Long-distance dating — such as when I was living outside Albany, New York and she was in Connecticut at the start of our relationship — can produce its share of oddities in the name of getting together, somehow.
Compared to some couples, we weren’t that far apart — only about two hours — so one of us would make the trip to the other’s most weekends.
On one of those weekends, the place where Suzi worked took part in a convention for home-schoolers, which is how I ended up at a table of 18th-century toys and games on the University of Hartford campus, trying to figure out how to use a whirligig.
I’m a reasonably coordinated human being, but for whatever reason, it took me the entire morning to figure out how to do it.
And I’ve still never mastered the trick to getting the ball on the end of the string into the little wooden cup.
But by the afternoon, I had my whirligig groove, and was eager to demonstrate when a girl who I’ll guess was 12 or 13 came our way with her parents. I told her that I had struggled to figure it out because I’m a big dork … and then she said it.
”When I was in school, I was a dork too.”
She said it with all the sincerity and empathy in the world, and it made me feel terrible.
It was one thing for her not to realize I was joking around and making fun of myself, but what really did it to me was her trying to make me feel better by talking about how hard school was for her, which for all I knew was the reason why she was being homeschooled in the first place.
And now, that girl is in her 30s, which makes me said for a different reason.