Today is our fourteenth wedding anniversary, and while out
at dinner last night, my wife and I realized that we are only days away from
our relationship tipping point. In just about a week we will have known each
other longer than we haven’t. That’s a pretty big deal, but our waiter didn’t
think it was a cool enough story to comp us any drinks or anything.
Maybe we didn’t explain the math well enough? Oh, well.
Even though David the waiter didn’t care, I still think it’s
pretty cool, so in honor of our upcoming tipping point, I thought I would once
again regale you with the heartwarming tale about the night after the night I
met my wife. Unfortunately, the night I met my wife was pretty un-eventful,
besides the fact that I met the love of my life. So instead, I will regale you
with the shocking, explosive, frightening, and downright weird tale about the following
night. It’s a tale of a dive bar, a truck, a barefoot man, a policeman, a bathrobe,
and a shotgun.
A guy walks into a bar. It was me. I met my wife in a bar.
That’s not the whole story. It gets better.
It was only my first or second time at this particular bar,
but she had been there for thirty-two nights in a row. She and her best friend
were going for a combined personal record. It was her initiative and dedication
to the endeavor that drew me to her. We were both college students in San Luis
Obispo, CA, and she was working at a pizza place that summer. She would get off
work at midnight and meet her friend at Bull’s Tavern to shut the place down.
We met one evening, talked until closing, and said goodnight.
I thought she was really neat-o, so having heard about their
record-breaking attendance goal, I had a good idea of where I might find her
again the next evening. After missing her a few times, between the bar and the
pizza place, we finally connected, and had another delightful evening of
bar-booth conversation. This was the kind of bar where “delightful
conversation” means you sat in a red Naugahyde booth, taking turns shouting
into each other’s ears, in an attempt to carry on a conversation over the AC/DC
blaring out of the jukebox.
After the last-call light came on at two A.M. – this was
back when we could stay up until two A.M. – we walked back to the pizza place
where my truck was parked, and carried on our conversation in the cab of my Ford
F150. By about three A.M. I had convinced her that kissing me wouldn’t be so
bad, and just when I was about to plant one on her, a sonic boom came rolling
down the street. It would have been much cooler if we had heard the explosion
as we kissed, but you just can’t plan for these kinds of things.
She said, and I quote, “That sounded like a twelve-gauge!”
I replied, scoffing-ly, “There is no way that was a twelve-gauge
shotgun. It was probably just a car backfiring.” In my head I was thinking, Cool. She knows her shotguns. But that
couldn’t have been a shotgun.
Roughly four minutes later a barefoot man in a bathrobe came
walking down the street carrying a twelve-gauge shotgun.
Now, if I can paint the scene for you - It is past three o’clock
in the morning, and the town has completely shut down. We are the only car parked
on the street, directly across from the pizza parlor. The only other car that
we can see belongs to a police officer who is parked in a parking lot across
the intersection from the pizza place. The police officer is standing outside
of his car, chatting with a man on a bicycle. They have apparently not heard
the big bang, and seem very relaxed. The pizza place is located on the corner
of the intersection, and the man in the bathrobe with the heavy artillery is
walking past the pizza place, toward the cop, but neither one of them can see
the other yet. We are parked across the street and have a clear view of both of
them, and a pretty good idea of what is about to happen. Between the five of
us, we are the only people still awake in the whole town, and two of us are a
whole lot more awake than we were a minute ago.
The bathrobe-clad gentlemen rounded the corner and came into
view of the police officer, and they saw each other at about the same time. We
were positioned at just the wrong angle, so when the cop drew his weapon, he
was pointing it right at us. We both did that thing where you slide down below
the dashboard in case the bullets start flying, but foolishly keep your head up
high enough to see, because you don’t want to miss the action.
The policeman immediately started asking the nice man to
kindly set his shotgun down. By “kindly asking,” I mean he instantly began
shouting, “Drop the #$*%&@ gun right now! Drop it, #$@*&%!!!” I thought
he was handling himself very well given the surprising circumstance he had just
found himself in. The bicyclist he had been talking to before the rude
interruption did something that still to this day I cannot believe, even though
I saw it with my own two barely-visible-above-the-dashboard eyes. He dropped
his bike to the ground and fit himself completely underneath the front bumper
of the police cruiser. Next time you see a police cruiser, take a look at the
ground clearance. I think it might have been Houdini himself in that bike
Well, the nice man with the twelve-gauge didn’t drop his gun
right away. He just sort of stood there, trying to have a conversation with the
cop. He was holding the gun at a forty-five-degree angle toward the ground, not
exactly pointing it at the cop, but not exactly pointing it away from him,
either. As the police officer walked closer and closer to the man, yelling
commands louder and louder, I was sure we were about to witness something very
unpleasant on what had, otherwise, been a really nice night.
Thankfully, for everyone involved, the man finally decided
to set his shotgun gently on the ground, and seconds later, the police officer set
his knee not-so-gently on the man’s neck, and the stand-off was over. As
Captain Bathrobe was led to the police car and Harry Houdini extricated himself
from underneath the Caprice Classic, I started the truck and drove my date home
in stunned silence.
Fortunately, she didn’t hold the incident against me, and we
continued to see each other. We searched the local paper for two weeks straight
after that night for some mention of the incident, partially to prove to people
that we weren’t making it up, but mostly to find out for ourselves what we had
seen. Why was there a man firing a shotgun in sleepy, downtown San Luis Obispo,
and why was he then walking the streets with that shotgun, barefoot, in a
bathrobe? We never found a single mention of it, and to this day, have no idea
We graduated, parted ways, and met again six years later at
a mutual college friend’s housewarming party. We have been together ever since.
After meeting her father, I finally understood her knowledge of shotguns. And
after getting to know my father-in-law, I had a strong suspicion that he and my
wife might have known more about that night than they were letting on. I know
he owned a twelve-gauge, and I’m pretty sure he owned a bathrobe.
Where exactly was he that night? Out looking for her,
perhaps? Who knows?
Happy anniversary, baby. And happy tipping point!
Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen
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