If I knew that updating a .plan file was this entertaining, I would have started doing semi-regular updates a long time ago. Oh well. My web space is located at http://nuthouse.org/~hendersa and I can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Archived .plan entries can be seen at http://nuthouse.org/~hendersa/finger. ************************************************* * 05 February 2002 - The Religious Terror Begins * ************************************************** OK, OK, I know... you people are not a patient bunch. The amount of pestering I get about my not updating my .plan file shows me that much. So, without further ado, on with the wedding story... Anyway, when we last left off in my 03 January 2002 update, I was in the process of finding a place within the church for me to park myself. I had decided that one corner of the seating area was a good place for me to sit during the ceremony, since there wouldn't be anyone within 5 seats of me in any direction. We heathens like our space. Too bad I ended up picking the worst spot that I possibly could have. So, I sat down. The ceremony was due to start in about 10 minutes, which translates to about 20 minutes in the world of planned events. People were all talking and laughing back and forth as is the wedding was a reunion of a bunch of old friends. Undoubtedly, it was a reunion for these folks, since most of the conversations that I got snippets of were relating to church functions, births, baptisms, birthdays, church dinners, and of course, church. I decided that it would be best for all involved in this event if I said absolutely nothing to anyone there. I passed the time by re-reading the program for the wedding over and over. My choice of seating was really designed with isolation in mind. I made the faulty assumption that people that don't know you will avoid sitting near you. If that faulty assumption had been valid in this case, I would have been fine. After all, in a row of eight chairs, I was on the exit aisle seat. Anyone that wanted to be right up by the center aisle to see everything would be way over at the other end of the row of seats. On about my 14th time through the wedding program, I noticed a large pack of people heading over towards where I was sitting. These folks were clearly a pretty happy bunch. After all, they were in a church, which was probably the highlight of their day. I didn't count them at the time, but logic tells me there were a total of 17 of them. Let me explain how I came to that count of 17. Despite the numerous empty rows in front and behind me, the large group of people decided that it would be a great idea to sit right where I was. Now, I don't know about you, but I find it kind of odd to envelope a stranger with a group of your friends. It doesn't seem very thoughtful to surround a stranger like that. These people, however, didn't seem to think anything of it. Eight of them sat in the row in front of me, completely taking up the row. Another eight sat in the row behind me, completely taking up THAT row. That left one young man. He looked at me for a moment and smiled. He pointed to the seat directly next to me and asked, "Is that seat taken?" OK, this breaks so many rules that it isn't even funny. These people had me boxed in from the front and back, and then this guy wanted to sit directly next to me so that I was stuck on the end and he had a whopping six empty seats to his left. Creepy. Unfortunately, I indicated that the seat wasn't taken. After all, I guess I could have lied to the guy, but it'd be pretty damn hard to come up with a body on short notice to fill that seat to prove that it WAS taken. The guy managed to be quiet for about 30 seconds before he turned to me and started talking. He asked my name, and then cheerfully told me his name was Chris. Chris then proceeded to tell me the names of everyone in his immediate family (the row in front of us), and his aunt and uncle's family (the row behind us). To his credit, Chris was a pretty friendly guy. A little weird for wanting to park himself in the seat right next to me, but hey... everyone is a buddy in church, right? "So, what church do you go to?" Chris asked. I got the feeling that my "buddy" status was soon to be revoked. Boom. Busted. And the ceremony hadn't even STARTED yet. "Well, I don't really go to church," was my honest reply. I've never seen so many jaws drop at once in my life. You'd think that I had just told them I eat puppies. Chris had a look of utter shock on his face. He was working towards a reply, but the net result was a lot of sputtering. Some of the folks in the row in front of me were looking at me and shaking their heads back and forth. The people behind me weren't giving me the most savory of glances, either. My mind started grabbing random pieces of data and mashing them together to form a jigsaw puzzle of a rather unsettling image. I sat on the groom's side of the church. The groom is super religious. His friends and family are probably super religious. I'm not religious. "What church do you go to?" is the church-goer replacement for "hello!". The image forming from the rapidly-assembling jigsaw puzzle was that of me being lynched. I was screwed. "Well, how do you even know the bride or groom then???" Chris asked me in amazed tones. He was starting to draw attention from people other than the band of holy rollers surrounding me. I just looked at Chris and told him that I was a guest of one of the bridesmaids, and didn't personally know either the bride or groom. Apparently, this answer wasn't going to fly without proof. Chris started shuffling around until he found the copy of the wedding program he brought with him to his seat. He fumbled with the