“Doesn’t that guy have anything better to do?”
That the thought that pops through my mind every single time I walk by “the other Ed“. For years now, at least twice a week, at various times throughout the day – as I step away from my desk at work to chase down some intel from another department or simply stretch my legs and give my eyes a chance to refocus – I run into him. A coworker who looks suspiciously like me. My complete doppleganger. My twin. A Gemini; he’s obviously my other half. But which one of us is evil? Maybe it’s him. Maybe I should “take him out” before he gets me! But does that make me the bad guy? There can be only one!!!
All right – that’s it. No more late night Highlander flicks for me.
But that guy IS out there. He looks like me in so many ways – although he’s stuck in the way back machine. For starters, that dude has hair – practically rocking a full McGuyver-esque Mullet – just throwing it in my face. That is sooooooooooo ‘1992 Ed‘. Secondly, he’s got a little paunch around the midsection. His 2 & 1/2 chins scream ‘2003 Ed‘. This weird Frankestein monster is cobbled together of Ed’s past and a little bit of present. There’s only a matter of time before he comes rocketing by on his hoverboard to complete the Christmas Carol grab bag and really teach me a lesson.
Hyperbole aside – he does exist. I have no idea who he is despite the fact I have seen him several times a week for the last several years and always in my company’s central hallway; the spine to our building. And usually, we’re the only two people in the hallway and I am always solo. I’ve never been with anyone when he’s waltzed by so I’ve never had the chance to point at him and let loose my best ‘Body Snatchers‘ scream.
But inside, I’m screaming or scheming – wondering the same dismissive thought. After all, I’ve seen him on different days and different times and it’s always the same thing. That dude just loafing through the halls in the middle of a bustling workday with apparently nothing to do and nowhere to be.
“Doesn’t that guy have anything better to do than walk the halls all day long?”
And you know what pisses me off the most?
That bastard is thinking the exact same thing about me!!!
That story is prologue to this post. In looking over my life, I’ve realized something. I’ve got an active imagination. That whole thing above is completely true as is the one that will follow but over forty years I’ve figured something out about myself. I’ll find the humor in most anything – especially if its tethered to my so-called life. Take this next tale. It really should be depressing. After all – I don’t get the girl in the end. But it’s funnier that way.
In my Sophomore Year at UMASS, my buddies and I stumbled across a secret society.
Amherst is situated smack dab in the middle of the Happy Valley, the name slapped on the Pioneer Valley region of Massachusetts, that is home to a series of small, sleepy communities and five fairly significant colleges and universities. There’s Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Smith College.
Smith is all girl meaning no boy. (I’ll spare you the biology lesson. Suffice to say, boys have something girls don’t and that something is… common sense. BRING ON THE HATE MAIL!!! I Kid, I Kid!!!!).
While I’m sure my dastardly doppleganger above would say that the campus is marked by the delicious aroma of fresh, hot apple pies – the sweet byproduct of so-many Sheilas living under one roof and baking the day away – this Ed, the one you know and love, would never take such a sexist tact. See – I told you he must be stopped.
No, Smith is a beautiful campus with a rich, storied history. Among its alumni it lists Julie Child and Gloria Steinem. (See, what did I tell you about the apple pie?!?!?)
At Smith, there are no traditional dorms. Instead the students are assigned to various houses upon admission by an ill-tempered hat. There are 30 houses in hall – with Cushing, Duckett and Hufflepuff ranking as faves among the student body.
On the weekends, the women like to let their hair down, throw open the shutters and throw some raging house parties. In a bid to bring balance to the force, they practically shuttle guys in from the surrounding districts. If you come packing a Y chromosome, you’re drinking for free buddy.
That’s the secret elixir my buddy Rich and I stumbled upon in our Sophomore Year and once we had a taste, we kept coming back for more. Sure, somewhere in the darkest recesses of my mind, I harbored a sneaking suspicion that this was all an elaborate ruse designed to find this year’s Wicker Man but at a place where the beer flowed like wine, I could easily drown those sorrows. Besides, we always brought some random dude from our dorm to offer as dowry. Always pack a “Red Shirt”.
So, one wintry Saturday night, Rich and I found our way to a PVTA bus and pointed our collective nose towards Northhampton – with only the sweet, cinnamon scent of baked apple pie to guide us. Once there, we were escorted from the bus and led down a dark, wooded path – following the taunting, teasing, toying Sirens’ call (which sounded suspiciously like C & C Music Factory). Hey, it’s our world and we’re just a squirrel trying to get a nut to move our butt to the dance floor so what’s up?
♫EVERYBODY DANCE NOW♫
We had found the place. And within moments, we had a red cup in one hand, a harem in the other.
After about a half-hour of mingling, I decided to mosey on over to another corner of the party – to see how Rich was making out… and lo and behold… found Rich MAKING OUT!!! (Hey, if his wife is reading this – this story is 20 years old this month. The statute of limitations has expired in full!!!) I got a quick glimpse at the girl and gave Rich the mental high-five but if pressed to pick her out of a line-up, I’d say she would go free.
The night winds and the DJ continued to lay down the groove.
♫These girls were fakin’ – Goodness sakin’. They just wanted a man to bring home the bacon.♫
An hour or so went by and I felt a tap on my shoulder. Suddenly, this random girl started talking to me. Of course, with the music pumping you only get every other syllable so it’s tough to decipher exactly what anyone is telling you. It doesn’t matter. She had me at Hello.
