I’m a couple months from my 55th birthday and last night my mind drifted back to the fall of 1978 when I was 17 years old anxiously diving into manhood. I definitely went through a lot of changes during my last year of high school. I seriously think that 1978 and 1979 were the years that gave me a glimpse of the real world and helped to shape my views and attitude toward women and dating.
As in countless towns throughout America, Friday night high school games in Spotsylvania County was the place to be, especially when the Spotsylvania Knights was playing their greatest rivalry, the James Monroe Yellow Jackets, from Fredericksburg, Virginia. During these Friday night games, many of us had our first experiences with the opposite sex and got a bitter taste of reality as we tried to shed our juvenile skin.
During my senior year at Spotsylvania High, I would leave school and sometimes go directly to work at the Howard Johnson’s Restaurant in Fredericksburg. While working as a busboy and dishwasher, I’d worked up enough nerve to ask a fairly new waitress out for a date. The first time I saw her I wanted to be with her. During our lunch breaks we would chat and laugh about our high school lives. We made a date to meet up Friday night at the Snack Shack just before the big game between the James Monroe Yellow Jackets and the Spotsylvania Knights.
I arrived early at the Snack Shack nervous as hell but looking sharp. This was going to be a big night for me because I truly thought that one of my mannish dreams would be realized. As this particular night unfolded however, I slowly became aware that our hopes and dreams come in many shapes and sizes and that we have to prepare ourselves for the different angles in which things present themselves to us. What I’d initially viewed as an awful experience actually was my most valuable lesson.
After waiting for twenty minutes for my date to arrive, the lady behind the Snack Shack service window gave me a look of concern. I instantly looked away, pretending not to notice her look because I was too embarrassed that my date hadn’t showed up yet. The Snack Shack was quiet briefly because the football game a short distance away had started already. From a distance, we could see the bright stadium lights illuminating the dark Spotsylvania sky and we could faintly hear the stadium cheers of the fans. The lady at the counter knew that I was hurting and instinctively knew why I was hurting. She motioned me towards the service window and kindly said, ” You want to eat some fries with me? It’s my break and it’s on the house.” Shame-faced, I shook my head ‘no’ and slowly stepped away.
About fifteen minutes later my date still hadn’t arrived. Once again, the lady behind the counter approached the service window with a large order of fries in her hand. She tapped on the window to get my attention. She could easily read the obvious frustration and embarrassment on my face as I repeatedly sighed at the side patio table. She motioned me to come to the window. This time I accepted her offer as she tried her best to cheer me up with stories of her school days and all of the boys who’d stood her up.
When it comes to dating, still today, some 38 years later, without even realizing it sometimes, I will make my judgments and opinions about potential women in my life not based upon the young lady who’d stood me up, but instead, based upon the beautiful qualities of that wonderful warmhearted lady at the Snack Shack that cool September night.
I’m approaching 55 now, and after all these years, I still think about that kind-hearted lady at the Snack Shack and all the changes I went through during my young Spotsylvania nights. – Randolph Randy Camp