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Hopeful Romantic Turns Reluctant Cupid

It had been years since our hero, a mild-mannered reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper, had been, as the saying goes, “in the market.” Only recently had he and his so-called better half come to an impasse. “We should date other people,” they told each other with a certain uncertainty.

And so it was that the reporter would find himself at a party for a friend who was moving to Florida. Here he was introduced to a tall brunette named Barbara. Hmmm . . .

Later, he would call John in Boca Raton and ask for Barbara’s phone number. Obtaining a number is one thing. Calling is another. He hemmed. He hawed. Along came an invitation to another party. Perhaps, he thought, he would invite Barbara. Something casual.

He arrived home one night last week with plans to make the call. On his answering machine the light was flashing. He pushed the button and heard a woman’s voice.

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Yes, it was Barbara. Obviously she too had called Boca Raton seeking a certain phone number.

Our hero had one thought.

Yes!

*

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They played a bit of phone tag before making the connection. Now it would be easy to invite Barbara to the party. But since she initiated the conversation, it was up to Barbara to explain why she called.

Barbara remembered that our hero writes a newspaper column in the San Fernando Valley. She thought she might have a story for him. In a roundabout way, she told the tale.

It had something to do with a bar in Thousand Oaks that played country and Western music. Barbara was there with a girlfriend. She thought the line dancing fad was dead, but that night she found out it isn’t. Anyway, Barbara doesn’t do line dancing, so she stood on the sidelines and started talking to a guy named Chris.

They hit it off. Chris is a set designer who lives in the Valley. Barbara is a schoolteacher who lives in Ventura. She made a point of mentioning that Chris stands 6 feet, 6 inches tall, perhaps because Barbara is nearly 6 feet tall herself--a bit taller, in fact, than our hero. (He is not easily intimidated.)

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Halloween was coming up. Barbara invited Chris to a pumpkin-carving party. He accepted and they had a swell time. Chris was just a peach of a guy.

So Barbara was happy when, the next day, she came home and found a message from Chris on her answering machine. He said some nice words and left his phone number.

There was just one problem, maybe two. Her machine malfunctioned, beeping out the last two numbers. And Barbara had never learned Chris’ last name.

Now, Barbara really wanted to return that call. To not call is just bad manners. And, who knows? Maybe she and Chris are meant to be.

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Her first thought was to repeatedly call the first five and then, for the last two, dial 00, 01, 02, 03--all the way to 99 if necessary. Soon she realized this would take hours. Besides, she’d be calling long distance.

With each day that passed, Barbara grew more distressed. Chris must be thinking he’d been given the brushoff.

Barbara had another idea. Chris had said something about being in escrow on a home in Woodland Hills. He described a home on a narrow, winding, one-way street. So Barbara called a Woodland Hills real estate agent, explained her problem and was told that there were only a couple of streets that fit that description. (It’s possible that the agent could have provided more precise information. It’s also possible the agent grew worried that Barbara might be some sort of stalker.)

At any rate, Barbara found herself in Santa Monica last weekend. Instead of driving up Pacific Coast Highway back to Ventura, she cut through Topanga Canyon and drove those Woodland Hill streets in a fruitless search for the home Chris described. All this effort--and she realized that the deal may still be in escrow.

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Then Barbara remembered our hero, the newspaperman. Maybe, she thought, he’d put something in the paper, a little human interest story about how something as silly as a faulty answering machine could change the course of human events. And that way, Barbara said, Chris would know that he hadn’t been rejected--that she really, truly hopes he would call again. She’s already bought a new answering machine, just in case.

It’s hard not to be impressed with her faith in romance. Barbara seems convinced that love, if that’s what this is, will find a way.

*

Our hero said he’d think about it. He explained that--how ironic!--he’d been meaning to call her. And he reminded her that, if he played Cupid, if he helped her find Chris and love blossomed, they would owe him. What, he asked, is in it for me?

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“You can have a piece of our wedding cake!” she said. “We’ll name our first dog after you!”

Barbara got her party invitation anyway. She accepted. A couple of days later, she called to cancel. She was sorry, she said, but something had come up.

They made another date.

By then, however, someone might have shown Chris this story. He’ll think: Yes!

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Our hero isn’t getting his hopes up.

Scott Harris’ column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.


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