So I had to go to the wedding of a friend last weekend. Most people have a good time at such events but let me tell you, I'm not one of them. As author Raymond Chandler once said about Southern California's hot Santa Ana winds, they make my hair stand up and my skin itch. It's not that I'm opposed to weddings or marriage, far from it, but flowery sentimentalism and vulgar displays of emotion just aren't my idea of a good time. But I wanted to support my buddy Mark as he began his Last Mile, so the wedding I attended.
The event proved quite educational, mostly at my expense; as a service to you, gentle reader, so you don't make the same mistakes, I present:
THE TOP FIVE THINGS NEVER TO DO AT A WEDDING (with names changed to protect the guilty)
ONE: Never get a ride from a couple who argues.
My friends Mike and Peggy Colusa were attending as well so I hitched a ride with them. Peggy's 80-year-old mother, known to everybody as Granny Lucy, sat in the back with me.
We're on the freeway with Mike driving and Peggy reading off directions and sniping at her husband's driving style. It turned worse as time went on and all I wanted to do was get out of the vehicle and either walk - or hitch a ride with a stranger. The dialogue went something like this:
"Did you have to cut that guy off?" she said.
"I didn't cut anybody off."
"You're an accident waiting to happen."
"OK, miss I-hit-a-car-in-a-parking-lot-at-five-miles-an-hour-and-did-$500-damage-to-the-van," he said.
"We're gonna miss - see, we missed the exit you're going so fast."
"Forget it. I know a better way."
"Through downtown?" she said.
"We'll be in traffic for an hour."
"Not at this time of morning," Mike said.
"Any time of morning!"
"Will you please just let me drive?"
"Will you please just slow down?"
Then Granny Lucy fired off three words that stunned us all.
"I miss Pa!"
Silence. I think we missed the downtown exit, Mike was so surprised. He said: "Uh, Mom.... we all miss grandpa.... but.... um..."
Granny said: "Stop yelling!"
Thus ended the argument and Mike turned around and found the exit specified in the directions. I had to smile. Methinks Granny Lucy knew exactly what she was doing.
TWO: Never complain about there not being any booze.
For the record, I don't touch alcohol. Why? Well, it's a long and sordid story involving a trash compactor and a car battery and that's all I'll say. Regardless, I think the option should be available (because, really, what can't be cured with a bottle of Johnny Walker Red and a funnel?).
Did I mention we're all a bunch of Christians? Jesus freaks, Bible thumpers, whatever label you prefer. That bit is sort of important, and explains why there wasn't any booze. I learned this as I asked for a Coke. And since I'm a trouble-maker, I had to force the issue.
"Can you sweeten that a little?" I asked the barman as he filled my glass.
"You know, throw a little extra in."
He filled the glass to the top.
"No," I said, "I mean throw a little rum in it."
"No rum, sir."
"What kind of wedding is this I can't get rum in my Coke?"
"No rum, sir. Next!"
I took my glass and turned away only to find myself intercepted by a woman in a blue dress with a bobbed haircut who proceeded to holler about the evils of alcohol and how it was from the devil and did nothing but corrupt and destroy and I shouldn't touch the stuff like Jesus said.
I almost told her: "Good grief, call your sponsor if you have a problem."
I also almost said: "Lady, get off your cross because somebody in Sri Lanka needs the wood."
But my Momma didn't raise a rude boy, so I told her she was 100% right, and I'd never touch the foul stuff again, never mind that I couldn't think of a specific part of the Bible where Jesus said no alcohol and seemed to recall a part where - but never mind. My words made the woman happy. She smiled. And she walked away. Praise the Lord.
THREE: Never laugh during the toast.
The best man was saying something flowery and emotional and the bride and groom were getting weepy when my friend Greg, to whom I sat next, leaned over and showed me his soda and said: "What kind of wedding is this that I can't get any scotch?"
I let out a belly laugh. A loud one.
In the small hall we were in, the laugh echoed. I mean it bounced off the friggin' walls.
Sudden silence. Every evil eye in the house turned on me. I sank down in my chair and covered my face and Greg, to his credit, because he could have easily thrown me under the bus, raised his hand and said: "My fault."
Then the toast continued.
FOUR: Never hit on a girl under 18.
I swear, I swear, I swear, I swear she looked at least 21.
She was a willowy girl with long black hair and that's about as much as I can say without getting arrested. In a room full of mostly middle-aged folks there weren't many females my age in attendance, so when I saw her I had to make a move.
I went over and said hello and isn't this a nice wedding and how are you and all that. A perceptive young lady, was she, and the flash in her eye told me she knew more about my intentions than I probably did so when I asked her to dance she hit me with: "I can't dance with you."
Wow, that was a new one. I told her so. She leaned close, whispered: "I'm 17."
My whole body went ice cold and my hands started to shake and what I wanted to say shouldn't be said in front of a lady, underage or otherwise. I fired off a quick prayer - "What would Steve McQueen do?"
The answer came quickly. When you're stuck like this, you laugh it off like McQueen did in The Blob when - but never mind. See the movie. So I laughed and said: "You're kidding me."
She tilted her head to the side. "I'm sorry."
Funny thing is, she sounded like she meant it.
I said: "I'm gonna go back to my table and we'll pretend this never happened."
I stood to leave and she said: "Nice meeting you," but I hadn't even asked for her name.
Now I really needed that bottle of Walker (and don't forget the funnel), but of course there wasn't any booze and to add insult to injury another friend came up and said I saw what you did and Jesus did too and you know she's only sixteen, right?
"Seventeen," I corrected.
"What's the difference?"
"About five years," I said.
And just to prove I was an equal opportunity pervert, I went looking for Granny Lucy to see if she'd dance with me.
So there you have it. My wedding horror story. Now certain people will read this and say it didn't happen this way and I've exaggerated certain points. Horse feathers, I say! But while you decide what's true and what isn't, keep in mind the most important lesson of the day:
FIVE: Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.