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Love Hurts: A Valentine's Day Story
The road to hell is paved with good intentions (sometimes literally).
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! To commemorate this pretty polarizing holiday, I figured I’d go back in time a bit and share a personal story from the past. The piece below (a favorite among friends) was originally published in my local newspaper, The Greeley Tribune, back in 2014… but the described incident took place years earlier, and it’s one I’ll never forget.
It’s a story about good intentions, unintended consequences, and moral dilemmas. Also, I think it’s pretty funny (though it certainly wasn’t at the time).
I hope you enjoy it.
Up until I met my wife, I remember disliking Valentine's Day quite a bit. It always seemed so contrived and uncomfortable, not just in my adult life but going all the way back to my elementary school days.
While I suppose I did enjoy sitting at my desk back then, cutting hearts out of construction paper and pasting them to shoe-boxes, the idea of every student exchanging cheap, fold-over cards with a single-line message just struck me as weird. There didn't seem to be an ounce of sincere thought put into it.
This was frustrating for me because I knew that the card I would assuredly receive from the girl I had a crush on (there was one every year) wouldn't actually mean anything. And in case I wasn't sure about that, each of these girls would reliably spell my name wrong on the cards they gave me, going with “Jon.” I never quite understood that. Sure, there are two common ways of spelling my name, and thus a 50/50 chance of getting it wrong under normal conditions, but every single student's name (with the correct spelling) had been sent home with students beforehand.
At least none of them spelled it "Jhon" which is what my best friend inexplicably did — not just in elementary school, but also in junior high, high school, and college (when we were roommates for a few years). Yes, a person who spells John with the 'h' before the 'o' actually did somehow manage to graduate from college.
Anyway, Valentine's Day in my teens and twenties wasn't so great either. This was primarily because I never seemed to have a girlfriend on February 14th. February was always a tough romance month for me - and in all honesty, so were the other 11 months of the year. Thus, a national holiday designed to rub the gleefulness of happy couples in the faces of the chronically-single wasn't exactly something I looked favorably upon.
That all changed, of course, once I met my wife. On perhaps our second or third Valentine's together, I actually remember thinking to myself, "You know, Valentine's Day isn't such a bad holiday after all." This thought came about as we were driving home from our date after a really nice dinner at a restaurant.
Minutes later, we pulled up to a red-light at a Greeley intersection. As the two of us were sitting in the car chatting and waiting for the light to turn green, I noticed the driver in the jeep next to me exit his automobile and run out into the intersection.
At first I wasn't sure what he was doing, but soon realized he was coming to the aid of a woman across the street whose car had stalled. She was alone, and her car (which was in the oncoming lane) was smack dab in the middle of the intersection. She was standing outside her opened driver-side door and was pushing her car with all of her might but was getting nowhere. Her intent was to turn in front of us and head down the converging street while she still had the green arrow. That street had a bit of a downward slope to it, so her plan seemed to be to coast her car down it where she could then turn into a nearby parking lot.
Recognizing an opportunity to help someone who was alone on Valentine’s Day (a situation I probably had more empathy for than most), I placed my car in park, told my wife I'd be right back, and jogged out into the intersection to help them. The woman kept her hand on the steering wheel while I assisted the other man, from the back of the car, in pushing it forward.
We quickly and successfully shoved her automobile out of the intersection just as her green arrow turned yellow. I was feeling pretty good about myself as I returned to my car, exchanging masculine head-nods with the other guy who slid back inside his jeep. Our light turned green, and the man beside me sped off on his way without a care in the world. I didn't, however, because I was distracted by my wife yelling, "Oh God," over and over again.
I turned and watched with wide eyes as the woman's car coasted down the side-street...without her in it. She had never climbed back inside, and was now chasing after her car on foot, yelling and screaming. The car picked up speed and began veering into the sidewalk. It soon jumped the curb and entered the parking lot where, seconds later, it crashed head-on into a parked catering truck that belonged to a nearby restaurant.
My mouth was left gaping, as was my wife's. I think I was somewhat in shock, because when the cars behind me (whose drivers apparently hadn't noticed the action) began honking at me to drive forward, I did.
Happy Valentine's Day, lady!