So, we found a quiet spot and continued to talk. And the more we engaged in that idle party chit-chat, the more I realized this is a pretty cool chick. We hit it off pretty well and spent the next hour or two just talking and laughing – that unexpected little perk that you never expect to find at a college keg party.
Eventually, the party wound down and I offered to walk her back to her house even though I loathe walking past Slytherin after midnight. She accepted and we grabbed ten more minutes of good conversation before bidding each other a fond adieu. Relax – this is no “kiss and tell” story. For starters, I’m happily married and there was no kiss to tell about. We did exchange phone numbers however and I left to rejoin Rich at the bus stop with a little extra spring in my step.
And then – for some inexplicable reason – I never called her. I don’t know why either as I’m not that kind of guy. I didn’t date a ton of people in college so when I did get the chance to exchange digits, I always followed through, but for some reason I never picked up the phone.
But the phone found me.
About two weeks later, I got a call.
“Hi Ed? – It’s Stephanie.” – My mind went blank. (Stephanie WHO?!?!?)
Oh, THAT Stephanie!!!
Anyway, we volleyed back and forth with a little casual conversation before she handed me her summons. “I was wondering – do you want to go on a date sometime?”
Bless your heart, Sadie Hawkins!!!
So, we inked a plan. We decided to meet somewhere in the middle of our two campuses for dinner and a movie. She said she didn’t see a ton of movies but had the paper in front of her and started firing off some movie titles.
“How about this one?“, she asked. “Uhhhhh… BASIC INSTINCT?!?!? – Is that any good?”
“Ummmmmm… not EXACTLY first date material”, I responded. Who says chivalry is dead? So, I countered. “Let’s skip the movie and just have a nice dinner and grab some coffee”
Now here’s one important little detail. Between the time I first met Stephanie and the night of that first (and only) date, I had completely changed my hair style. Around the time she met me, I looked something like this:
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! It burns the eyes!!!!!!!!
Sometime over the following two weeks, I walked into this swanky hair boutique co-owned by my Creative Writing Professor who had dropped some discount coupons on her students and asked for an extreme dome makeover. Out with the Sonic the Hedgehog. In with the 90210 Brandon. I even had them slap on some Velcro sideburns for good effect.
So on the night Stephanie and I met up – she came to face-to-face with a brand new Ed.
And the shock registered immediately.
I noticed her the second she walked in the door. She took 3 or 4 passes before dawn finally registered across her face. Initially confused, her face finally beamed and she made a beeline towards me. And immediately we picked up where we left off. Over dinner, we shared a lot about each other – the usual first date dance. Where we grew up. What our friends and family are like. What we were majoring it. Funny anecdotes. No weather talk. Never a lull in the conversation. The exact recipe for a good first date.
A couple of times during the evening – as I was distracted by the waiter’s inquiry – I caught an inquisitive look dart from her eyes – as if she was still calculating some phantom difference but it was usually gone the moment it arrived and I simply brushed it off. In a school of 20,000 people – it was pretty remarkable to find one person I had so much in common with – even if she did come from a completely different campus.
Following dinner, we decided to head back to Northampton and get some coffee. Once there, we sought out a cafe, ordered two mochas and took a walk through that awesome cultural hub – enjoying the unseasonable early Spring weather that had settled over this early March weekend. Finally, she let her guard down and lobbed the question that had been bouncing around her brain all night.
“You look different.”
“Excuse me“, I replied.
“Different. You look SOOOOOOO different then the last time I saw you. Like – COMPLETELY DIFFERENT!!!”, she said through a mixture of laughter and exasperation. She wasn’t mad – not in the slightest – but it was clear she had to solve this mystery once and for all.
I thought about it for a moment and then the light bulb flashed. MY HAIRCUT!!! OF COURSE!!!
“I just got my hair cut!!! Like – totally different. The one I had before was this horrible, shellacked spiky mulleted mess… while this one is…”
“No No No – You look… you look…”
(Inside I was vexed. WHAT? I LOOK WHAT?!?!?)
“You look taller. Like – a LOT taller. Six inches, easily.”
And then it hit me. This was my Keyzer Soze moment – the instant all the clues came together. I responded.
“That other Ed? Was he about 5’4″? Blondish hair?!? Luke Skywalker/Barney Rubble-looking guy?!?!?”
“Yeah – yup, that’s the picture I had in my head. I mean – I did have some to drink that night. Not a lot… at least I don’t think I did.”
“That OTHER ED is my old roommate RICH!!! You got the wrong guy!!!”
And there it was – mystery solved. We talked it through and realized that Stephanie was the same girl I vaguely saw kissing Rich in the corner who later sidled up to me and spent the rest of that evening in good conversation. She had scored both of our phone numbers and when it came time to call us, she got the names and faces mixed up. She ordered up a Rich. The factory sent her an Ed.
And we laughed about that. And we called it a good night. Seriously, how can you be mad when you got a great story to tell. Plus, she got a free meal out of the deal.
Me – I headed back to campus with one more mission in mind. The second my feet hit friendly shores, I headed up the hill towards Thatcher Dorm. I walked through the front door brushing beyond all well wishers. I made it to the fourth floor – found Rich’s door – and rapped three times. A sleepy Rich opened the door. Wiping sleep from his eyes, he yawned a greeting:
“uhhhhh… Hey man…. uhhh…. How was the date?”
“Rich… buddy…pal…Let me tell ya’ – YOU had a fantastic time!!!”