“Honestly,” I remarked to Paul while putting away groceries (oh, all right, a six-pack) after a trip to the store, “whatever happened to Southern hospitality? All I did was tell the cashier I had correct change, and she nearly bit my head off.”
“That happened to me, too,” Paul replied, looking up. “Yesterday I asked a waitress in town if she wouldn’t mind putting my salad dressing on the side, and you would have thought I’d asked her to give me her first-born child. Wonder what’s going on?”
“It’s those marriage signs!” I cried, infused with a bolt of brilliance. “That’s what it’s all about.”
“What marriage signs?” Paul wanted to know.
It seems there was a romantic sort of fellow who staked a line of neon-green poster board signs, beginning at the exit ramp of Interstate 26, and running straight through town that, when passed by car (or far more slowly and confusedly, on foot), created the question, word by word, on sign by sign: “Will You Marry Me?”
“The marriage signs,” I repeated. “It’s irritated a whole lot of women around here.”
“How do you figure that?” Paul asked, squashing a perfectly good loaf of bread to make sure his Heineken was nestled comfortably on the middle rack and nowhere near my unsophisticated, domestic variety beer in the fridge. “Because all I ever hear, and I mean, ever hear, from women, is how unromantic and unthoughtful men are. So I would think, if anything, reading that kind of romantic declaration of love would give everyone the warm fuzzies.”
“Typical,” I chided. “Typical guy kind of thought. But here’s the deal: While our white knight has hammered in all those signs, he never wrote her name, did he? He never wrote, ‘Will you marry me, Melissa? Or Amy? Or Bertha?’ ”
“Very few people marry a Bertha,” Paul countered.
I dismissed his point with a wave of my hand and continued.
“So you’ve got all these single women, driving home from work, exiting off 26 and meandering into town, all reading these signs and potentially assuming the signs are about them. They’re thinking, ‘Holy cow, after four years, Buford’s finally popping the question!’
“And they get all excited, call their girlfriends, start working on their guest list and who they want for bridesmaids, and then they find out it wasn’t their boyfriend who put out the signs, after all. I mean, how devastating. No wonder they’re all cranky today. Typical of you guys not to follow through on detail.”
Paul, satisfied with the storage of his adult beverage, turned from the fridge and leaned against the kitchen counter.
“And typical of you, as a woman, to run off half-cocked and not think things through.”
“Oh, really?” I asked.
The terriers felt the tension rising and trotted down the hallway to the guest room.
“Really,” Paul replied. “How do you know it was a man that made those signs, huh? How do you know it wasn’t a woman? Women ask men to marry them.”
“Because,” I said, grasping at straws but not yet conceding defeat, “no woman would be seen dead hammering in ‘Will you marry me’ signs. It would make them look way too desperate.”
“And then there’s another way to look at this, too,” said Paul, triumphant at seeing his verbal checkmate come to fruition.
“It may have been a man proposing to a man, or a woman proposing to a woman.”
“Oh, whatever!” I retorted, with defeat imminent. “All I know is those signs have irritated every single woman in town.”
Departing the OK Corral, Paul muttered under his breath, “And a lot of innocent guys, too.”