When I was in college, I worked one Valentine’s Day at a florist’s shop. The florist, a favorite among students at my school, hired several students to deliver flowers on that very busy day. On my first delivery, the recipient met me on the stoop before I had even rung the doorbell. She blinked in wonder, and it appeared that she might hyperventilate. I thought to myself, This is going to be a good day.
I looked at the tag tied around the vase. “You must be Melissa,” I said.

The woman stopped mid-gasp and slumped against the doorjamb. The joy drained out of her face; she suddenly looked very plain. “I knew those weren’t for me,” she said. “It’s all right.”

“It’s all right,” she said, before I could even say I was sorry. And I was sorry indeed for getting the street number wrong and winding up on this stoop, raising hopes that Valentine’s Day could never fulfill.

That’s the problem, really, with Valentine’s Day. People load the day with hopes and expectations that it is insufficient to bear. The poor day collapses under their weight, and we are left with Valentine’s Day disasters, the stuff of anecdote.

After my blunder, I went back to the florist and and, like a football player who asks to be taken out of the game after getting his bell rung, I asked for a job inside the shop. I was assigned the task of sorting the orders and tying the cards to the vases. It seemed safer back there where I wouldn’t be face-to-face with the human drama of the day.

But as I paged through the orders and saw who was sending flowers to whom–many of them students I knew–the heartache from a breakup months earlier began to stir itself like a dragon awakened by the celebrations of nearby villagers.

And then, in the “Deliver To” line of an order form, I saw the name of my old girlfriend.

The smart thing, I suppose, would have been to give the order to somebody else to fill. But it’s not like I was trying to snoop. I was being paid to read the order forms and tie the cards to the vases. So read the order form. The person sending flowers to my old girlfriend was one of my current roommates.

So, there’s my Valentine’s Day disaster. I bet you have one of your own–either one you experienced first hand or one you know about. If you can bear to commit it to writing, today’s Audience Participation Friday topic is Valentine’s Day disasters. Here’s hoping your anecdotes are more amusing than mine.

  • Patrick
    2:15 PM, 11 February 2011

    When I was in college, I worked in a frame shop. It was the week before Valentine’s day and we were having a “1/2 off Custom Frame Sale”. A middle aged woman comes to the counter to make an order. She tells me she has 4 5X5 pictures she is wanting to get framed in a single frame. I gave her some options to put it together herself, but pointed out “the ready made mats for that size will crop your pictures quite a bit, and if you went with custom mats and framing you could get it done just the way you want it”. She was convinced to place a custom order and lays down 4 nude pictures of herself, “It’s a valentine’s gift for my husband”. I quickly take note of the colors in the photos while stacking them back up with the least exposing one on top. “I need to check with my boss on something” I said, not pausing for her to respond. I discreetly informed my boss on the situation and she just seemed glad it was me and not her to get this order, and encouraged me that of all the framers in the shop I would know how to handle it the most professionally. I did. But that had to be one of the most awkward things I ever had to do.

    • Jonathan Rogers
      2:20 PM, 11 February 2011

      That’s what I call a roaring start to APF. Thanks, Patrick.

  • Jess
    3:41 PM, 11 February 2011

    Poor Lady-Who-Wasn’t-Melissa. Patrick, as soon as I read that you worked in a frame shop, I knew what was coming. But when it did come I still said, “Yikes.” I am afraid that I don’t have any Valentine’s disasters on my record. I seem to have steered clear of the wild world of love thus far. I only feel deprived in that I never get any chocolates.

  • Katy Bowser
    5:10 PM, 11 February 2011

    Ok, so not a Valentine story, but I once had a woman call me up and tell me that she was from a service (are they called TDD?) that made phone calls on behalf of people with hearing problems. Apparently, the very sweet pizza guy who’d delivered my pizza the day before was deaf. He had kept my number and was using the service to call me and ask me out. You could tell that the woman interpreting his message on the phone was trying very hard to be professional and simply deliver the message. He (she) told me I was cute, and he’d like to take me to dinner. I told her (him) that it was very sweet, but I was seeing somebody. “And by the way, you’re not supposed to keep my number, are you?” In hindsight, that was probably salt in the wound. The woman (guy) said he thought it was worth a shot. It definitely was- I was charmed.

