The Odd Couple
You know how sometimes, when you meet a couple for the first time, you think, “Wow, these are two really cool people. How great that they found each other and can enjoy being awesome together?”
And you know how sometimes you meet a couple for the first time and think, “Sweet Jesus, how can so much evil exist in one person, let alone two and for God's sake, what kind of demon spawn will enter this world when these two procreate?”
If you answered no to that second question, you've obviously never met Carl and Audra (names changed though God willing, I will never see nor speak to these people again in my life).
It all started on the first night of our honeymoon. JT and I were already in love with Aruba and excited to have our first dinner at the resort's hibachi restaurant. The place paired you up at a table with another couple so we also were looking forward to making some new friends. Well, JT, the far more social of us, was. I, being Queen Introvert, figured a pre-dinner cocktail would immensely improve my mood about dining with strangers.
Had I known what was about to befall me, I would have downed an entire fifth of the strongest island rum I could find. Anything to numb me against what was to come.
JT and I were the first of our table to arrive, so we ordered some wine and sipped and chatted while we waited. Within a few minutes, I saw a man and woman – both in their twenties, both tall and lanky, both supremely pale – making their way over to the table. I nudged JT. First honeymoon friends! Woo hoo!
Carl and Audra introduced themselves, Carl shaking JT's hands and Audra giving me a shy nod. An awkward silence started things off, but then it was JT to the rescue.
“So Carl, what do you do?”
Mistake Number One.
Carl and Audra exchanged a quick smile. “I'm an information technology support specialist for the department-wide computing system of a multifaceted education advancement institution.”
A brief silence while we took that in.
“That's got to make for a hell of a business card,” JT joked.
They were not amused.
“Forgive me,” I pushed on. “But what exactly does that mean?”
Audra beamed and butted in. “It means he handles all the calls when people in human resources at the university can't figure out how to use their computers properly.”
“Ooooh,” I said. You're a tech. Got it. I mean, that's a good job and all, but calm down.
“Yeah, it's really stressful and Dan always gives me a hard time, but like I tell Alan and Nick, you just have to take it one problem at a time,” Carl said as Audra nodded vigorously.
Can I just say that I HATE when someone refers to people I've never met like I should know who they are? Like I was going to say to this stranger, “Totally! Dan can be rough, but your advice should really help Alan and Nick. Those two! What a pair!” No. Stop it.
Carl followed this up with a 20-minute monologue about the trials and tribulations of an IT tech juggling the daily demands of a department of 12 in a medium-sized mid-Western no name school. It was just as exciting as it sounds.
I about died of relief when the waiter returned with hot towels for the table. I grabbed mine and remarked on what a nice treat the towels were, how restaurants rarely did that anymore, whatever. I was desperate. Towel talk would have to do.
Mistake Number Two.
“It's just weird because in Japan they usually give you cold towels,” Audra said as she and Carl executed a tandem eye roll.
“Oh, you've been to Japan?” I asked. Finally, something non-IT support related!
“Um,” Audra arched her eyebrow and smirked. “Only about ten times. I mean, because of my job?”
“Oh,” I said, because, really what else was there to say?
Another eye roll.
“I'm an automotive engineer,” she said slowly, like I was four and she was explaining quantum physics. “For Toyota.”
Yeah, you NEVER SAID THAT AT ANY POINT PRIOR TO THIS INSTANT! Is what I wanted to scream. Instead, I went with my old standby.
Then Audra talked for another eternity about her job, which somehow managed to equal her husband's in the Interesting Things To Talk About category.
Mind you, at no point did they ask a single question about JT or me. That is until Audra grabbed my hand and brought it within an inch of her face to inspect my engagement ring.
As I've written about before, I love my diamond engagement ring for many reasons. It's been on my hand for almost two years and I still find myself staring at it at least once a day.
I told Audra all about its history, how special it was to me and how incredible it was that JT was able to do that for me.
“Well, mine's in the safe in the room. I just didn't feel right wearing it out and about here,” was her whispered response.
“Oh? What does it look like?” I asked.
She beamed again. “It's a one-carat emerald cut sapphire.”
“Oh, cool!” I said, actually meaning it. “Do sapphires have special meaning to you or do you just love the color?”
“No,” said, looking me dead in the eye. “I just can't stand when people wear diamonds. It's so thoughtless and tacky.”
I honestly didn't know if I should slap her or laugh.
JT shot me an incredulous look, and I was about to give him the peace sign indicating it was time to peace the eff out, but then the waiter returned with our food (and mercifully, more booze for JT and I), so I was willing to stay at least until we had something to eat.
We scarfed down our hibachi and when it was time to bid our dinner companions adieu, I about cried with joy. But then the waiter returned and asked if anyone would like anything else.
“Should we?” Audra asked, shooting her beloved what was meant to be a naughty grin but came off more Creepy Clown.
“Let's. We waited all day, after all,” he said, then turned to the waiter. “We'll have a glass of moscato.”
“Lovely,” the waiter said. “Two moscatos.”
“No, no,” Carl said sternly and shot JT and I a disapproving look. “Just one. We'll share.”
Audra giggled, clearly appalled at how very bad she and her new husband were being. I looked at JT with eyes the size of saucers. We were at an all-inclusive resort, for God's sake. And on vacation. OK, that was enough judging for one night. I downed the last of my (scandalous) glass of wine and nodded toward the exit.
We exchanged our goodbyes before their illicit moscato arrived and made our way across the resort to the pool area bar. I collapsed on it, head down in my arms, shoulders bouncing as I laugh/cried over the whole disastrous dinner.
“I mean, who in the world acts like that? On purpose!” I screamed into the bar.
“I know,” JT said, shaking his head and signaling for the bartender.
“They are very easily the most annoying people I’ve ever met. No! That anyone has ever met!”
“I mean, to act all high and mighty is one thing. To insult me directly to my face is one thing. But the sharing of the moscato?! That threw me right over the edge. Have you ever heard of anything more lame in your life?!”
“No, I haven’t,” JT laughed and leaned forward to grab our drinks just as I lifted my head.
Directly behind him, saddled up at the two bar stools directly to his right, were Carl and Audra.
“Ahem!” Carl cleared his throat as the bartender approached him. “We’ll have two virgin mudslides.”
JT and I remained perfectly still, as if that rendered us invisible. It seemed to take the bartender two years to whip up their virgin mudslides. But finally, chocolate milkshakes in hand, Carl and Audra left, probably to return to their room for some light Sudoku.
“Do you think they heard me?” I asked JT sheepishly.
“They have ears, so yeah, probably.”
I grimaced. Ugh. I did feel bad. I never want to make anyone else feel bad about themselves. I prefer to mock people behind their backs. Like a lady.
“Oh well,” I told JT. “At least we never have to see them again.”
Yet another mistake.
From that point on, we saw Carl and Audra EVERYWHERE. At breakfast each morning. At dinner each night. On the beach. On the bus. At the special honeymooners dinner our resort planned for us. ON THE FREAKIN PLANE RIDE HOME.
There was no escaping them. And it never got any less awkward. That’s karma for you. I was never allowed to forget how mean I had been.
There’s a lesson here. And I believe that lesson is: Fake food poisoning as soon as possible when seated at dinner with a-holes.