RICKTER SCALE: Many happy returns to sender

Rick Stiebel | Contributed

Happy birthday to us.

Yesterday, or more precisely June 5, marked the day the Bride and I entered the earth’s atmosphere, kicking and scheming. Although for the record, I’m a mere 4,204,800 minutes older. We also met for the first time on June 5, which adds another layer of coincidental occurrence to our birthday observations.

A mutual friend who worked with Joan thought that we would be a good match, for reasons he has never fully explained. I was just completing two years of journalism school surviving on a starvation budget, and Brian was concerned about the amount of time I was spending alone.

Although I brushed off his initial overtures to set up a blind date, I grudgingly agreed to meet Brian and Joan and a couple of their co-workers for a drink to celebrate Joan’s birthday on that fateful Friday in 1992.

The fact that I had no other plans on my birthday underlines how my social and love lives had ground to a screeching halt at that particular juncture in time.

The only thing Brian told me about the bride to be was that she didn’t trust men over 40. That didn’t exactly buoy my confidence, considering I was mentally blowing out my forty-second set of candles on that day.

For reasons I still don’t comprehend, I felt compelled to pick up a card for Joan on the way to the pub. I passed the cards featuring an array of cuddly puppies, cute kittens and blooming bouquets and headed directly to the section marked “Humourous.” A card with a grey-haired matron at the blackboard teaching sex education to a group of elementary students caught me eye. I opened it and read the caption, a question from one of the students, “Does pubic hair turn grey?” That was all I needed to read to seal the deal.

I scribbled down something in my best penmanship about how difficult it was to pick out a card for a “perfect stranger,” and chuckled my way to the checkout line.

The card appeared to catch Joan off guard, causing me to second-guess whether I had crossed her boundary of what’s considered good taste. There’s a long list of people offended by my off-beat sense of humour, a point that’s hammered home regularly in readers’ comments on this column.

Fortunately, the smile that followed her reading of the card put me instantly at ease. Joan gave me her phone number in the parking lot and then bestowed a celebratory smooch, catching me and the cough drop in my mouth completely by surprise.

Twenty-six years later, the bride still insists on putting that card out on the mantle every fifth day of the sixth month. She still refers to me as the best birthday present ever, a feeling much more than merely mutual.

I never get tired of sharing this story, especially when that card makes its annual appearance on our birthday.


Rick Stiebel is a Sooke resident and semi-retired journalist.

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