This is an odd, inside TwinkieTown story. But it is kind of a love story. In any case, as my musical hero Steve Goodman once said, “I’ll never have the chance to do this again, so I beg your indulgence, please.”
2016 was a tough year for me. I got fired from my job of 15 years because they demanded I do more than is physically safe, and I told them it wasn’t physically safe, and I had to do it anyway, and I ended up in the ER with a fractured spinal disc and they fired me.
Is that illegal? Yes. Will companies do it anyways? Yes. Should I have sued them? Maybe. I’d have had to spend a lot on legal help, though, and see the faces/hear the voices of corporate monsters I’d grown to hate.
(Company name: Thomas Allen, Inc. They are evil. I don’t remember the names of the corporate stooges. Likely most of them are gone now, anyways.)
Mrs. James worked there, too, and she filled in all my shifts after I got fired... and she got hurt, too. Fortunately, having been through that bulls**t before, when she got hurt we were able to make the company pay for her rehab and not be able to fire her. (Thomas Allen, dumbly, did not know we were a couple, even though everyone at our worksite knew it, as we’d been attached for over 10 years.)
So they paid for her rehab. And then she quit. She was even more disgusted with corporate than I was. She’d been with Thomas Allen for 30 years. Got a 30 years appreciation company pen for it — a sh**y pen, by the way. I knew some other people who quit that job too because of this whole mess.
Later that year, we were hanging out at home, and Mrs. James said, “let’s get married.” (We weren’t, at the time, since we don’t have children, and neither of us is big on ceremonies.)
“Let’s get married. Let’s do it. I think it’s better for taxes. This has been an awful year. Why not do something cool?”
Why not, indeed!
She mentioned a particular date, one that had significance for both of us, and I thought, “yes! This is a GREAT idea!”
Only problem was, you can’t *just* up and get married. Not in Minnesota.
There’s rules. You have to have met with a marriage counselor X many times. Or your chosen church’s senior spiritual counselor. (Oddly, that church can be Catholic, even though that would be a case of “the blind leading the blind,” since Catholic priests can’t marry.)
There just wasn’t enough time to do this before our chosen date. Which both of us were really fixed upon, that date was important to us.
I told Mrs. James this, after I found it out. And she cried. That made me cry, too.
And you know what love is? Love isn’t never having an argument. Love isn’t even never making somebody cry with the stupid, mean, awful things you say in the heat of an argument. That can happen. As Gordon Lightfoot sang, “never thought I could act this way, and I’ve got to say that I just don’t get it.” You either break up or you get better than being that person. You remember the times you failed as a decent human and you strive to improve.
Love is, when your loved one cries, it hurts you. (That’s why you feel terrible after arguments, or you should.) And this marriage-stopper hurt me.
After a good cry, Mrs. James had an idea.
“Wait... can we get married in a nearby state? My parents did, when Mom was pregnant with me.”
Hmm. Interesting notion. That was then, though. Let’s see what the laws are, now. To the internet!
Wisconsin — nope, not enough time. Iowa, no. Michigan, no. South Dakota..…
South Dakota is the Midwest’s Vegas Elvis chapel of marriage laws (but don’t be gay!) All you need is an Officer Of The Court (basically, any retired judge or lawyer) and two adult witnesses.
Officer Of The Court was easy. Found one in seconds online, there’s lots of ‘em. $50 for somebody who lives near the public records office to drive over and say a few words. Good gig for them, fair price for us.
Witnesses? Trickier. The date was during the workweek. Our closest friends, who supported us getting married and told me “about time, James,” are gay, and had issues with taking time off work to go to a gay-hostile state for a legal formality they’d jumped through all the hoops to do in Minnesota. I understood.
No problem. We could scrounge up a few other people we barely knew who were retired. Pay for a hotel room in western Minnesota for them and us, so we could be at the records office bright and early for the Officer Of The Court to say the words.
Until a few nights before it was time to go. One of the retired people was sick. We’re now short a witness.
I’m not gonna have Mrs. James cry again, not when we’re this close. There’s got to be a way.
I’ve got his email address. We all have each other’s email addresses in case one of us can’t do our assigned recap. I’ll just throw him a line. Given his username, he must live in South Dakota, right?
“Hi, SooFoo. James here. Mind popping over to the records office tomorrow to be a witness at our wedding? You don’t have to dress up or anything. We’ll buy you pizza afterwards. We just need a warm body and you live there. Any random uncle or neighbor you know who’s bored would do, too. Just a little desperate, here, last-second hiccup. Thanks – James”
Naturally, SooFoo was... a little taken aback. Politely declined, as I’m sure I would have in his place. Actually, had I been in his place, I probably would have written “what the F*** YOU G*****N LUNATIC I’M NOT SHOWING UP AT YOUR F*****G WEDDING NEVER EMAIL ME AGAIN”
It all worked out, though. Thanks to South Dakota’s marriage laws, it turns out “adult witness” is very loosely defined. I called the records office and asked “how old is an adult?”
“Anyone old enough to understand what love is.”
“Um, what about our nieces? They like romantic Disney cartoons.”
“How old are they?”
“15 and 17.”
“Yeah, that’s old enough.”
The kids didn’t mind skipping school for a day. Although, being teenagers with a day off school, they naturally stayed up too late in the hotel the night before watching TV, and were late getting up in the morning. So I ended up driving at something like 85 MPH in a minivan with Fix-A-Flat goop sprayed in a tire that’d busted en route. Just pure white-kunckle driving. Through dense fog. All while Mrs. James and the kids snored soundly in back.
(As the fog lifted, “Here Comes The Sun” came on the music shuffle. I began to think “we got this.” Then “Me In Honey,” which is about a doomed relationship but it’s a rocking song, and I knew “we got this. Punch this bastard up to 90. Why not?”)
It all went fine. I wore my favorite Twins jersey at the records office. Of course I did!
Poor SooFoo has always treated me warily after this, as if my next email will be “Hi, SooFoo. Just wanted to know, we need to adopt an adult son for tax purposes, you in? We’ve got plenty of lube.” I don’t blame him.
The moral to this story, such as there is one, is immediately after the ceremony, every time I logged onto TwinkieTown the ads were all for divorce attorneys. The internet watches everything, folks!
Also, don’t pester colleagues with strange emails. Alas, I continue to break this rule, sorry TT siterunners and writers! I’ll do better. And you’ve never gotten an email as Weird as the one SooFoo got.
And more of a moral... being married doesn’t quite carry the legal weight I thought it would when your spouse has a stroke in the middle of a pandemic and some hospital entry screener gets all power-trippy. But that’s a different story for a different day!