    • Jonathan Rogers
      5:33 PM, 11 February 2011

      So here’s my question, Katy: when you say the TDD operator was trying to be professional does that mean she was reading without inflection? Or when you’re a TDD operator, does professionalism mean doing your best to read–shall we say–interpretively, with the same range of emotion that one would expect from a regular phone call. Could you imagine being a TDD operator in the middle of, say, a lovers’ quarrel? Surely it happens, don’t you think? For my money, I’m going to want the operator who’s going to put some umph into it–who’s going to raise her voice at the right place, make her voice drip with sarcasm or sound petulant when she says, “Oh, so that’s what you thought, did you? But did you ever think about me? Did you ever think about what I wanted?”

  • Mark Geil
    6:20 PM, 11 February 2011

    I was raised to be quite frugal, and often frugality and Valentine’s Day create between them a stubborn tension. So it was a lavish gesture for me, a high school senior, to buy my sweetheart three red roses on February 14, 1989. We had been dating, sort-of-officially, for a month and a day. I presented the roses that morning, right there in the hallway, knowing she would have to carry them around all day, thinking of me and showing off my extravagance. Until she got a delivery. A real, live floral delivery truck, right there at school, bringing her a bouquet of a dozen red roses, complete with all those extra ferns and baby’s breath and that fancy paper. From her old flame who lived an hour away at the lake. The same one who had recently professed his love for my sweetheart and threatened to punch me. Three roses never looked so pitiful. Extravagance never looked so cheap.
    Good news, though. “Sort-of-official” became official, 5 years of dating followed, and even though I’m still frugal, she married me anyway.

  • Jonathan Rogers
    7:35 PM, 11 February 2011

    Love it, Mark. What a great story.

  • Patrick
    9:53 PM, 11 February 2011

    Jess, you knew how my story would go before you finished the first sentence? And I worked so hard to build intrigue and suspense! Fortunately, you don’t need a love disaster to get chocolate, just money and a trip to the store. But, you should find someone to share them with- spread the joy of chocolate and only get half the calories 😉
    Jonathan, your questions about the TDD Operator made me Laugh Out Loud! Too funny.

    So, Katy, how does the Operator read professionally? I’m very curious now.

    I was tempted to share a not-a-valentine romantic disaster too… since there are so few stories today I think I will:

    I was in the Army stationed in Germany. I had a crush on this sweet Catholic girl I met at a joint Protestant/Catholic Singles Game Night. We hung out together for a few weeks, and New Years Eve was my first actual date with this female soldier… and she asked me to marry her. I let her know I was flattered, but it was too fast for me. She proceeded to explain that she wasn’t in-love with me, but wanted to get married so she could move into housing and have her child sister come live with her as a dependent. Ouch! I was stunned, and she was mad at me for turning her down. Date over. She never spoke to me again… but started hanging out with a friend of mine who refused to believe what she did to me.

  • Abby Maddox
    10:15 PM, 11 February 2011

    I love Valentine’s Day. As in, I have a theory that God is Love, and if Valentine’s is a day to celebrate Love, then we’re really celebrating God…hence the importance of a day most people would rather ignore ;).
    I never had a boyfriend on Valentine’s day (or V-day as I lovingly refer to it), until my Freshman year in college. After years of having my Dad as my Valentine, while cherishing the day as I did, you can imagine how I expected the day to go….Or perhaps you can’t since you are a boy, and in my experience, boys tend to miss the magnanimity of the day.

    Nothing was disastrous, except the fact that I flew across the country (from Alabama to Montana) with a road sign (they’re a lot bigger than they look when you actually hold the suckers) from the street where we’d shared our first kiss. I’d cajoled a guy-friend of mine into stealing it for me. Imagine the trouble I took to find a box that it would fit in. Imagine the embarrassment of loading it into the over-head bin on the plane and explaining time and again what it was. Imagine the friend I’d made of the man sitting beside me, as I spilled out my heart full of love and the surprise I had planned for my Montana boyfriend… Then imagine that my friend from the plane, who waited expectantly in the snow to meet the “lucky man,” never met him because he was almost an hour late to pick me up. And finally, imagine the tears I shed that night after I realized that there was no surprise waiting for me…no, not even a card. It was a hard rest of the trip for us.

    That Montana boyfriend is now my husband. Fortunately, he’s learned a thing or two since that V-day ten years ago.

