It was 20 years ago, today;
Sgt. Pepper taught a band to play;
They’ve been going in and out of style;
But they’re guaranteed to raise a smile;
So let me introduce to you;
The act you’ve known for all these years;
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
That song was running through my head all day yesterday.
You see, some 30 years ago, I was working in the Hallmark store in Pearlridge mall. It was a slow Thursday night, with a few customers drifting in and out of the store all evening.
It was just over a year after I had gotten out of the Navy with no real job prospects. (Just what does a submarine sonar technician do with all those skills when they’re no longer on a submarine?) I had been attending one school or another over the past year, not really gaining traction.
I would hang out on the CB radio all night, catching up with friends all over the island. Often one could find a group getting together, kanikapila-style, in the evening. Or maybe just a few friends gathering on a high hilltop in an undeveloped area where CB signals might go far on a clear night.
“Break-28…breaker, breaker, anybody on the channel?”
But back to the Hallmark store and our story …
During that Thursday evening, a cute Japanese girl wandered in and started looking at cards. Cute Japanese girls were plenty in the Hallmark store, and I had a bad habit of shadowing them down the opposite aisle of the store, checking them out over the tops of the card racks! (Oh no, a stalker!) They never really paid me much attention.
Hey, I was a young man with no girlfriend. How could you blame me? 🙂
So I was working in the store and this cute, petite girl comes in and starts browsing the cards. I check her out over the rack. Hey, she pretty cute!
So, doing my job as an official representative of the Hallmark store, and a seasoned retail salesperson, I go around the counter and offer my services and suggestions to the “customer.”
“Hi, how you’? I see you looking at birthday cards. Anybody special?”
“Oh, no. Just looking.”
“Hey, we have these new ones over here that are pretty funny. Do you think your friend would like something like that.”
“Uh, no. Just looking.”
It was sounding like a Rap Reiplinger comedy routine, “The Brooch.”
But the young lady did eventually select a card and came up to the counter to pay for it. I rang it up and started talking story. She seemed friendly enough and also seemed to linger just a little longer than necessary after paying for her card.
She opened up a little bit and before you know it, she’s telling me the story of how she had just bought this Siamese fighting fish in a bowl. About how she had just graduated from Waipahu High School a few months before and had been working in Arakawa’s store on Waipahu Depot Road. She told me about her family and how she had 2 brothers and a strict mom.
And she told me that she was really hungry, as she had spent her last money on the card she had bought and forgot to save some to buy dinner.
It was getting late by now and I had some french fries left behind the counter from my dinner. I gave her a few and suggested we go get something to eat after I got off work at 9, my treat.
I closed up shop and we met over at Diner’s Drive In, Waimalu Plaza shopping center where she got saimin and I bought a cheeseburger and some more fries. The cheeseburger was horrible and I ended up tossing it. But we sat and talked. I chewed the fries while she slurped saimin.
When we were done, it was around 9:45 or 10 and I think I remember her telling me she had to be home by 10 or 10:30 or hell to pay. So we said good night and jumped into our cars.
She was driving her dad’s yellow Buick 4-door and I was driving my beat-up 4-dooor avocado green Datsun 510 with funny CB antenna sticking out the trunk. We fired up our cars and started to go when I hit the brakes and honked the horn!
“Eh, what your phone number?!”
She yelled it out the car window…
“Eh, you get pen?!”
No, no pen. I had to memorize it.
Then she drove away.
I drove home and wrote down the number, terrified that I was victim of some Vulcan mind trick which caused me to transpose all the pairs of numbers. Then I got on the CB radio to talk story with some friends before going to bed.
The next day, I tried to get up the guts all day to call the phone number. I remember sweating while holding the phone, maybe trembling just a little bit while dialing the (I hope, correct) number…
“Hi, may I speak to Jean?”
“Uh, Jean, may I speak to Jean?”
“Oh, try wait… JEANNIE! TELEPHONE!”
And so I met Jean’s family.
That night, we went to a CB friend’s party up Pacific Palisades. There she met my crazy mom and dad, all my brothers and sisters, and dozens of friends and extended family.
And we have rarely been apart, since.
Some time later, maybe a year or two, she confided in me that she had planned the visit to the Hallmark store to meet me and talk to me. She had been stalking ME!!!
Happy Anniversary, honey. I still love you very much. Couldn’t do it without you. 🙂