The following is a re-working of an article I wrote for the Tooele Transcript Bulletin a few years ago.
Maybe some things are just meant to be—no matter how hard you try to screw them up.
“We’re not too far away from the city, are we?” Meadow asked, veiling the uncertainty in her voice as best she could. “Nah,” I reassured her, not elaborating that my definition of the term “far” at this particular moment was wildly subjective and that 4.5 miles by foot, in the mountains, at midnight, might be pushing the upper boundary of “not far.”
“Not way far,” I clarified. What else could I say?
In hindsight, a night hike along what my friends and I referred to as “Certain Death Trail” in Big Cottonwood Canyon might not have been the best idea for a first date. Especially given the fact that Meadow had just moved to Utah from the utterly flat state of Texas and had never been hiking before. Somehow these thoughts failed to cross my mind a few days prior, when we met at a gathering of friends and I was arrested by her sultry hazel eyes.
“I’ll take her hiking,” I thought. “Girls dig outdoorsy guys who can take them on awesome hikes. One look at the city from a canyon and she’ll be mine.”
Turns out my mistake wasn’t driving up the canyon or dragging her on a steep-ish two mile hike. My slip-up occurred between those two events, but became apparent only after we had returned to trailhead parking lot and I noticed my keys were missing.
Initially, I convinced myself they must have slipped out of my jacket pocket at the overlook near the top. But a return to the top, scouring the mountainside by flashlight along the way, ruled that option out. Meadow was incredibly patient with the repeat of the hike.
(Miles walked so far: 4)
I didn’t even want to consider the second possibility—that this strapping trail runner who, prior to the second two mile hike was well on his way to getting the girl, had accidentally locked his keys in the trunk of his 1991 Dodge Spirit.
The date, by all logic, was unsalvageable. It was time for me to suck it up and somehow get this unfortunate girl back to civilization. It was decision time.
Plan A: Somehow break into my car without shattering the windows and before she starts getting cold.
Plan B: Start Walking. Stay upbeat. Avoid mountain lions and potential serial killers offering us rides. Then pick up the pieces of my shattered pride at the bottom.
“Hey, at least it’s downhill,” I told her. She didn’t seem amused.
We joked about our misfortune, but our guarded laughter dwindled as we rounded curve after curve of quiet mountain road. We walked at least a mile (miles walked to this point: 5) before a normal-looking couple in a pickup offered to drive us to a pay phone (my phone was with my keys in the trunk). The awkward chitchat made the ride seem much longer than it was, but we were glad to be out of the mountains.
“So what are you going to do now?” The driver asked with all the compassion he could muster and still keep a straight face.
“Probably call a friend,” I lied as we climbed out of his cab at a grocery store in the valley, knowing full well that calling a friend would prove even more tragic than locking my keys in my car 4.5 miles up a canyon on a first date. The only thing worse than scaring a girl off is seeing her the next week at Leatherby’s, sharing a Banana Split with your friend that so nobly rescued her from her nightmare first date with you.
No, friends were definitely not an option. I picked up the pay phone and dialed the only person who could look past my idiocy and get me out of this mess. My mom arrived in short order, and we were soon driving back up the canyon with my backup key.
When we retrieved my keys and pulled out of the trailhead parking lot, I looked at the girl I was certain I’d never see again.
“I’m at a loss,” I blabbered, feeling about an inch tall. “I just don’t know what to say. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” she assured me, hinting that all hope wasn’t lost.. “This will be a great story!”
I agreed, and 14 years and 6 kids later, I still do.