  • Jess
    10:37 PM, 11 February 2011

    When you buy it yourself it isn’t half so nice as when someone else gives it to you. Because then you have to think about the money. 😉 I keep spending all of my money on books. Books and chocolate go well together, but books without the chocolate is better than chocolate without the books. So I have to choose the lesser of two evils (leaving one out), until I become a millionaire, or, at least, somewhat wealthier.
    P.S. I share. I am very nice in my sharing; I give my sister the smaller piece so she eats less calories than I do.

  • Hannah
    11:49 PM, 11 February 2011

    I have finally caught on to you, Jess. I always wondered why you always wanted to break the piece instead of let me. Caught red-handed because of a comment! 🙂 Anyhow, I’m very sorry to all APF followers…I have no Valentine Disaster.

  • Jess
    11:52 PM, 11 February 2011

    Oh, yikes. You weren’t supposed to read that.

  • Amy
    4:16 AM, 12 February 2011

    We’ve always had the sharing rule that one person cuts in half, and the other gets to pick the half they want. That might work for you too, Hannah. Although, I get the feeling that you and your brother are probably okay with your current arrangement, which is also very nice.
    We had a baby on Valentines Day, 18 years ago this Monday. Aside from the fact that we will be up until midnight tonight waiting for said “baby” to make curfew, there’s no disaster stories here.

  • Canaan Bound
    6:33 AM, 12 February 2011

    In college, my rascally friend Mallorie and I pulled a series of harmless pranks on our unsuspecting friend, Britani. (These pranks included but were not limited to forking her yard, dumping freshly-raked leaves on her living room floor, rubber-banding her spray faucet, and saran-wrapping her toilet.) As you can imagine, there was some sort of retaliation (though not of the same caliper). Over the course of a month or so, we had our fun. We were a great team, full of ingenuity. Little did I know, Mallorie was planning a prank of her own…
    Months passed, and things died down as classes demanded more and more of our time and attention. Then suddenly one February evening, as I was home cramming for an exam, my roommate answered a knock at the door. Within seconds, she burst into my room, exclaiming, “There’s a handsome young guy outside and he’s asking for you!” Confused, curious, and somewhat cautious, I went to the door. A handsome young man who I had never seen before stood there. He blinked a couple of times, held out a pink carnation, and said, “Hi, I’m Steadmond. I think you’re amazing. Can we go out?”

    “What?” I replied. He repeated himself, a little louder. It was too good to be true. Too strange, too bizarre. I stuck my head out the door, searching the bushes behind him. Was someone hiding? It had to be a prank. Who’d put him up to it? Finding no one, I stepped back inside and slammed the door without a word.

    My roommate was shocked that I could be so rude. In an instant, I was confused again, unsure and pricked by guilt, so I began to offer a defense. “Surely that wasn’t for real!” My roommate insisted it was. I knew it could not be, and tried to convince her so. The more I talked, the more emotional I became. (It is a pitiful thing, indeed, when one realizes that something wonderful is an impossibility.) The tears welled up and had just begun to fall when Britani and Mallorie burst in through the front door, doubling over with laughter and dragging the young man along behind them.

    Instantly, I knew who he was. He was Chris, Britani’s cousin, who I had heard much about but never met. Noticing the flushed look on my face and the tear stains on my cheeks, the trio was struck with guilt. They apologized, though giggling still, and proceeded to overcompensate in consoling me. The whole thing became terribly awkward until I finally retreated to my room.

    And that’s the end of the story of the Valentine’s Day surprise I much rather would have done without. Not quite what I was hoping for…

    Epilogue: I survived. Mallorie became the most notorious two-timer in all of history. Britani, ironically, became my best friend. I have no idea what happened to Chris.

    Moral of the story? Pink carnations = terrible idea on Valentine’s Day.

  • Canaan Bound
    6:36 AM, 12 February 2011

    Patrick, I heard that same rule about sharing chocolate on the Biggest Loser just the other day…not that I abide by it.
    My personal philosophy is something more along the lines of the humorous quip I’m sure you’ve heard:

    “Exercise is a dirty word. Every time I hear it, I wash my mouth out with chocolate.”

  • luaphacim
    4:09 PM, 12 February 2011

    No Valentine’s disasters for me either. But Patrick, your story about Germany reminds me of a somewhat embarrassing fact: I can’t remember my legal wedding anniversary. It’s OK, though; my wife can’t either.
    We were planning to get married in March of 2005. My fiancee’s family wanted all the works: big church wedding, dinner, dance, drinks. This was not my ideal wedding, but I figured, hey, they’re paying, and I don’t care THAT much about the event itself.

