III. Our dating career comes to a sudden and surprising halt.
I was sitting in my not-too-comfortable apartment on D street looking forward to the week-end and another blissful day with Shauna when the phone rang. As those of us who are punctilious about our grammar are careful to say, "It was she."
"I need you to help me", she said almost pleadingly and then added with a sense of urgency, "tonight."
We 34 year old bachelors on a roll with an exciting dating partner are always willing, and usually even eager, to help said dating-damsel-in-distress, especially since the age of dragons--and similar dangers--has pretty much past. "Certainly," I responded chivalrously, "name the time and place and I shall be at your service." Well, what I actually said was more like, "Ah-er--I suppose so. What do you need me to do?" But the intent was the same.
Shauna then launched into a long and, I’m afraid to say, tedious explanation, the gist of which (for the benefit of the impatient reader) was that she was hired to teach 2nd grade with the understanding that she had a teaching certificate. She did not have said certificate, because she lacked a math class, which, if she did not complete by October 31st (it then being early October), she would lose her job. The tedious part of the explanation, which, as I mentioned above, I have spared the reader on account of his/her impatience, had to do with how and why she was hired when she lacked the required certificate. Naturally, through all of this, I became increasingly eager to know how I was supposed to help, my teacher-certificate-awarding-capability being very very limited. When I finally mentioned this, she explained how I was to help. Fortunately, she explained, she did not actually have to complete the class. All she really needed to do was to pass a test challenging the class, which she planned to do the next day, with a little help from me by way of prep-study that evening.
I was happy to oblige.
Accordingly, a short time later, I found myself with Shauna in the Murray City library. She opened a math book containing a practice quiz and said, "Let’s start with some of these problems."
It was somewhere between 20 and 40 seconds into this training session that I realized that there was absolutely no hope that she was going to pass that math test. At this point I was in something of a quandary. I really liked Shauna and was, therefore, eager to be as helpful as possible. On the other hand, I felt certain that by associating myself too closely with the disastrous results of the upcoming test, I would be leaving an unpleasant association toward me in her mind. I decided, therefore, that the safest course was to be helpful from a distance. I told her that I felt it best if she worked alone until she had a question and that I would be looking over the library collection while she studied, and consequently, would be handy if she needed me. During the next half hour or so, she called me over a couple of times. Shortly after she called me the last time, a rather handsome fellow walked over to her and they began an animated discussion. I was just getting a bit annoyed by this when Shauna signaled for me to come over.
"This is my friend, Larry ______," she introduced as I approached. "He’s studying to be a seminary teacher." We shook hands and as we did so Shauna continued, "This is my friend, Merrill. He’s and engineer."
"Oh, I started out in engineering." Larry said enthusiastically (he was always enthusiastic), "but I decided that I am more of a people person than a machine person."
"Yes," I responded. "There are only two kinds of people; those who relate to people and those who relate to machines, but, of course, you can’t relate to both." I tried to sound ironical, but to no avail. Although I really don’t believe that you are either a people- or a machine-relater, I do believe that there are only two kinds of people--those who understand irony and those who don’t. Larry was one of the "don’ts".
"That’s really true," he said--as always, enthusiastically.
"Well, I guess I better get back to studying," Shauna said with a smile--and she did have the cutest smile. She tried to study for a few more minutes, but it was obvious that the conversation with Larry had broken her study pattern, so she gave it up and we went out for a snack and then home.
The next day after work I got a call. "You will never believe this, "Shauna almost sobbed. "I failed the test!" This, I felt, was one of the very few of life’s little shocks for which I was, in fact, amply prepared. "Now I have to take the class," she continued, "and I have to finish it by the 31st or I lose my job. You’ve got to help me."
We worked out a plan of attack and made an agreement. There would be no dating whatsoever between us while she was working on the class. Ours would be strictly an academic arrangement. She would come over every night and we would work through one chapter and she would mail it in.
And we did it. She completed all the assignments, took--and passed--the final exam, with, I believe, one or two days to spare.
Although we did no dating, this was the best dating investment I ever made in a most, as mentioned before, unillustrious dating career. We learned more about each other than we would have learned in many months of conventional dating.
Toward the end of October, I got a call from JoAnn Parker inviting me to go with her to a symphony orchestra concert. I took an evening off from math tutoring. JoAnn and I had a wonderful time and it was clear that she had reconsidered her previous rebuffs.