Friday, February 24, 2012

Great Lovers I have known--VI--Dan Tonks

Great Lovers I have Known—Dan Tonks

After my year with Craig I moved back into the apartment complex in which I had lived before I was drafted. Among my roommates were James “Cecil” Simons, Dave Hall, Redge Bake, Rob Talbert, and for one year, my brother, Gavin. After Gavin got married and moved out, Dan Tonks moved in and took his place.
I was excited to have Dan move in, although, just off his mission he was by several years the youngest of us. He was from my home town, Pocatello, and was, in fact, the son of “TV” Tonks. “TV” was one of the high school physics and electronics teachers in Pocatello, but his chief claim to fame was that he would drive around in a brightly-colored, clearly-stenciled van advertising the fact that he was your best choice if your television set needed repair. His fame—or notoriety—was considerably enhanced by the fact that the van had a loud speaker attached to the top, which he would occasionally use to advertise the fact that he was in the neighborhood and willing—even eager—to repair your defunct, or poorly functioning television set. One reason I was excited to have Dan as a roommate is that I assumed that he, like his father, would be a physics major. He immediately disabused me on that score, stating that he had no interest whatever in either math or science.
We soon learned, however, that Dan did have one talent that the rest of us lacked. To understand his unique talent, it will help to understand the routine in our apartment on Monday through Wed evening. Usually, on Monday night right after dinner most of us would begin the weekly litany—namely, asking each other, “who should I ask out for this week-end. The exceptions were Dan and Dave Hall.
Dave was the most organized roommate I ever had—I suspect, possibly the most organized roommate anyone ever had. He is the only student I ever knew who never wasted a dime, a minute, or a square inch. Whenever anyone in the apartment—and even a good many outside the apartment—needed anything, especially if they needed it in a hurry, they would ask Dave. You weren’t often disappointed. For example, being returned missionaries, we all had those little sewing kits for doing minor repairs to clothing, such as sewing on buttons. As I said, we all had them, but when a button came off, generally, we asked Dave for his, because, although we all had them, he was the only one who could actually find his.
At any rate, this super-organization carried over into his dating life. At the first of every semester, Dave would meet all the new girls in the ward, in his classes, and in the neighborhood and make up a list of those he would like to date. Every Tuesday night at exactly 7 PM he would walk out of his study area, go to the phone and call the next 2 girls on the list and ask them out for that week-end. By 7:30 generally, he had the job done. Now I’m the first to admit that I admired this procedure tremendously, but I also recognized that this was even more out of the cards for me than keeping track of my sewing kit.
Dan, on the other hand, would ask right after dinner on Monday night, “Does anyone need to use the phone for the next little while?” Of course, no one did. By that time most of us still hadn’t decided who we were going to ask out, and even if we had decided who we wanted to ask out, it would require at least one night—usually two—of coaxing and encouraging from roommates before we would actually have the courage to do it.
Dan would then go to the phone and ask a girl out. We soon learned that by “little while” Dan actually meant anywhere from one to 2 ½ hours. Already it was clear that he was a phenomenon. The rest of us, after we had actually worked up the courage to ask a girl out, would do it. If she said “yes” we quickly explained the arrangements, thanked her, and hung up—the idea being to get off the phone as quickly as possible so as not to leave the girl enough time to change her mind. Dan, on the other hand, would make small talk for some time before asking the girl out and then continue to make small talk after he had gotten the date. “What would he do if the girl turned him down?” the reader is undoubtedly asking him/herself. The answer is, “I don’t know.” To my knowledge, he was never turned down. He was probably one of the greatest—if not the greatest—askers for dates ever. He was incredible. The problem was that while being the greatest asker for dates, he was also, undoubtedly, the world’s worst dater--the reason being that he never actually went on any of his dates, as will be explained forthwith.
We learned that there might be a problem the very first week Dan was with us. The Sat. after his first scheduled date, I was eating breakfast when he came into the kitchen.
“How was your date?” I asked perfunctorily expecting an equally perfunctory response like, “Oh, fine.”
Instead I got, “I didn’t go.”
“Didn’t go!” I responded amazed. “What happened?”
“Oh, I was up on campus studying and I forgot all about it. I’ll apologize tomorrow when I see her at church,” he said in a matter of fact tone of voice.
