I am always fascinated by the stories of how couples met. Was it chance? Were they set up? Was it love at first sight? Was it a Sliding Doors type of situation, where if the slightest smallest thing would have changed would they have never met?
I think about it all the time with the night I met my wife.
June 28th 1997.
I just got finished performing in a community theater presentation of Much Ado About Nothing. It was closing night and the cast was going out for a few drinks and some snacks to celebrate. Everybody (about 12 people) decided to go to an UNO Chicago Bar and Grill. We decided on this place because there were a few younger kids with our group.
I was working in a nightclub in downtown Philadelphia and knew I would have to get to work around Midnight. I arrived at UNO around 10:00, before the rest of the cast, so I could place my food order, have it served, eat it and get out of there by 11:30 so I could make it to work. I sat at the bar and ordered Pizza Skins and a club soda. The rest of the cast was trickling in and were taking seats at a large table next to the bar. I knew I was not hanging for the night so it was easier for me to stay at the bar and socialize there. I watched the bartender take orders for all the people at the table (since it was his section). Someone at the table ordered Pizza Skins.
One of the cast, PJ, sat with me at the bar and we were talking about the show and I can’t remember what else when a waitress came out with an order of Pizza Skins. “Who ordered Pizza Skins?’ she asked.
Someone at the table responded and the waitress placed it at the table, with no other food for the rest of the cast.
I turned to the bartender, “I think those were for me.” I said.
The bartender looked up and said something about they would have a runner bring up my food.
“But don’t you think the waitress would have brought out the rest of the food for that table? Besides I ordered mine about 15 minutes before everyone else.”
“Good point. She is not the waitress," said the barkeep referring to the woman who dropped of the food. "She is the manager.”
“Listen” I said, “I have to go to work in a little bit why don’t you just cancel my order.”
The bartender agreed but needed the manager’s approval to void the guest check. The manager/waitress asked me if everything was okay and I explained the situation to her. She insisted that she could have my food to me in 5 minutes and there was no need to cancel the Pizza Skins.
“As a matter fact they are in the oven right now." she assured me.
At some point during this exchange another waitress came to the bar area and started to change one of the “Tonight’s Special" signs. She had her back to me but she was on her tippy toes, reaching up to write on the slate board. She was wearing a tucked in, denim blue collared shirt and perfectly fitted black pants. She was holding her apron in her hand so I knew she was just getting off her shift. The slate board was black, with an impressive chalk/pastel drawing around the border of a mug of beer and a slice of pizza. There was also a Killian’s Red logo on or near the chalkboard. I know all the details because I was staring.
The manager left and I could not stop myself from staring at the waitress writing on the board.
PJ, sitting next to me, nudges me with his elbow and gives me the Man-to-Man, silent, raised eyebrows, head nod, secret guy code that is not so secret, that indicates “She’s hot”.
I called her over. “Excuse me, I was wondering if you could check on an order of Pizza Skins for me.”
She smiled, and said something that I didn’t hear because I was captivated by her eyes, which were smiling as well. She left.
I turned to PJ and said something about her body, her looks, and her smile.
She returned and told me that there were no orders of Pizza Skins in the oven. I asked the bartender to cancel my order, which again needed the manager’s approval. The manager came over to ensure me the food would be out soon. I told her that the nice hot waitress (I didn’t say “hot” but that is what I was thinking) told me that they weren’t in the oven. The manager looked peeved. I realized I may have gotten the hot waitress in trouble and I explained to the manger that I also managed a club and that I knew that manager’s don’t always tell the truth to customers. The UNO manager was not happy.
The Hot waitress came back into the bar area. I felt bad and I informed her that I may have gotten her into trouble. She explained that it was okay. At some point here PJ became the perfect wingman by not making me look like an idiot. The hot waitress and I talked about the beer mug drawing on the chalkboard. She was the artist. I was impressed and told her so.
She walked away to get her things as she was done her shift for the night. PJ and I talked about whether I should ask her out. She was hot, talented and seemed to have a good personality. She had to have a boyfriend. PJ insisted that I at least check.
The hot waitress came back. I started talking to her about nothing really. I told her that since she was done her shift she should come down to the club I managed. I handed her my business card.
She looked at it. "Bill Meakim? Are you related to Mike Meakim?” She asked.
“Yes. He’s my brother?”
“I went to school with him. “
In the back of my mind I was hoping that Mike was nice to her in high school.
Since she was an artist and I took art classes in high school we talked about the teachers and the school. We knew the same teachers. It was good conversation. Familiar.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Well, Lauren, why don’t you come down to the club tonight?”
“I can’t. I’m tired and it is all the way in the city.”
“Okay.” I said. “Well maybe you and I could go out sometime.”
She hesitated. “I don’t know.”
This is where the begging started. I started babbling. “Look let me pick you up for lunch tomorrow. Or you can me meet for a cup of coffee somewhere. I can meet you here. Or wherever you like. Where do you live? We can meet somewhere close to where you live so it is convenient for you.”
Lauren rolled her beautiful eyes, “I live in Abington.”
“So do I." I said matter of factly. "Where in Abington? So we can pick a place to meet.” I added so I would not sound creepy.
Lauren said, “I live on Horace.”
“Get out!” I shouted. “I Live on Horace too.”
She got a freaked out look on her face. Like I was a stalker. Horace Ave. is only two blocks long. How was it possible that we could both live on the same street? She must have said something like “No way” or “That’s strange”. I knew fate was on my side.
“I live at 1847. Right on the corner.” I said.
Lauren looked at me in disbelief and muttered, “I live at 1828.”
I was quite excited. There were too many random, strange coincidences to pass this up.
My mouth was going a mile a minute, “That’s like 5 houses down. How come I’ve never seen you before? Look you can’t say “NO” at this point. I know where you live. Let me pick you up for lunch. I will WALK down and pick you up for lunch. It is only lunch. If you don’t like me or I don’t like you it doesn’t go any further than that. Just lunch. Look, I am not crazy. You know my brother. Just lunch. I am picking you up tomorrow.”
“Okay” she said. “What time?”
And that is the story of how I met my wife. Sometime during our talk my Pizza Skins came out and I ate, maybe, two pieces.
I was also late for work.
I always think about that night the smallest of things that night.
What if my Pizza Skins were delivered to me on time? What if PJ did not sit next to me? What if the manager voided my check the first time? What if Lauren just left without stopping back? What if she said no to the date?
15 Years Ago.