There many times in our lives when we take great pains to try to make an event 'perfect': the seduction of a new love, a milestone birthday party, a holy union. But so often, despite the best laid plans, things don't quite follow the blueprint: you spill wine on your new love, the night of the birthday party it's 75 degrees below and the pipes freeze, and your dog poops in the tent at your outdoor commitment ceremony. Though at the time these happenstances don't seem especially memorable, they are often the ones that give us the most pleasure to recall later. Still, in the moment, it can feel like everything has been ruined. That's what can make certain unplanned times especially magical. You weren't expecting anything special and look—its delightfulness has caught you by surprise.
I had one of those evenings just recently. I was going to meet a friend at a screening of a new documentary put together by the group People for the American Way. A Blinding Flash of the Obvious tells the story of how LGBT and straight activists, religious leaders and local officials came together in Cincinnati—a notoriously conservative city—to reverse an article previously voted into law that made it legal to discriminate against LGBT people. This diverse group not only managed to cooperate, they got that biased law reversed—and in 2004, a year when many states and municipalities were voting laws into effect that would discriminate against queers by prohibiting them to marry legally.
Though the movie sounded like it could be interesting, I thought it might be overly earnest; also, traffic on the way there was moving at the speed of a Bush admission of wrong-doing and I ended up not having time to eat dinner before the event. In all, my expectations for a lovely evening were pretty scaled back. My friend, too, as it turned out, was hung up in traffic and, what's more, she couldn't find a parking place—a fact she relayed to me while temporarily stopped around the corner. 'But there's a space right here,' I said, pointing to a spot at an open meter. 'What! Can you hold it for me?' she asked, adding, 'Don't get in a fist fight over it or anything.'
So while she went to go move her car, I dutifully stepped off the curb and tried to look like a Mini Cooper. As Maia threaded her way around one-way streets to get turned the right direction ( clearly not a long-time Chicago driver or she'd simply have done a U-turn in the middle of that busy thoroughfare or pulled into the parking space backward ) , inevitably someone showed interest in the space.
After some back-and-forth with the guy, I agreed to let him alight long enough to pick up something from the tony bakery across the street. And when Maia pulled up beside the car parked in our space, I assured her he'd be leaving shortly.
When he returned, he said thanks and then fished around in a shopping bag. 'I just wanted to give you this,' he said, and offered each of us a truffle from a small box he'd opened.
Truffles in hand, we went to go view the documentary, which, far from being earnest, was engaging, humorous and inspiring. A panel discussion followed, but the nasal and measured intonations of the first panelist, a minister, was a clear reminder of one reason I no longer go to church, and I made my exit, with Maia not far behind. We said so long and went our separate ways.
With my truffle wrapped in a napkin from the bar—I was saving it for a small gift—I made my way home, where I was greeted by our two goofy greyhounds and a kiss from my gal. She was excited about her truffle, but she enjoyed the story behind it even more.
And so this small, beautiful chocolate confection gave pleasure to each of us who'd given or received it—in my case, both—and, incidentally, propped up my belief in people's fundamental goodness. It's like that song from South Pacific: some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger, across a crowded street—with a gooey, delicious truffle ... .
Somewhere between the excruciating traffic and a simple homecoming, it had turned into a perfect night.
©2006 by Yvonne Zipter.
Yvonne Zipter can be reached via e-mail at her Web site: www.yvonnezipter.com .