It has come to this. I, a perfectly, perhaps even sadly, respectable middle aged woman, found myself waiting for "Alex" to show up at our pre-arranged meeting spot on the UCLA campus. "Alex" and I had met via the internet, and the relationship had progressed to the exchange of cell phone numbers and an arrangement to meet at the turnaround where Westwood Boulevard dead-ends into the UCLA campus at 2PM. I had driven from the Marina and worried the whole way that the notoriously crowded 405 would make me late for the exchange. But I made it in time. A few minutes early in fact.
As I sat in my car, I realized I had absolutely no idea what "Alex" looked like, nor had I given him a description of myself. I dialed his number. No answer. He had told me he would get out of "class" at 1:50 and that he could meet me by 2. "Maybe the class got out late," I thought. I watched all the college students passing by: the Paris Hilton wannabe with her tiny dog on a leash, the jocks with their UCLA team backpacks, the slackers skateboarding lazily by. Can it possibly be 25 years since I was in college? I wondered, as I waited, which one I looked like most back in the day (since I had a rather large Rhodesian Ridgeback in college, I can safely say it was not the Paris Hilton wannabe).
I glanced at the clock on the dashboard and found myself worried. What if he didn’t show? What if I didn’t get it? I dialed his cell again. No answer.
I realized that I was far more invested in making this deal than I thought. I was really worried now. Maybe he changed his mind. Maybe he decided to keep it for himself. Maybe he sold it to someone else. There must have been someone out there willing to pay more.
I called again. Voice mail again. I would have been willing to pay more, I thought frantically. Well maybe not MUCH more, but some more. If only I had been given the chance. The truth sank in. He wasn’t coming. Disheartened, I started my car.
But then my cell rang. It rang! It was "Alex." "Hey listen," he began, "I’m sorry…" My heart sank. I really wasn’t going to get it. Disappointment mixed with rage at the thought of my wasted afternoon. "It’s not in my backpack. I forgot it at home," he continued.
My relief was tinged with suspicion. It sounded a tad too much like the-dog-ate-my-homework excuse. But what could I do? He promised he would bring it to my home, later in the afternoon.
Much as I didn’t relish the idea of this total and obviously somewhat unreliable stranger coming to my house, I gave him my address. It was better than driving in late afternoon LA traffic. It was better than risking not getting it. As I finished giving him directions, I realized he wasn’t listening. He’d be Mapquesting it when he got home. Right. Another one of those moments when, no matter how hard you try, you are not one of them, not cool, just a middle aged woman trying to keep up.
Later that night, when I heard a car in the driveway, I brought Mutt with me to the door. Having a pit mix for a dog, no matter how sweet and submissive she might be, is kind of like having insurance against the casual predator. Everyone who doesn’t know her is afraid of her.
It was Alex. He looked very young and sweet in his UCLA sweatshirt. He apologized profusely and handed it to Youngest, who was standing eagerly nearby. "Have fun with it," he said, "Zelda for the Wii is an awesome game."