By contributing writer DX Traeger
A little humility, like chicken soup, is good for the soul. Everybody has horrific date stories; I have the ultimate tale of “Open Mouth, Insert Foot.”
So please, allow me to harken back to the days of yore, back when cell phones required a jet-pack and Monica Lewinsky was but a stain on a tie.
The night was young and the air was brisk when I, alongside my compatriots Brian (“Nac”) and Nate (“The Great”), went to see a rather poorly reviewed rendition of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” at Edinboro University’s esteemed (see: condemned) Diebold Center for the Performing Arts. Having read Wilde before and knowing both the story and the humor, I harbored a secret wish that the “talent” of the evening would pull together and at least give the text a fair reading.
We dutifully paid our $2 to enter, and knowing several people in the production, we found ourselves redirected to a young, sparkling usher named… uh, Yvette. Why not… yes, Yvette. Her auburn hair flowed down her back, and deliberate twists of her head exposed a long, swan-like neckline. Her eyes glinted of mischief and fun, and she spoke with a beautiful accent.
“Follow me, gentleman!” she said with aplomb, and with a surgical swish! of her skirt, she led us to our seats on the left balcony.
We had arrived a comfortable two minutes before the house lights dimmed, so no sooner than our snakecharmer of an usher had left my peripherals, the show began.
Now, I say “the show began” half tongue-in-cheek because in a number of ways, the show never really got started. The principle actors understood what lines were destined for laughs, and seemed more eager to bumble and titter their way through the necessary setup to get to the payoff. By and by, I felt the ground beneath my feet rumble, as though a tremor had run through the Lesser Erie Area. My friends noticed this too, and after a quick, hushed discussion, we decided it was Oscar Wilde spinning Wildely (cough) in his grave (most impressive because he was entombed above ground).
Oh, the show was a colossal clusterfuck. The story (and humor) is predicated on the idea of mistaken identity and the execution of dialogue in a very fast manner so as to keep the tone of deceit and irony spinning. Lines were missed, timing was non-existent, and with a rather insignificant line thrown away into the air—to no laughs—the curtains closed and the house lights returned.
My friends looked at me, expecting me to absolutely thrash what was, undoubtedly, the worst acting performance up to that point on Edinboro University grounds (not counting Sharon Stone’s brief foray at the school). I opened my mouth, and surprised them by saying, “I really need to talk to that usher.”
They both laughed, but both agreed that Yvette was hot, and for a moment or 3.142578 repeating, we discussed her accent, which at the time, since I was studying linguistics, half-sounded French to me; Nate was insistent that she sounded like she was from Cleveland/Buffalo. Nac had no real input, as he was spinning dials and entering codes on his jet-pack to try and make a phone call.
I left the balcony, and negotiated my way through the crowd of shell-shocked theater goers, looking for this mysterious beauty. Finally, I caught her sitting on the stairway leading to the other balcony. For me to openly approach a girl—indeed, for me to flirt with someone I scarcely knew—was, and still is, a daring act. I’ve had less of a problem launching myself from an airplane at 14,500 feet than saying a simple, “Hello, I’m Michael.”
Regardless, the line had been cast, and I was hooked. I swam up to her, and I’m sure embarrassed myself in the introduction. She remembered me from earlier, and we started to talk.
First, as with all college encounters, you must discuss the basics with the person you’ve just met:
“So, what’s your major?”
“I’m a dramatic arts/media arts major on campus.”
“Nice, nice. Do you like it?”
Etc. etc. I’m positive you know the score.
We then started to talk about the show, and she hung her head about as low as I did, since she too had read Wilde and had felt the grumblings beneath our feet. The conversation kept progressing, her eyes kept mesmerizing, and she kept spinning this bracelet on her wrist in a striking similarity to Joyce’s “Araby.” Suddenly, just when I felt confident to execute Operation: Charm and Awe, the house lights dimmed.
She sighed, then smiled back at me. “I have to go,” she said.
“I know,” I said sympathetically.
We stood there for a moment, just smiling at one another.
I broke the silence. “It was absolutely great meeting you.”
“Great meeting you too,” she responded, the eyes still shining.
I scratched my head, desperate to come up with that one last clever thing to say. The clouds parted—INSPIRATION!
“So,” I began, “I was trying to think of this the entire time during the first act, and I just couldn’t figure it out.”
She nodded expectedly.
“Where are you from? I just can’t place the accent at all. And I’ve tried, hehe, believe me, I’ve tried.”
The smile faded from her lips and her head went down.
“It’s not an accent. It’s a speech impediment.”
And she excused herself and walked away.