As I drove away, I watched the woman throw her hands in the air and yell at the sky. My wife and I sat in silence as I continued driving.
Regrettably, my next reaction was denial. I began questioning how much of the incident was actually my fault. I couldn't fathom why the woman hadn't climbed back into her car once its momentum started building, and part of me wanted to blame her for what had happened. I tried to convince myself that the same outcome would have occurred from letting the other man push her car all by himself. Maybe it would have. Maybe it wouldn't have. Regardless, my ugly, initial sense of self-preservation was soon chipped away at by my conscience, and I looked for the next side-street to turn down.
To my surprise, the police had already arrived by the time we got back to the parking lot. The woman was standing beside the police car, her arms shaking as she nervously puffed on a cigarette. I stepped out of my car and approached them, wondering if I should drop to my knees and hold out my wrists for the policeman to slap a pair of handcuffs around.
Luckily, I didn't end up in the slammer that night - which could have been a particularly dangerous place to be on Valentine's Day. All involved parties understood that the accident was a result of good intentions and some very bad luck. The woman’s insurance company would take over things from there.
"In all my years on the job, this is the first time I've ever heard of a car being pushed into a collision," the policeman told me through his own laughter.
I was glad I could at least bring a little cheer to his Valentine's Day.
Have a terrible Valentine’s story you’d like to share? Send me an email, or leave it in the comment section below.
A RESTITUTION Call to Action
If I were a much smarter book promoter than I am, I would have thought to include this section in last Tuesday’s newsletter, when I announced the official release of Restitution.
As I wrote in that piece, I’m very thankful for everyone who has supported my writing over the years. What I forgot to do was graciously ask for your help in making the new book a success. Of course, I’d love for you all to buy a copy (or two or three), but there are some other — rather easy — things you can do to help me out (if you wouldn’t mind):
Leave a review. If you like the book, please leave a review for it on Amazon (5 stars preferred 😉). The more positive reviews a book gets, the more often Amazon’s algorithms recommend it to others. Two or three sentences are plenty. The same would be appreciated for my older books, and if you’re on Goodreads, leaving a review there would be fantastic too (though not as important as doing it on Amazon).
Request my book(s) at your local library. Pretty much any library anywhere can order my novels for their shelves. But I’m not big enough of an author that they’ll typically do so without one of their patrons first requesting it of them. That’s where you come in. Want to help spread the joy of Sean Coleman throughout your community? Let a librarian know about the series.
Word of mouth. Enjoy my books? Let a friend or family member know about it. Us authors love word-of-mouth referrals.
The gift of Sean. Do you sometimes struggle with unique gift ideas? A signed Sean Coleman Thriller, personalized to a friend or family member, makes a fantastic gift! You can order signed/personalized copies directly from my website. I can either send them to you, or to the person you’re buying the book(s) for.
Bernie Goldberg Interviews Yours Truly
Last week, on the release day of Restitution, Emmy award-winning journalist Bernard Goldberg interviewed me about my books, writing, and lots of other topics. You can check out the interview here.
Out and About
Last Saturday, I did my first in-store book signing since early 2020. It was at the Barnes & Noble in Fort Collins, CO, and it was great getting back into the mix. I’d almost forgotten how often people at these events mistake me for a bookstore employee, despite my face on the poster next to me. A common question I field: Can you tell me where your bathroom is?
Obligatory Dog Shot
As previously noted, I pick up some records purely for their covers — specifically their artwork. This is one of them.
I think 1979’s Meatballs is a funny film, and some of its music is actually pretty memorable (I’m talking about that “Are You Ready for the Summer” campfire-style song), but this purchase from a used record-store a few years back was about the artist’s rendition of Bill Murray, who’s one of my all-time favorite actor-comedians.
I love how it looks, including how it captures the screwball-style comedy films of the era.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.
Want to drop me a line? You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you haven’t subscribed to this newsletter yet, please click on the “Subscribe now” button below. Doing so will get these posts emailed directly to you.
Also, if you’re not caught up on my Sean Coleman Thrillers, you can pick the entire series up at a great price on Amazon. And if you’re interested in signed, personalized copies of my books, you can order them directly from my website.
Take care. And I’ll talk to you soon!