February 6th, 2012

Rants from the Rat Race: Valentine’s Bear

When people are out to lunch, I like to sign for things, open them, and pretend I didn’t know that they weren’t for me. It’s a great way to find out who owes child support and who orders off-brand Cialis from Mexico (Dave). The delivery guy that brought the Valentine’s bear didn’t seem to notice or care that I didn’t look like a Debbie. I signed, and after fighting with cellophane wrappers and ribbons, I got the card open by ripping the envelope in half.

“Dearest puppy—have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!”

My friend Joe says that Valentine’s Day was invented by Hallmark and that it just furthers American consumerism. I don’t really have a problem with February 14th, but Joe listens to Velvet Underground and quotes Bill Maher a lot, so maybe he knows how those things work. What I don’t agree with though, is when someone orders themselves gifts just to appear less desperate. Especially when that gift is a 4-foot bear with a rose in its mouth that seems to just stare at me.

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Debbie is the kind of lady that expects me to be excited about photos of her vacations even though I wasn’t invited. She claims she is a vegetarian when she declines your Cabela’s kangaroo jerky even though you saw her eat a hamburger once. She also says “okie dokie” a lot. But this self-gifting was the final straw. I had to act quickly while Debbie was still out to lunch.

“Dearest puppy”, my replacement note said. “Please think of me when you look at this bear. I have to do some soul searching, so I will be leaving for India tomorrow to eat that weird food and ride on really crowded trains. You will probably never see me again. Also, you may want to get tested.”

When she saw the note, I knew she would feel ashamed. But then, after a while, Debbie would find some inkling of strength in the fact that someone shared her secret. She wouldn’t have to shoulder the burden of buying herself gifts on Valentine’s Day just to prove to the office that she maintained a healthy social life outside of work. We would eventually pass in hallways and wink at each other like two competitive bad guys that have to team up to hide a body and learn valuable lessons.

Later that afternoon, I hear muffled sobbing from the cubicle where Debbie sits. I really hadn’t meant to make her cry. My note was really just a gentle jab in a more constructive direction, like when you email your buddy’s wife to tell her that you think he might be gay. I went to investigate.

“Debbie? Are you ok? What’s wrong?”

She didn’t say a word, just handed me the note that I knew all too well. I mumbled aloud to myself as I read, a neat trick you can use when you already know or don’t care what something says. This makes you seem engaged.

“He sends me a goofy Valentine’s bear every year, even though he’s getting up there.”

So now her fake boyfriend was an older gentleman. Probably some prince or game show winner or something. When do the lies stop Debbie? When will you just come clean?

“But now I think my father has finally lost it.”

I didn’t know what to say. My mind raced. The office around me whirled around like in the movies where the camera focuses on John Cusack and everything else just spins after he loses the girl or gets a DUI. I was responsible for Debbie’s feelings of total emptiness and defeat. I had to say something to this downtrodden woman looking up at me, eyes glistening with sadness.

“Man…” I managed to utter, still grasping for the right way to say what I knew had to be said.

“Yo daddy cray-cray!”

This will be good for Debbie.

— Tea Jones

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