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Today's word on journalism

Monday, January 29, 2007

Words as weapons:

"When he had a pen in his hand it was like giving a kid a machine gun."

--Peter Hall, theater director, on "Angry Young Man" playwright John Osborne (1929-1994)

Reporter's Notebook: My date with the commissioner's daughter

By Jacob Fullmer

December 1, 2006 | NIBLEY -- Fraternizing with the commissioner's daughter? Been there ... e-mailed that.

Not every date starts with an e-mail. Nor do they usually start at a Planning and Zoning meeting. Please forgive me, but this one did.

I really don't attend city meetings to shop for a date. Dates take time and planning. Meetings just take time. I'd really rather not stay there any longer. The best thing I can hope for is a tirading citizen worried about swimming pools, sewage, or sushi. Sometimes all three.

With a great lack of fortitude I listened and wrote. Listened and wrote. Listened and got distracted by the pink, fuzzy slippers walking my way. Don't people usually wear Dockers to these meetings? Well, not really in Nibley. Fifty percent or more of those attending these meetings probably wear cowboy boots. But this girl wasn't. Pink slippers? This is the most exciting thing since that citizen rushed the commissioners' table.

Turns out she's a commissioner's daughter. Turns out she's cute. Turns out she's single and asking about me.

Well, how do I pull that off?

"Um, excuse me Mrs. Commissioner? I can't help but notice your daughter in the pink slippers. Can I interview her?"

I'm sure that would go over well.

In a noble effort to avoid her homework, my new friend came to visit her mom's meeting and turned my reporting assignment into Mystery Science Theater 3000.

I didn't see her over the next few weeks. The cowboy boots returned but where were the pink, fuzzy slippers? Reality check: It would take quite a crush for her to put up with another one of these fine meetings just to see me.

What ever happened to childhood romance? The notes with boxes saying, "Check yes or no if you like Suzie." I am pleased to announce they are back! Check your e-mail. Just look past the e-mail about your chance to win a free cruise and you probably have an e-mail from the commissioner's daughter, too.

Here's the secret I learned: Just stop caring about dating and things will miraculously go your way. I opened the unknown message that didn't look like SPAM: "This is going to sound weird but . . ." Oh no, no, no. I get out asked out via e-mail every day. The e-mail signed by "The girl in the pink fuzzy slippers" asked if I wanted to go to a girls' choice dance at the end of the week.

I learned later it had been a city-wide effort to track down my contact information. No one, not even the city staff, had my phone number. But someone had my e-mail. Who says the government doesn't care about its citizens? I'm a believer from here on out that they care.

I know it's a girls' choice dance but she decided I could drive. My mom taught me to be a gentleman. Walk on the outside half when walking together. Get the door into the building and into the car. Evidently I missed the lesson on getting the door while getting out of the car because I just might have been halfway to our destination before realizing she was patiently waiting for me in my car. At least one of us learned that lesson when we were younger.

I've learned a few things about dancing. For one, I can't do it. For two, distraction is the key to an enjoyable time. If my date is focused on my singing more than she is on my dancing then I'm home free. Not that my singing is any good but at least it saves her from thinking about how I look dancing. I hit anything mid-'90s and before. She graced me with country songs I'm sure I've never heard. She sings fairly well considering "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" introduced her to the illustrious genre.

After the dance I went out on a limb and took my friend on a short-held hobby someone else introduced me to: Boozing. Before the city of Nibley effectively votes me out of their meetings, hear me out: No booze. Just silly Mormons acting as if they might be boozing. Well, if incriminating myself before my date's father were ever voluntary, I believe a newspaper is my preferred proof of conviction.

Slow down and imagine in black and white, if you please, the commissioner's daughter and me loitering in the middle of nowhere. I always think of James Dean when I get to this point. We're drinking out of glass bottles. I'm leaning against a cement wall, my legs crossed and my arm around her shoulder to help keep her warm as she shivers in a new leather coat she just bought on sale at JC Penney. We're so bad.

Every mother in the world reading this just turned to their daughters and said, "The cold thing is the oldest trick in the book." But no, really, she was cold. I promise.

The night is almost over but not until she kicks back the rest of her Jones. If it takes this girl 30 minutes to finish 12 ounces of Fu Fu Berry, I'd hate to see her actually kick back anything harder . . . like Mountain Dew or something.

The local tradition of boozing finishes by making a wish and hurling your bottle into a designated boozing space where no animals, peaches, rocks, or people will be harmed. If it breaks, the boozing gods grant your wish. If not, alas, at least it was empty before you threw it.

With only a little hesitation, she follows my lead and lets her wish and her bottle go as it flies into the night air. It passes end over end before landing safely onto some conveniently placed weeds and grass. Lucky bottle. Unlucky us. With both of us wishless, I took her home.

As I drive back to my place, all I can think to myself is I should have wished for a tractor. Disclaimer: The people in this story are probably real but let's not go there, shall we?



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