A little story about perception: in the late 1990s, I worked on a small town newspaper. Hermiston, Oregon had around 11,000 people and, honestly, a limited population of my fellow twenty-somethings. For most of my time there, my two other fellow general-beat reporters were both grandparents. (Later one left for another job and his replacement was someone my age, finally. And my editor and the sports reporter were both within a decade of my age, so there was less of an age gap.) One consequence: less chance to date. I seriously went on only one date in my three years there. Better than my record in Portland, where I've been a distracted dumbass where it comes to women who I could've asked out, but that's my issue and I'm aware of it.
Someone on my list of "someone I should have asked out, dammit" was a young woman named Sarah. Another fellow reporter, but this time for a network affiliate in the (relatively) big town of the Tri-Cities, half an hour away in Washington.
I'm good at noticing who I think is cute. I try not to be obnoxious about it, but I like seeing who's pretty, compelling, funny and good things like that. Sarah and I ran into each other one Friday at a Hermiston elementary school, covering an event. We spoke quickly in transit in a quiet school hallway, we parted ways to do our jobs in separate places, and I was thinking Hey, she's really cute!
She came back to mind over that weekend. When I started to think back at running into her, a brief run-in while in a work mindspace, I started thinking Maybe she wasn't that cute or interesting. Maybe I was just happy to see someone near my age around here. I got thinking of the rumors that sailors at sea for months or years would start to think that manatees were in fact lovely mermaids, and other ways the human mind compensates for not seeing attractive beauty. Was I doing that? Over that weekend I got thinking about this more than I should have.
And I ran into Sarah again that Sunday.
Another school event (one of the middle schools in town this time), another event that my paper wanted to cover and that, it turned out, her station wanted to cover. And we said hi again and did our jobs again and that time I thought, Hey, she IS really cute!
Sarah and I always had "Nice to see you!" kinds of words the other times the two of us were in the same place at the same time. Which included one time when she was AT MY OFFICE, researching old issues of the newspaper for a history piece. I may have been a little nervous that day. Woulda-coulda-shoulda: I should've had more confidence to take some time to frickin' talk to her, get to know her better I hope. I could have. Would I have?
So. I didn't act. As usually happens with small-market TV, Sarah moved on -- remember, Ann Curry got her start on a Medford, Oregon TV station, because you have to start somewhere -- and I hope she's gone on to good places, good work, and a good life. And I hope I can remember that, um, YOU HAVE TO ASK PEOPLE OUT, CHRIS. Find out if someone's interested and available that way. It's really the best way. It's a good way to make friends, too; and I'm better at that, at least.