Hanging over the side of a bridge in the dark,
it's not really something I imagined I'd be doing when I woke up this morning, and yet here I am,
on the outside of the rail,
holding a freshly wrapped long-stemmed red rose,
looking down at the water.
It's not a very high bridge, I suppose that should be noted.
but if I were to lose my grip on the rail and fall,
it would certainly mean the death of my cellphone,
but I'm not thinking about that right now.
I'm focused on the water, waiting for the prow of a gondola to come out from beneath the bridge and pass under me.
Forty minutes ago I was at home, enjoying a barbecue and pool party with friends.
The kids were playing Marco Polo, the adults were relaxing and trying not to think of work.
Then my phone rang.
You know, there are two kinds of people:
and those who get to clock out at the end of the day.
The call came from Steve Elkins, my Senior Gondolier; he had a cruise in 10 minutes.
The cruise was an important one to the guy who'd booked it - it wasn't a proposal, but clearly he'd put some thought into it,
and the long-stemmed red rose he'd ordered...wasn't there.
The florist had a lot of orders to fulfill and appeared to have missed this small but important one.
I could say she "owes me one now", but she's done a great job for a long time and everybody has a glitch now and then.
I ran out the door.
There was no time to figure out if another gondolier had mistakenly put it on an earlier cruise.
There was no reason to fuss over who was at fault.
There wasn't enough time for the florist to prepare and deliver a wrapped red rose in ten minutes.
It was all about solving the problem.
My only option at that hour was an upscale grocery store.
The first choice was an exercise in frustration.
They had roses, sure,
but the only person I could get to help me...was no help at all.
I could see it in her eyes.
She was probably about three minutes away from clocking out.
Steve was three minutes away from cruise time.
I jumped in my car and burned rubber to the next store.
All the real florists were closed at 6:57 on a Sunday night.
Walking into the store I spotted perfect long-stemmed reds, but they needed to be wrapped with all that fancy other stuff.
The store manager called the most qualified employee to help me:
"Rick from Produce."
Really, he was a nice guy, but Rick looked downright scared of the whole florist thing.
Just like I never expected to be hanging off the side of a bridge tonight,
I also didn't expect to say "thank God my mother was a florist",
but she was.
Growing up, my mom did wedding flowers and I learned a thing or two just by watching.
"Rick from Produce" was noticeably relieved when I told him I could wrap the flower, he welcomed me behind the floral counter, and dutifully provided cellophane and tape.
In about two minutes I had the rose wrapped, with the proper greenery, and a red ribbon.
I paid, ran to my car,
and broke several laws getting to that bridge.
I know someone will read this and think:
"why all the fuss over a stupid rose?",
But I knew it was important for the guy on the boat,
I knew the gondolier's tip depended on it,
and in this economy, when someone is willing to trust me with their important moments, I take it seriously.
So here I am,
hanging over the side of the bridge and watching for Steve and his gondola.
I've texted him, and know that he's coming.
I look over to my car - illegally parked with the flashers on.
I hope the gondola comes soon.
I hope I don't get a ticket.
I hope I don't fall in the water.
Cars cross the bridge, looking at this weird guy gripping the rail with one hand, and holding a rose in the other.
The full moon shines down like a street light.
I can hear the surf break at the beach just a few blocks away.
I look down, wait, and then I see the prow emerge from under the bridge.
The gondola is moving faster than I'd expected, and before I know it, Steve is out of reach.
Instinctively, I pitch the wrapped rose ahead of Steve, it falls slowly, and lands perfectly on the the white canopy - creating a soft "thump" right above the couple.
I hear Steve say
"Hey, did you guys hear that?"
He explains what has just happened,
and as I walk to my car with the hazard lights flashing,
I wave to the passengers and announce:
"Special delivery!", and they laugh.
I drive back home to relax with friends,
knowing, of course,
that the phone might ring again.
Gondola Greg is the owner of Gondola Adventures, Inc. in Newport Beach (www.gondola.com). When he's not hanging from the side of a bridge with a rose in one hand, Greg actually rows the gondolas, and hosts the Gondola Blog (www.gondolagreg.com)