I’ve heard some people refer to Valentine’s Day as “Single Awareness Day.” Though it’s been over twenty years since I’ve been single, I remember feeling awkward on February 14 when I didn’t have anyone to be my Valentine.
On one occasion after I was married, I had that same awkward feeling. No, my wife and I weren’t having a spat or anything. We were living in Connecticut at the time and I was scheduled to take a business trip to Florida which would get me home on the evening on Valentine’s Day. However, a huge winter storm hit New England and shut down all the airports. My coworkers and I were stuck in Florida.
There were four of us, and we debated how to spend Valentine’s Day evening. We’d been cooped up at the airport and at our hotel all day, so we decided to see what there was to do in Jacksonville. One of the locals suggested an open air mall that was built on the edge of a bay. We decided to check it out—and it was gorgeous. We picked up a few things for our loved ones back home, but still had time to kill.
As the sun was setting, one of the guys spotted a bar that had an open view of the bay. I’d never been to a bar, and I don’t drink. The other guys knew this about me and said I could be the designated driver—even though we were going to be taking a cab back to the hotel.
My other three coworkers were all good guys. They didn’t follow my lifestyle, which many consider to be quite conservative, but they were still people I considered friends.
The drinks started to flow, I had Sprite, and I watched an interesting transformation happen. I’d never been around guys as they got drunk. One side effect was that I became the funniest man in the world to them. Anything remotely clever I said got them roaring in laughter.
It felt a bit weird to be at a bar, but I had decided way beforehand I wouldn’t be drinking, and had made it clear to the guys, so I never felt pressure to join in.
However, there was one aspect of the evening I had considered. We were at a bar. On Valentine’s Day. And it was “ladies night.”
Soon, we started getting attention from several women—sometimes they were in groups, sometimes they were alone. All of us guys were married, so as soon that they approached, we’d flash our wedding rings to scare them away, though as the night drew on, and the other guys got more drunk, the more flattered they would get.
Some of the women got upset, one even said, “What are you even doing here if you’re not available?”
I kept thinking about my wife and how much I missed her. I’d have taken a quiet night at home with her over the bar with all the single ladies anytime.
Eventually we headed back to the hotel. Though I didn’t have to drive, I did have to help them find their rooms once we got back to the hotel.
The next morning, we once again tried to find a way home. We ended up having to get a flight into Newark and then take a rented car to JFK airport. The trip home was miserable. We had long waits, crammed airplanes, and the uncertainty if we’d even make it home or if our flight would get diverted.
But it could have been worse for me. At least I wasn’t hung-over.