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I'm a lineman and sometimes an electric crew foreman. I like to think that my colleagues and I are in the business of providing life. Wires, insulator poles and cross arms are our stock in trade. Electric power is our finished, hand-crafted product. Modern life as we know it doesn't exist without electricity.
My story begins at the southeast corner of Culver Boulevard and Overland Avenue in the parking lot of the 76 gas station directly across from the Sony Pictures substation. Denise from engineering support and I were to meet and confer on some of our current job's finer points. It was the middle of June.
Our project was called "The 405 Project" to indicate that we were working on electric infrastructure along the freeway corridor. When called, Denise would simplify her cellphone introduction by answering: "Denise … 405."
Thus, she became Denise of the 405.
Modern? I can't claim to be very modern. I've made a strong personal statement by avoiding. I've seen firsthand how people's lives have been taken over, shaped and sometimes destroyed by social media. I roll my eyes and bite my lip when I hear others gushing about their adventures or misadventures on EHarmony. It is my ideal to meet and get to know a person based solely on our personal dealings, not hearsay. I am a dinosaur; I doubt I'll change. Maybe lack of being modern will be my undoing.
Denise and I had met a hundred times before on a previous segment of the 405 Project — she was there to provide professional support. But today I saw her differently. Was it the way the sun lit her blond hair? Her personality had always been semi-serious and professional, but on this day she let her guard down. I noticed a natural beauty that overflowed, and I felt something click.
On that day, we had a conversation that led to our first lunch date. As it happens, we would be spending most of the summer working in and around Culver City, and this would be the first of many lunch dates. I'd always enjoyed my job, but now I had something really special to look forward to.
In time I discovered that she loved words. And so I would leave a handwritten note on the seat of her truck or mail a letter to her house. I was easily motivated, and the words, the handwritten notes, were heartfelt and cemented a bond between us. I was smitten; no shame in that.
She, with the beautiful blue eyes and perfect smile, became my ideal woman. She was cute, smart and practical. She was independent and a hard worker who always paid attention to detail. From the beginning, we eschewed the typical text-email relationship. It was agreed we wanted something better — spoken words and all the feelings and emotion that went with them. "Pinch me," I thought. "Is this a dream where I view life through rose-colored glasses?" Maybe.
In the evening, with the job shut down and paperwork resolved, we would attempt to shed the stress of the day. We found time for iced coffee, conversation and making out in the shade of the ancient grove in Media Park. Sometimes we enjoyed an early dinner at Public School 310, a gastropub on Culver Boulevard (it was her favorite place).
She had become more beautiful to me each and every time we met. Every outing, no matter how trivial, took on meaning. I enjoyed brushing the hair from her face and kissing her cheek. This was not a fantasy but a beautiful, almost innocent, simplicity that had consumed me.
Too bad it wouldn't last.
Autumn arrived and the season started to change for us as well. I saw the end coming, and I gently asked, "Why did you let me into your life?" She had no real answer except to say I was over-thinking things. Maybe it was the pressures of the job or the pressures of being in love with a co-worker. Our relationship had developed at a hectic and unsustainable pace. It was now straining under its own weight.
The simple pleasures of life began to evaporate. I no longer had the energy or motivation to generate the words or the notes. My rose-colored glasses had been cleaned with an oily rag. Thankfully, our end was predictable, gradual and humane. I didn't own her, and I couldn't keep her. I was momentarily afraid of losing something so meaningful, but I'm grateful for what she brought to my life.
The 405 Project continues. Our crews continue to make the impossible routine by safely providing life to the city. The work is dangerous, with little room for distraction. I try not to let my thoughts wander, but I miss the dog days of summer, and I can still muster a smile for Denise of the 405.
Dan Flores is a journeyman lineman who has worked with PG&E, is a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and a regular contributor to Powerlineman Magazine.