Planet Hiker

Surprise Birthday Party

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I have been conned in my own country, by my own people... Mostly by my closest friends and especially by my girlfriend, Mari. This was the slickest surprise party that I have ever been a victim of, but let me back up a little here...

A few months ago my mom gave me a gift card to a famous steakhouse, called "Ruth's Chris". I have been there once before and remember having gooood steaks. Since my birthday was coming up I suggested to Mari that we go there for dinner on Friday. To build up the appetite I was abstaining from eating red meet starting Monday. It was not easy stuffing myself with "foods" such as "vegetables" and "tofu", but the promise of a thick, juicy steak, cooked to medium-rare, was keeping me afloat.

When Friday came, I ate some fruits for breakfast, then a small sandwich for lunch. There was meat going to be in the evening! Mari said that she'll be coming back home from work at around 7:00pm and with that, we can make it to the restaurant by 8:00. Knowing her being habitually late for everything, I told her that I made the reservations for 8:00 as planned, but secretly placed the reservation for 8:30. I was being clever, you see.

Sure enough, she was running late and did not get home to pick me up till 7:30. But that was ok everything was going as planned and I felt good about being in control of my own destiny. Except that she was driving in a rather spaced out manner fumbling with the cell phone from time to time, not paying attention to the road when making lane changes, stopping at the stop signs for much longer than necessary, etc. So I suggested that she pulls over for me to take over driving, to which she complied, mentioning that she has a bit of a headache. I have learned a while back that if she says that she is getting a headache, which might turn into a migraine, I may be in serious trouble soon. A migraine for her really means major hazard for me and anyone in a quarter mile radius. So we switched seats and I continued driving, trying to pick pleasant topics of conversation. The only thing that I could think about was the steak in my near future, but I did my best to talk about other happenings, such as how good Luigi was today at the dog park and how good the waves look for a surfing session on the coming weekend. The key point was not to mention anything about her boss, Dr. Strickland that would only aggravate the situation.

My strategy seem to have been working because we drove about half way to the restaurant and she paid attention to what I was talking about, sending me smiles and occasionally adding pleasant comments. But as we came off of the highway the tables began to turn. Her headache was getting worse and of course, she did not have her pills with her... Why couldn't she take her pills when she was picking me up?!.. We are 15 minutes away from the restaurant, the reservation is already made, I can almost taste the meat, but she does not have her pills with her...

I pulled over into a plaza where I can make a U-turn and asked her to call the restaurant to postpone the reservation by a half an hour. We had to drive back to get her pills... What else was there left to do?.. I felt like the pin had been pulled out of a grenade and I better race back home to defuse it. Well, ok, we were 20 minutes away from home. We could still go back, pick up the pills and then head out, getting to the restaurant not much later than 9:15pm. I wish I wouldn't be so hungry but, I figured, the steak would only taste better. "Could you also give me a quick massage when we get back home? Massaging my neck for just 3 minutes may very well prevent the migraine" said Mari.

Massage? Three minutes?? Oh man, this was turning uglier and uglier by the minute. "Yes, of course", I replied in a polite manner, trying really hard not to prepend it with "Oh, shit!" and "Why can't you have the headache tomorrow or something?"

We were driving back now. I was back to Luigi and the dog park. Yellow light I downshift and accelerate. Another yellow light. I am driving 55 miles per hour on a 45 miles per hour street. I am no longer paying attention to what Mari is saying I am one with the machine, taking the corners fast, pushing the limits of what a Toyota Corolla could do (it's the "S" version). One more smooth shift of gears, the car took the corner a little wide but preserved its momentum. We are almost home. I start pushing the garage door opener button repeatedly and long in advance of the garage so that the gate opens a second or two earlier. We fly in. Out of the sense of decency but counteracted by the sense of hunger I slow the car down, a little, and drift into our parking spot #62.

"Three minutes" I say to myself. We'll go in, she'll grab her pills, I'll sit her down on the couch and get to work. We can still make it. I'll keep it focused and to the point. The traffic on the way back may even ease up a bit so we can make up some time using the carpool lane.

We run upstairs, I open the door and notice in my peripheral vision that somebody is running into the kitchen even though the lights are off. Could it be that I opened the door to the wrong apartment? But why is this person running into the kitchen with the lights off?

"SURPRISE!!!"

I hear shouts, the lights turn on, there are a bunch of people in my apartment... They are all excited about something and apparently pleased to see me. How do I get rid of these people in the next few minutes so that Mari and I can still make it to the restaurant?..

Little by little reality starts to sink in and I grasp that these people are not going to be leaving my apartment. But I also see smiling faces. I think they are here just because it's my birthday. "Looks like I'll be hungry tonight" I think to myself, out loud... "No, no", Mari jumps in to calm me down "we got plenty of food here", pointing at the kitchen counter with a medley of dishes. Sure enough, there are all sorts of foods, no steak, but I see pulled pork and someone mentions Zankou Chicken.

Nurit hands me a plate full of food and I breathe in a few chunks of pulled pork (it's pretty good). With some food in my stomach I begin to accept the new reality and feel my mood shifting. Come to think of it, this is a surprise birthday party for me and, and, it's nice. May be this is going to be a fun night after all!

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