    In November of 2004, I started researching student housing at the university where I was in graduate school. The kind folks at the housing office said they could put my name on the waiting list, because it often took 3-4 months for a married student apartment to open up. The catch was that in order to put my name on the list, they needed a copy of my marriage certificate.

    So one afternoon sometime between the 20th and 30th of November 2004, my fiancee and I met for about 5 minutes in the office of the dear family friend who was going to officiate at our wedding. His son and daughter, who were students at my financee’s university, were present as witnesses.

    Afterwards, we ate lunch at a little Mexican place down the street.

    It was much closer to my ideal wedding than the one four months later was. And it was a true marriage of convenience, with neither of us expecting or claiming the rights and privileges of marriage until March.

    So when people ask what our anniversary is, we always give them March 19… but whenever we have to have the official date of marriage for paperwork, we have to do some digging.

  • Jess
    5:30 PM, 12 February 2011

    Amy: Brother? That’s embarrassing–I’m a girl. 😉

  • Amy
    5:56 PM, 12 February 2011

    Sorry Jess! I have a cousin named Jess, a male. I also have three sons (7th, 10th, 12th grades)…so all kids are male unless otherwise noted. Like dogs are always male, and cats are always female. Clearly it’s a faulty system I have here. I thought you sounded pretty mature for a high school male, at least compared to mine. Now it all makes sense! 🙂

  • sally apokedak
    8:32 PM, 12 February 2011

    I have no Valentine’s Day disasters, but just read all these comments and had to say I’ve enjoyed them greatly.
    Jess, I knew you was a girl from the get-go.

    Patrick, I had no idea what was coming up in that story and was flabbergasted that any woman would to that.

    Jonathan, there is no accounting for taste. Thank God you escaped from that girl who obviously wasn’t worthy to tie your shoes. I wonder if anyone ever sent flowers to the plain Jane on the wrong stoop and transformed her into a beautiful process. Too bad you didn’t send your ex-girlfriend’s flowers to the wrong address.

  • Patrick
    3:41 AM, 13 February 2011

    I had always thought Jess was a girl, but when Amy said “brother” it occurred to me that, as far as I could recall, Jess had never explicitly identified herself as a female. But then, just looking at today’s posting, she implicitly identified herself as female when she expressed her unmet hope of receiving chocolates on Valentines Day. Then I realized the reason I assumed she was female, was because she writes like a girl. 😉 I’m sure what I’ve said could be taken badly, but please understand it as a high compliment, Jess. 🙂

  • Jonathan Rogers
    1:22 PM, 13 February 2011

    Another fantastic Audience Participation Friday. I’m just now seeing half of these great entries. My email notification is very dodgy…I’m very surprised to hear that Sally hasn’t had any Valentine’s Day disasters. After her story about kissing Willie Nelson a while back, I half expected to hear about the time Merle Haggard stood her up on Valentine’s Day or some such thing.
    Abby, it’s nice to have you. Glad to hear your husband has straightened up.

    Those of you who claim never to have had any Valentine’s Day disasters, I’m not sure I believe you. You probably just put them out of your mind. The day is made for disasters–the pressure to perform on the one hand, the likelihood of disappointment on the other. Then throw in the kind of competition that Mark described in his story…it’s a dangerous concoction.

    So, to all of you, let me be the first to wish you a non-disastrous Valentine’s Day 2011.

  • Jess
    6:01 PM, 13 February 2011

    Haha it’s okay Amy. It gave me a good laugh. “Jess” is actually short for “Jessika” and I really usually go by the latter. And thank you Sally and Patrick. I was wondering how anyone could have thought a boy would care if he got chocolate on Valentine’s day (I know my brothers wouldn’t). 😉
    Mr. Rogers: It’s true! I’ve had no Valentine’s disasters, unless you include the one where I forgot to bring valentines for my ballet class (and I wasn’t even slightly embarrassed–just goes to show how caring of an individual I am).

  • sally apokedak
    5:56 PM, 14 February 2011

    Seriously, discovering on Valentine’s Day that I said a plain Jane needed to be transformed into a beautiful process instead of a beautiful princess is about as disastrous as it gets for me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get a Quote