the air conditioning in his apartment. In the course of all this talk, his girlfriend was never mentioned.

As time went on I, of course, started falling for him, though I’d never have admitted it to myself at the time. Still being in a very pissed-off-at-men frame of mind, I decided one hiking weekend to show up with no makeup of any kind and no real attention given to my hair, to see if he’d run for cover at the sight of me – or never go hiking with me again. It was a test, from my perspective. Would he be the typical guy that ignored a woman who didn’t get dolled up or at least tried to look good, or was there something more substantial there? I was pretty sure it would be the former.

So smug-me showed up looking quite frumpy for our early AM hike. And to my great surprise, Rob acted just the same as before; though these days I’d love to have read his mind (sorta like the reverse of Mel Gibson in What Women Want – if you’ve seen the movie you know what I mean). Anyway, I was suitably impressed.

After a few more hikes and Rob dropping by my cubicle at work to chat, rather than diving directly into his own work – it was clear there was interest on both sides. I began to wonder about that NY girlfriend from the previous holiday season.

St. Patrick’s Day was coming up, and he stopped by my cube to ask if I’d like to grab a bite to eat at a bar and see the “Green Jello Wrestling” event, in honor of St. Pat’s. I said yes.

Hmmmm…. Was this a “date”? And what in the world does one wear to Green Jello Wrestling? I don’t recall what I decided, but at last the night came. The bar was pretty much a dive, so whatever I ended up wearing didn’t matter at all. We had some bar munchies and green beer. It was pretty clear to me this was a “guy” bar, and that this was a casual check-you-out-and-see-if-you’re-cool kind of date. In effect, this was probably Rob’s version of the same test I’d given him… will this girl put up with a raunchy guy bar, or run for cover? Either way, I’m not sure he really knew how bad/raunchy it was going to get.

Following some really loud, electric rock music on scratchy speakers, the DJ (if you could call him that), announced it was time for the main event – Green Jello Wrestling. There was a lot of hooting from the guys in the crowd, and 2 busty bikini-clad women positioned themselves on either side of a makeshift “ring” in which the floor was covered with green jello over a plastic covered cement floor. Someone blew a whistle, and the girls got going. Of course, the idea was to have a lot of hair-flipping, slippery girl mock-fighting, with many guys hoping for the bikinis to slip off as well. At first the girls were a bit tentative, but with all the crowd encouragement, they started to get into it. I sat there drinking my green beer thinking, ok… what else did I expect? Then of course, you do the typical girl thing, and think about how much better these girls look in their bikinis than you do in what you’re wearing. And lastly, you get a tiny bit pissed that all the guys are paying attention to them instead of you. BUT… I was a good actress, and laughed and smiled appropriately. Rob seemed a bit embarrassed by the whole thing, as this wasn’t quite what he’d intended. So we laughed and watched, and in the end, felt very sorry for the girls who kept losing their footing on the slippery green jello slime and landing hard on the concrete floor. Its amazing neither one ended up in the hospital.

After we left the bar with our ears still ringing from the music and the idiot yelling into the microphone as the girls wrestled, we walked down the street to his car. Rob drove me back to my apartment, and I began to think about the inevitable end of the date and what I should do. Did this qualify as an actual date, or was he just looking for a bar-buddy, like I was looking for a hiking buddy? Was I ready to stop being pissed off at men? Will he kiss me? Somehow, it seemed like we arrived at my apartment extra fast. The last words of “I had a really interesting time” were spoken, with a chuckle from both of us, and silence fell inside his car. It was the moment of truth. It was either get out of the car and go in, or…

I couldn’t stand it anymore, and in a mindless moment, leaned over, kissed him square on the lips and jumped out of the car before anything else could happen. I was so scared, I waved and ran straight into my apartment as fast as I could, not even giving the poor guy an opportunity to say anything else.

Of course the next morning, I wondered if I’d done something really stupid – after all, I had to see this guy every day at work. I’d just violated the sacred code – do NOT date anyone from work. And worse, if I’d misread him, and this was just a “buddy” date, I’d put him (and me) in a really awkward position. Not knowing what else to do, I figured I better find out where things stood. It was the weekend, and I’d slept in, so I went to the grocery store, bought a plant (as a gift) and went to his apartment. Outside the door – before I pressed the doorbell, I thought about turning around and going back to my place – was I crazy or what? But I had to know, so I rang the doorbell and waited for him to answer the door. And when he did, he smiled. It was all I needed to know. And the rest… well, you know.

(photo courtesy of Mirage3/Dreamstime.com)