I couldn’t believe it. I decided right there and then that all the agonizing, the hem hawing, the questioning, the wondering was worth something. At least, I never forgot that I had a date. I decided that Dan, who seemed to get dates effortlessly, had the sort of “easy come, easy go” problem.
I discovered the next Sat. that that was not the only problem, when again I asked—this time less perfunctorily—“How was your date?” I got the same response as the week before, only this time it was a different excuse. This time he had been downtown and his car gave him trouble. By the time he had got it taken care of it was too late to go on the date, or so he claimed.
The next Sat. morning we were all together in the living room when someone asked and we got a much more truculent response. It turns out that this time, it wasn’t his memory or his car, it was us—his roommates. Because we were all older and “desperate to get married”, he felt forced to ask girls out, but he wasn’t, he claimed, interested in marriage or dating or anything related to it. It was just having old roommates who were decidedly unhappy in their bachelorhood that was forcing him into asking girls out—which he did not want to do.
“Listen,” I said, somewhat annoyed—an annoyance obviously shared by my roommates, “no one is forcing you to get dates. If you don’t want to get dates, don’t. But if you do, then by all means go on the date.”
The next Monday when it was his usual time to get his date, he apologized and said he was sorry for what he had said. He really did, he said, want to date, and he proceeded to get another date, and as usual he spent the whole evening talking with the girl after getting the date.
But the next Sat. morning it was the same story, only this time it was not only our fault, it was also the fault of BYU which, according to Dan, was nothing more than a large marriage mill—not even an educational institution at all. He didn’t understand why he had ever come to BYU and planned to leave at the earliest possible moment.
What bothered me more and more was that with every passing week, the denunciations became more bitter and the accusations against us, his roommates, against the school, and finally, against the church itself more acrimonious. Curiously enough, somewhere in all this, he actually did go on a date. The date was with Jean Simmons, a very cute girl whose apartment he visited frequently and who he spent a good deal of time talking with. He finally asked her out. We were all nervous that it would be the same old story, but it wasn’t. The curious thing—at least, to me, was that for once he really did have a legitimate reason for canceling the date. In the morning of the date, he had gone to the dentist to have a couple of wisdom teeth removed. But what was scheduled to be a two-hour appointment lasted all day. It turns out that his wisdom teeth were impacted, or something, that required the dentist to work literally hours to get the teeth out. He came home in absolute agony. Worse, from a dating standpoint—in my opinion, at least—was the fact that he was bleeding badly from his mouth. When he opened his mouth he looked like someone in a class B vampire movie. Blood was literally dripping from his teeth. Under the circumstances, even I suggested that he cancel the date, but for some reason, possibly, because he really liked and respected Jean, he went through with it. Although he did go on the date, I suspect that Jean must have made it clear that she didn’t want to date him again because he never asked her out again. But we all felt greatly relieved. He had actually gone on a date. We were sure he was cured.
No such luck. The next week was the same old story with escalating repercussions. This time, he typed up a “Paper” condemning dating practices at BYU and denouncing the pressure placed on unwilling young men to date and marry. He made about twenty copies of this paper and spread them though our parking lot and the parking lot of the girls’ apartments next door. Furthermore, he actually began venting his anger by throwing things, books and the garbage can, against the wall in his bedroom. The situation was bad enough that our roommate, Cecil Simons, who was a psychology major, decided to take things in hand by counseling with Dan. Both he and Dan stayed home from classes all day Monday while Cecil conducted an intensive therapy session. Monday night both Dan and Cecil announced that Dan had responded positively to therapy and was, therefore, cured.
Since he was cured, Dan proceeded to ask Laurie _____ to a major dance—either the Junior Prom or the Senior Ball, I don’t remember which, but it was definitely “a big deal”. For my part, I was amazed that Laurie didn’t have a date already for the big event. She was, if not the cutest girl in our ward, certainly very close to the cutest and whatever she may have lacked—and as I said, it would be hard to show that she lacked anything—in that respect, she more than made up in the vivacious personality department. I wanted desperately to date her myself, but since I was nigh onto thirty and she was a freshman of 17 or 18, I decided it would be a bit of a stretch, but most of the guys in the ward—even those for whom it was that big a stretch or even bigger, had made a bid for her at one time or another.
