February 15, 2001
Eleven Roses


"You do realize," said Ned the Receptionist Guy yesterday, "that you've only got eleven roses here, right?"

My Valentine flowers had been delivered right on schedule. When the flowers arrived, Ned had carried them all the way down the hallway to my remote little office, and then, seeing that I was on the phone, he'd lifted them out of the florist's box and carefully set them on the desktop in front of me. Now he was arranging them in the vase, picking off dried leaves and doing a floral head-count while I sat on hold, patiently waiting for my AVIS Customer Care Representative to waken her coma and come back to the phone.

I smiled and nodded at Ned, receiver still clamped to my ear. My expression said Of course I 'realize' there are only eleven roses, silly goose! David and I planned it that way! Eleven is our *special number!*

The instant Ned was gone, of course, I was madly dialing David at the newspaper.

"Hey!" I said. "They only delivered eleven roses!" (Actually, first I thanked him. Profusely. Then I reported the shortage.) 

David was as surprised as I was. He said he had no idea how that had happened: he'd put in his order for one dozen long-stemmed red roses, several days earlier. "The florist must have screwed up," he said. "Either that, or else maybe somebody in your office snagged one when nobody was looking." But since none of my co-workers were walking around the Totem Pole Company sporting a single red rose in their lapel/tucked into their ponytail/drooping in a bud vase next to their computer  --  trust me, I looked  --  we eventually came to the conclusion that the florist had bolloxed the order.

"Do you want to call the florist and get a refund?" I asked David, worriedly. I was afraid he might be upset about the miscount. Roses aren't exactly cheap, after all, and we ARE trying to save for a wedding. But he said no, it really didn't seem like that big a deal ... unless, of course, *I* was upset about being shorted a rose?

I assured him that the number of flowers he sent me didn't matter to me in the slightest. It was the fact that he'd remembered to send them -- with a minimum of "reminding," subliminal mind control and/or website lobbying on my part, this year -- that made me feel cherished and special and deeply loved and stuff.

"Actually," I told him, "I think I prefer having eleven roses. A dozen is so ... ordinary."

And it's the truth. I've always preferred things that are a little *off.* Put it in the bin marked "As Is," and I'll buy one of everything you've got. I would rather shop on the Island of Misfit Toys than at Toys-R-Us, any day. If it's missing an eye or a button or a wheel or an identifiable on/off switch ... or if it's a little too loud or a little too crooked or a little too airport-gift-shop ... or if it's orphaned, sitting alone on a shelf, the only one of its kind ... it's a sure bet I will love it instantly. I am drawn to irregularity.

(Which is probably why I fell in love with Ю僱êrvØ¡ in the first place. But that's another story for another day.)

"From now on, in fact," I said decisively, "I want eleven of everything, OK? Never a dozen." He agreed, with amusement in his voice, that from this day forward, eleven would be the *default number* for gift-gifting in this particular relationship. Eleven doughnuts. Eleven white candles. Eleven eggs. Eleven snowglobes of Jesus in Las Vegas. Eleven purple crayons. Eleven chocolate oranges. Eleven pipers piping.

Eleven roses.

Late in the afternoon, my groovy new boss popped into my office to drop off an armload of typing and filing. "Look, Jim!" I said happily. "I've got eleven roses!" By this point I had grown extremely fond  --  proud, even  --  of my asymmetrical/irregular Valentine's Day bouquet. 

My boss looked at my flowers and said "Well, you're the twelfth rose, right?"

"Darn!" said David at dinner, later that night, when I told him about Jim's remark. We were lingering over linguini and chicken parmagiana at our favorite Italian restaurant, over on Park Street. "I wish I had thought of that!"

"Don't worry, honey," I said tenderly. "You can think of it when you give me eleven roses next year."

I figure I'll get started *reminding* him about it sometime next September.

two years ago: the ultimate *you* survey

before i have to kill somebody ...
help bring back Fast Lane Tea!
[tell 'em SECRA sent you]

throw a rock