After missing the train not once but twice, I sulked in the corner of Starbucks recounting all of my life decisions…
A straight haired blonde woman in her early 30’s took a seat next to me at the counter. She rummaged through her bag in frustration, then asked me if she could use my phone charger. It quickly turned into a conversation on outlets and technology, which led to our introductions. Her work in health insurance brought her to Chicago from North Carolina for a few days. We kept talking until Starbucks closed for the day and we migrated to the McDonald’s across the street.
“Today was supposed to be the day of my wedding,” she told me with a laugh. “We had the place reserved and everything, on the top floor of Willis Tower. My ex-fiance and I had been dating for a while– we were college sweethearts. I really loved him, and everything was going great… But in the end, we got into a lot of arguments back and forth.”
“About what?” I asked cautiously.
She sighed. “Little things. Stupid things. Sometimes I can’t even remember why we started fighting.”
She gave me some examples that I can’t remember, and I said, “So he wasn’t being very considerate?”
“Yes, exactly! What really did it was this… We had been talking about getting a car for a while, and I knew he wanted a new car for the longest. So he tells me one day that he’s going to the dealership to browse around, and I agreed that was fine.
Next day, he picks me up from work for lunch and he pulls up in a new car. I’m trying to remain calm– in public, you know? Co-workers around– and he rolls the window down. I grit through my teeth, ‘So are you just showing me this new car on test drive or are you telling me you bought it?'”
“What’d he say?”
“He apologized and said he bought it.”
“Are you kidding? That’s bullshit,” I scoffed. “You already bought the car. If you were sorry you wouldn’t have bought it in the first place.”
“That’s what I was thinking! We had a joint bank account. Big mistake. The car cost 20k. Never have a joint account with someone… or I mean, not never, but don’t pour all of your assets into it. We had been saving up for rainy days, or maybe a house or for vacation… I worked hard for that money. I worked as an elementary teacher for while. The medium salary in North Carolina’s 30k. Then he just goes out and buys a brand new car without telling me.”
“I’m sorry to hear that… but hey, if he did something so rash like that with a car, you never know what he would’ve done down the line when you’re even more invested in him emotionally and financially. Dodged a bullet there.”
“Thank god. I can’t imagine what would’ve happened.”
I stopped for a moment to think. “How would you have wanted him to work the car thing out?”
“Him going to the dealership was fine. I thought he’d be window shopping. He could’ve picked a few cars he liked and we could both discuss how to afford it at home. Work out the loans, figure out monthly payments and a budget. He didn’t even ask for my opinion! It wasn’t even a cute car.” Needless to say she broke with him shortly after.
She didn’t want to waste the Willis reservation and lent the space to a charity that helped low-income women. The organization held a reception that she described as a rewarding experience. The new guy (met through a mutual friend at a friend’s party) she’s been seeing made her feel like a queen, fixed a leaking faucet and other things around her apartment without her asking, and did little things that made her day without expecting anything in return.
I gave her my name card and she said she’d add me on LinkedIn. I never got an invite.