January, 23, 2008. That was the day Gene and I met in passing. It was a cold and dreary Wednesday night in Norfolk, VA. I was hostessing at Freemason Abbey Restaurant and we were packed to the gills! For something like $14 on Wednesdays, you could get a lobster dinner that included a salad, Maine lobster, and 2 sides. You just couldn't beat that back in those days!
The doors opened and in walked a young guy. He noticed the place was backed and went to turn and leave, but I was a great hostess and wasn't letting him out that easy! I told him I'd find him a seat, and I found the one open chair in the whole house: at a table in the bar area. I moved it over to the bar for him, right in front of the coffee pots! He sat, he ate, he left. It was as memorable as that, really.
If you look closely in the second picture, you'll see a stack of plates on the bar to the left of the picture... That's where I sat him! These pictures are from our engagement shoot in 2009, so obviously there's more to the story!
He came back two nights later and we were much slower by the time he arrived. The dinner crowd was gone, and we had a few stragglers here and there. He sat at the bar, next to two Gentlemen who worked for NOAA. They struck up conversation and were getting along like good ol' pals. When the restaurant got slower, the hostess was allowed to kind of mingle with the bar guests, sit in the bar and wipe down menus, or chat about whatever. The time had come for me to clock out though, and I made my way to the bar for an after work drink. The whole staff came to the bar once they clocked out.
I sat a seat away from the guy, who I couldn't help but notice was infatuated with these NOAA guys. He was so enthusiastic talking about his life as a sailor, getting ready to go to a ship for the first time. Back in December I had sworn off men, and being from a Navy town I especially swore off sailors. I couldn't help but mess with this one a little bit.
I'll never forget my "pick-up line," if that's what you'd like to call it: "Want an 8"x10" glossy and a sharpie there, buddy?" He hadn't even heard me. Don't you worry, I repeated myself. I forced my way into the conversation like I did with most bar guests. The two NOAA gentlemen were getting along just fine with us and so we ordered a round of shots. I was allowed to pick. We went with Jameson. The one much older gentleman bought the first round, the younger NOAA fellow bought the second, and Gene bought the third.
When it came time for the fourth round, the older gentleman announced it was my turn. "Oh, I don't think so. I'm a lady, I don't buy shots for men." It was true. Everyone who knew me knew how I felt about ladies and women's rights. The older man did not and made a comment about how women wanted equality in the workplace but not in a bar. I said something a few double malibu and cokes in and several shots down that went something like "I'm all for women being able to vote and what not, but you sure don't see me out there burning my bra! Get in the kitchen!"
The older man didn't like this so much and lunged out of his stool at me, right past the younger fellow, until Gene shielded me and the manager grabbed the old man by the collar and tossed him out. The younger gentleman paid their tabs and left right after. So there we were, my knight in shining armor who had just saved a reckless and wild young lass from a bar fight!
We sat and talked the night away. I didn't drive back then and lost track of the time. Nan had been waiting for me outside for at least an hour! I invited Gene to go to karaoke the next night with a group of us, but he was leaving town for three weeks for training before checking in on the ship. That's how we left things. We exchanged numbers, but I knew I'd never see him again. I remember texting him as soon as I got home thanking him for a delightful evening.
And the rest, as they say, is history!