Bricks, Ricks, & Cardboard


The college mixer was hosted by the men of Lorch House in Friley Hall, in the heart of the Iowa State University campus. Tappan House, the top two floors of Barton Hall, was invited. Yes, I am old. Yes, dorm floors are co-ed now. This was in the days of the dinosaurs, girl dinosaurs in one dorm and boy dinosaurs in another.

The usual keg was set up in one of the rooms.  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 face time with him.

I was surprised when the very next day he called me and invited me to the John Denver concert the following weekend (John Denver died in 1997, but  this was WAY before that).  Of all the girls at the mixer, Rick had chosen me!

“Is this really Rick?” I asked. “You were wearing an ISU jersey?”

“Yes,” he replied. “You had on a blue top, right?”

“Yes,” I said.

We had no photos, no cell phones, just landlines and our imaginations.

“I’ll pick you up next Saturday at 5:00 so we can eat before the show.”

What to wear? Fluffy-haired 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 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 on a date with a short brick.

He was also stuck.  Who did he think he’d called? I was two heads taller than he was. He must’ve thought I was the other Sue from the floor, the tiny one with dimples . . .

We got into his friend’s car for a a double date. I didn’t know the other couple. As it turns out, 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 Brick, “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,” Brick 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 with a giraffe. Yes, I had one good dimple, but he thought he was inviting a petite thing on a date. He never asked if I had a 34 inch inseam.

The date wasn’t a total loss. We couldn’t help ourselves when John did Rocky Mountain High.  We had to sing along. Plus, on the way to the bathroom, I ran into an 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 until I knew who I was saying yes to.

Thank you, Brick. You gave me a great story, and I do love John Denver music.

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

Couldda Wouldda Shouldda

If Brick and I would’ve kept dating and then gotten married, we might’ve moved a lot because of our discount on boxes. I would’ve invested in flat shoes and thrown out all my shoes with heels. He would’ve bought a pair of elevator shoes, and we would’ve slow danced at all outdoor music events in Fort Dodge, Iowa, our home.

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