43: Blind Instinct

43: Blind Instinct

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

Blind Instinct

Good instincts usually tell you what to do long before your head has figured it out.

~Michael Burke

“I got your name from the college babysitting service,” the man on the phone said. “My wife and I were wondering if you could watch our two boys next Saturday night.”

“Sure.” I leaned against the modular desk in my dorm room as we went over the particulars.

Babysitting wasn’t my idea of a glam college job, but I thought it might be a fun change of pace. That was the best part of college — getting to try new things. I’d done pretty well on that score in three years at the university, except when it came to dating. With only a handful of dates to my credit, I still lacked the self-confidence I sought in those social one-on-ones: what to say, where to sit, how to act. Everyone said to trust your instincts, but how did you when you didn’t have a clue what your instincts were?

So that Saturday night, while some of my friends primped for their dates and others hunkered down in their sweats to study, I pulled on my lime green cutoffs and a T-shirt for my night romping with two preschoolers. Promptly at seven the phone rang.

“Ivers here. I’m in the lobby.”

I grabbed my bag and skipped down the stairs.

“Susan?” A clean-cut man dressed in a sporty knit shirt and tan chinos approached me, extending his hand. “I’m Tom.”

We shook hands. He seemed young to be the father of two but what did I know?

We walked around the horseshoe drive and he stopped at a dark Mustang. A bit ritzy for a grad student’s wheels but who was I to judge? He opened the door for me and we settled in.

“I’m new in town. I was hoping you might have some ideas for tonight.” He picked the campus paper from the back seat and handed it to me.

“Okay.” I rubbed the fringe of my cutoffs between my thumb and forefinger: strange how he wanted advice from the babysitter on where to go with his wife. Midwestern courtesy won out, though, and I pointed to the ads and the weekend calendar. “There are some great movies playing this weekend and there’s a concert at the auditorium.”

As we talked more about the possibilities, I began to wonder about this guy. His conversation, his demeanor, seemed more like he was on a date while I was definitely on my way to babysit. Or was I? I had to speak up, but what should I say? I went over the possibilities in my head. Everything sounded so dumb. This was worse than a date. He put his keys in the ignition. I couldn’t wait any longer.

In desperation I blurted out, “How old are your kids?”

He almost jumped out of his bucket seat.

“KIDS? I don’t have any kids.”

Guess that was the right question, but not the answer I’d hoped for. My heart pounded. I wished I could turn back the clock and start down the stairs from my dorm room once again — anything to avoid this moment, to see this conversation through to its painful conclusion. But I drew up my courage and continued.

“A-aren’t you T-Thomas Ivers?”

“NO!” His voice rose to a question. “You’re not Susan Lieberman?”

I knew the name, but it wasn’t mine. I shook my head.

We sprinted back to the dorm, racing to be the first one to the lobby.

Skinny Mr. Ivers stood at the phone bank, looking exactly like a frazzled grad student and father of two in his plain white shirt and dull brown pants with his dark hair in need of a trim. Susan Lieberman was there too, dressed much more for a date than I was. Off she went on her blind date and off I went on my blind babysitting job. Guess I didn’t need a date to learn how to trust my instincts.

~Susan Rothrock Deo

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