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.