program, unfolding it, and then asked me exactly WHICH bridesmaid I was with. He was holding the program up and away from me, so I couldn't cheat by just pointing to a bridesmaid's name and saying "that's her right there!". What a dork. I told him Leslie's name, and then assured him that she was a last-minute replacement to head off further inquiry. Luckily, Leslie's name had been added to the programs at the last minute via a little sticker with her name on it. The sticker had been placed over the previous bridesmaid's name. Chris examined the sticker for a moment, and then gave me a wary look, and then muttered, "well, that explains it. I guess." Chris looked rather vacant for a moment or two before he turned to look at me again. "So I take it that you haven't accepted the Lord as your savior, then?" Chris asked in all earnestness. Chris's holy posse were all staring at me when Chris asked this. People from other rows were peering my way as well. Apparently, the conversion of a heathen is an even bigger event than a wedding. I was fighting back the urge to pop Chris in the jaw. "No, I haven't," was about all I could muster. Getting in a crusade with these folks wasn't going to solve anything. I was a guest here, and I had better keep on acting like it. I could care less if these fruit loops thought I was evil incarnate, but I didn't want to say or do anything that would reflect badly on Leslie. Chris looked at me and slowly shook his head back and forth. One of the aunt/uncle clan murmured something along the lines of "what a shame, and he seemed like such a nice man." In fact, all of the folks surrounding me were murmuring things. I started feeling the way I used to feel when I was in uniform and standing at attention in front of an Air Force review board. The music started playing, signalling the beginning of the wedding ceremony. I shot a furitive glance at my watch and noted that things were starting ten minutes late. Let this be a warning to everyone who is reading this and will ever take part in the planning or execution of a wedding: start the damn wedding on time. The God squad was momentarily torn between forcing God's will on me or paying attention to the event they were actually there for, but the wedding won out. Everyone shifted their eyes away from me and towards the center aisle of the church. I breathed a momentary sigh of relief. The obvious highlight of that evening was when I got to see Leslie come down the aisle wearing her bridesmaid's dress. It almost made up for all the hassle I'd been through so far. Oh hell, who am I kidding... NOTHING was going to make up for the hassle I'd been through. Still, Leslie was certainly a charmer, no doubt about it. It's a shame she doesn't wear dresses more often, because she does look really good in them. Things flowed along fairly smoothly once the ceremony got rolling. I say "fairly smoothly" because I was constantly being directed by Chris during the whole thing, which was rather annoying. "After he's done saying this part, say 'Amen!', OK?" Chris whispered over to me. On several different occasions, I might add. Now, these religious folks might not have thought I was the sharpest pencil in the box because I didn't have God on my Christmas card list, but I think I could figure out the 'Amen' bit on my own. I also noticed that whenever there was singing in this ceremony (and there was quite a bit of it), the people doing the singing up front always invited everyone in the church to sing along. Everyone in the church always knew all the words to the songs, too. Well, I didn't know, but everyone else did. In fact, they all had their faces pointed towards the ceiling, with their eyes closed, and they sang the song while gently leaning back and forth. This was all rather scary to me... all you needed to do was throw some funny hats into this whole equation and the ATF would have been camped outside the church. When the moment of truth came, and the bride and groom kissed at the altar as husband and wife, the groom finally got his opportunity to kiss a girl for the first time. As I expected, it was a monumental disaster. He slobbered a bit and decided to work his mojo with a tongue that was clearly visible to all the people in the church. I guess there's something to be said for practice. Of course, I could understand the whole tongue part... I'd probably be a bit more than eager if I hadn't kissed a girl in 21 years, either. If that kiss was any indication, I bet those two aren't going to be having children any time soon. The premature ejaculation problems alone are going to be a considerable obstacle. As soon as I had the opportunity, I was out of my seat like a shot and dashing towards the great outdoors. I had to get out. I had to get away from the church. Also, I had to get away from Chris before the better part of my judgement took over and I killed him. I managed to get through the crowd and out of the door in a only a few seconds. I backed up a few steps and looked back into the church. An older woman made an announcement that the wedding party still needed to have their wedding pictures taken. I quickly processed that in my head to mean, "You're trapped here until Leslie gets done getting her picture taken." This was not spectacular news. I moved down the sidewalk and across the parking lot at a quick pace. Putting some distance between the holy land and myself was a top priority. I unlocked Leslie's car, hopped in the driver's seat, and began what would end up being a 45 minute wait for Leslie to meet me. So far, this whole wedding thing wasn't all that it was cracked up to be. Hell, we hadn't even gotten to the RECEPTION yet. Next Wedding Update: The wedding reception. It gets worse. Honest.