My wife is a planner. She doesn’t like surprises.
At Christmas, she is very specific about what she wants. So she tells me ahead of time what to buy. This is not to say that Mary Ellen is not a spontaneous person. Why, at the drop of a hat, my wife would jump into a cab (that she had arranged a week beforehand), then board a plane (if she had reservations two months ahead of time to get super-saver tickets) and head for some last-minute destination (more like 4,000 minutes, but minutes nonetheless).
Even the hotel would be a spur-of-the-moment decision, once she had researched every Internet site for the best possible deal in the solar system. Yes, that’s how impulsive she is. I can barely keep up with her.
But that being said, I was still taken aback by a question she posed to me recently on our way to a movie—a movie she chose after careful analysis of all the reviews, along with an online purchase of tickets.
“Dick, next year, do you want a surprise party for your 70th birthday?”
“Well, before I waste a lot of time finding a place to have a party, rounding up a few of your friends, and spending a lot on food, I just want to be sure you really want a surprise party. Hypothetically, of course.”
“I know this is really narrow-minded and ungrateful of me, but isn’t a surprise party supposed to be…you know…what’s the word I’m looking for?”
“Well, how soon we forget. Do you remember what you said when I threw a surprise party for your 50th?”
“I seem to recall saying, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t have.’”
“That’s exactly right—and I’m not going to make that mistake again.”
“Okay, who would you invite to my surprise party? Once again, hypothetically.”
“Well, to make things easier for me, you could just jot down several names on a piece of paper. And include some folks you wouldn’t expect to come to your party. Maybe even a few people who aren’t really that crazy about you. If I could convince them to come, that would really make the party a surprise.”
“Is there anything else I shouldn’t know?”
“Well, I don’t want you to know exactly where the party might be, so come up with three places where you wouldn’t expect people to jump out of nowhere, screaming ‘SURPRISE!’”
“Make it easy on yourself, Mary Ellen. Why not just have it at our house, and that way, when I come home from work, everyone can just be hiding in the kitchen.”
“Well, how clever is that? They’d have to think you were pretty darn stupid to walk into your own home on the day of your 70th birthday with 15 cars parked on our cul de sac and not know something was going on.”
“Okay, then, let’s do it the day after my birthday.”
“Hey, that’s a super idea. I can’t wait. This is going to be an even bigger surprise than you thought.”
“Yes, Mary Ellen, this sounds like a fun party. Hypothetically, of course.”