Anyway, Dan worked his usual magic on the phone and got the date for the big dance Friday night. Friday night right after dinner, Dan announced that he was going to take his car into the mountains to escape the pressure that everyone in the apartment, in the ward, at the school and in the church in general were putting him under to date and get married even though he didn’t want to do any of those things.
“But what about Laurie?” I asked incredulously.
“What about her?” he snapped back. “She’s part of the whole conspiracy. She can go to H___ for all I care!” With that he stamped out, slamming the door as hard as he could as he left.
“This is my fault,” Cecil said after he left. “We can’t not let Laurie sit home and miss the big dance. I’ll run downtown, buy a corsage, and say that something came up that Dan couldn’t make it, and offer to take her myself.”
I had mixed feelings about whether Cecil’s offer was entirely altruistic, since, like the rest of us had wanted to take her out, but hadn’t worked up the nerve. Still, I felt like it was a good thing and offered to help pay for the corsage.
Well, Cecil went to the dance, and reported that he had a wonderful time. Dan came home really late, even after Cecil was back from the dance. He spent the night in a rage so that the roommates that shared his bedroom got hardly any sleep. He not only threw things against the wall, breaking the plasterboard, but he actually put his foot though the bedroom door (it was one of those cheap veneer wood doors). For my part, I became really nervous that he was going to actually get violent against us, but by the next day he had settled down again somewhat.
Monday was another all day therapy day with Cecil, but I was skeptical. I don’t know what it was, I think it was having to help pay for Laurie’s corsage, that gave me the one good counseling idea, I have had in my life. When we came home, just as they had done on the previous Monday, Dan and Cecil pronounced Dan cured and, just as he had done on the previous Monday, Dan went to the phone, asked a girl out, and spent the whole evening in small talk with her.
After Dan hung up the phone I walked over and picked it up.
“It’s kind of late to be asking for a date,” Dan said. “Who are you calling at this hour?”
“I’m not asking for a date,” I responded. “I’m calling the girl you just asked out.”
“Why ever for?” Dan demanded.
“I’m simply going to explain to her that although she thinks she has a date, she doesn’t have one. I plan on telling her about your history of dating and tell her that she can forget about having a date and that if she has another offer for Friday night, by all means, snap it up.”
“You wouldn’t do that!” Dan protested.
“Oh no, watch me.”
“But I’m cured,” Dan complained plaintively. “It’s unfair. Just ask Cecil if I’m not cured.”
“You were cured last week and all we got was a hole in the door and in the wall.”
I picked up the phone and started to dial.
“Please don’t,” he pleaded.
“I tell you what,” I said suspending my dialing, “if you will put down a $10 deposit, I’ll let it go. If you actually go on the date, you get your $10 back. If not, we use it to buy the girl something in the way of a consolation offering.”
At first he said “no way” but when I continued dialing he agreed to it. I did not, however, put down the phone until he had actually pulled the $10 out of his wallet and given it to me. It is important to understand that back then $10—especially to a student—was more like $50 today.
Did it work? Well, yes and no. Dan marched into the apartment at midnight and admitted after careful questioning that he had not gone on the date. But, he claimed, it was due to the fact that he had been downtown and his car had gone on the blink and it had taken him all that time to correct the problem. How then, you may ask, did it work? It worked in the sense that there was no loud complaining about having old, desperate-to-get-married roommates, no moaning about being trapped at school in a marriage mill, and no hand waving against the pressure the Church was putting on him; no kicked-in doors, no thrown waste baskets, no nothing except perfect amiability.
We used the $10 to buy his almost “date” flowers and chocolates—which shows how much more $10 would buy back then.
The next Monday was exactly the same story with the exception, of course, that it was a different girl and also the fact that I upped the ante to $20.
Did it work? It did. Twenty dollars was the magic key. Dan not only went on the date, but he started dating that date regularly. The result? Dan got married before any of the rest of us. He was actually married, as I remember it, that summer.
All this goes to show, I believe, that, in some cases at least, certainly in this one, that economics trumps psychology.

1 comment:

LGH said...

Oh my heck, this was so fun. You are a great writer. I absolutely LOVED this.