Bricks, Ricks, and Cardboard

The college mixer was hosted by the men in Lorch House in Friley Hall, in the heart of the Iowa State campus. My house, Tappan, the top two floors of Barton Hall, a girls’ dorm, was invited. Yes, I am old. Yes, dorm floors are co-ed now. This was in the days of the dinosaurs.
The usual keg was set up in one of the rooms, and we drank out of red plastic cups, swayed to the loud rock music, and scoped out the guys. Tall guys, nerdy guys, slobby guys, but one nicely put-together tallish guy with fluffy clean hair caught my eye. His name was Rick, and I wasn’t the only one trying to get some facetime with him.
I was surprised when the very next day, he called me and invited me to the John Denver concert the following weekend (I said I was old — John Denver died in 1997). Of all the girls there, he had chosen me!
“Is this really Rick?” I asked.
“Yes, Brick,” he replied.
We had no photos, no cell phones, just landlines and our imaginations. I ignored the “B” in front of “Rick” and kept the fantasy going.
“I’ll pick you up next Saturday at 5:00 so we can eat before the show.”
What to wear? Rick had asked me to John Denver, way down in Des Moines, thirty-five miles away. We’d have the whole ride down and back to talk, get to know one another, maybe kiss . . .
I had the wedding planned and the children named before Saturday night.
When he called my room, I came down to the lobby to find my handsome man, but instead there was an unfamiliar short guy with flat hair standing there. He looked as surprised as I felt.
“Rick?” I asked.
“Brick,” he said.
“You are from Lorch House?” I asked, confirming his identity.
“Well, not exactly,” he said. “I was visiting my friend. He goes to ISU.”
It was too late. I was stuck.
He was also stuck. Who did he think he’d called? After all, I was two heads taller than he was. He must’ve thought I was the other Sue from the floor, the short one with dimples . . .
We got into his friend’s car. It was a double date. I didn’t recognize the couple. They didn’t go to college either. Suddenly I was in a panic. Seventy miles with three strangers . . . but the girl looked nice, so I figured I was safe.
“So what do you do,” I asked him, “if you don’t go to school?”
“I make boxes.”
“Excuse me?”
“I make boxes. I work in a cardboard factory.”
My future veterinarian husband made boxes? Being the snooty-tooty college girl that I was, I couldn’t think of anything to say except, “Oh, how do you like it?”
“It’s okay,” he said.
That was the conversational highlight of the night.
We barely spoke after that. He didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to say. We were both disappointed, especially when John belted out the love songs he was famous for.
Looking back, I owe the guy an apology. He was dating a giant! He’d paid a week’s salary on two tickets and dinner for a giraffe. Yes, I had one good dimple, but he thought he was inviting a petite thing on a date. He never asked me on the phone how tall I was, just if I’d been at the party, if I’d been the one in the blue top, if my name was Sue.
Yes, yes, yes. He never asked if I had a 34 inch inseam.
It wasn’t a total loss. We couldn’t help ourselves and sang along to Rocky Mountain High. On the way to the bathroom, I ran into another ISU guy who called me the next week for a date.
I also learned that cardboard boxes don’t just happen. Someone makes them in a factory when they aren’t crashing dorm parties and posing as college boys.
Just to be sure the case of mistaken identity wouldn’t happen again, I changed up my wardrobe and stopped wearing non-descript blue tops. I also paid more attention to detail, so when there was an extra consonant in someone’s name, I listened and was more reluctant to say yes.

Couldda Wouldda Shouldda

Thank you, Brick. You gave me a great story. If we would’ve married, we would’ve moved many times because our cardboard boxes would’ve been free.

“But the Colorado rocky mountain high
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
The shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullabye
Rocky mountain high (Colorado)”
. . .

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