I never expected the 2009 Bike Town Bash - Active Trans' annual winter fundraiser - to be anything beyond a single night of fun and networking in support of an organization very dear to me. My original plan was to go with a friend who ended up backing out at the last minute. Who knows where fate would’ve taken me, otherwise so occupied? Who goes to a party expecting to meet the love of his (or her) life?
Inside the entry of the Dankhaus in Lincoln Square, I was glad to be out of the frigid cold. I love old places like this. The home of the German American Club has low light and faded wall paint, friendly woodwork and comfortably hissing radiators. The hypnotic sound of my footfalls on the worn steps as I made my way to the fifth floor’s classic ballroom wearing my heavy winter overcoat gave me a feeling of timelessness.
After purchasing my ticket and handing over the XXX Racing team donation to the silent auction, a membership and jersey, I was perusing some of the other items at the long table when I realized the woman next to me was speaking. Since I was at the party to represent the team, I was in networking-mode and assumed that we’d met before, but I couldn’t place her.
So I winged it as she told me about the salon that had donated an item for bidding, and soon we had a little conversation going. Now I wasn’t so sure that I knew her; as much that she was so beautiful my mind was playing tricks on me. Patty was volunteering for the Bash – signing guests up for a raffle – and I dutifully entered. We chatted some more and I found myself flirting naturally with her. Her volunteer duties were calling and I recognized several people as the party was getting under sail, so I excused myself.
Chatting with friends and colleagues I’d just met or known for years through racing, volunteering or just hanging out a the shop, I’d cast a glance back towards the front where Patty was. Every time I was rewarded with a glimpse of her, a friendly face gliding through the background of a growing crowd, looking right back. There was no quickly averting our eyes out of shyness or trying to act casual. It was definite, with purpose, and our smiles comingled across the room.
After grabbing a Goose Island from the bar, I made my way back, and found she had a spare moment for some conversation. “I’m kind of here on a first date,” she soon told me after a bit more chit chat, “but I’m really enjoying talking to you.”
“Maybe I could call you sometime, if it doesn’t work out,” I replied, and left it at that. I went back to catching her gaze amidst the positive energy in the room.
Gradually I lost myself in the party. I was dancing to the Polkaholics, noshing and sipping Goose Island, checking up on the silent auction, and casting smiles. Soon it was time to go, so I went in search of my coat and one last encounter; but, I didn’t find her.
Instead, a stranger approached me and pushed a slip of paper into my chest.
“This is for you.”
It was Patty’s phone number.
Under the circumstances I knew I couldn’t call, but I had to have the gratification of hearing from her, so I pushed accepted form a bit, and sent a text. I invited her to meet me at the state cyclocross championship races at Montrose Harbor the next day.
My breath caught a bit in my chest as the reply came back to my phone, “ok c u then!”
The next afternoon at the cyclocross race, emerging from the chaos of ringing cowbells, shouting, and megaphone blasts, amid the clownishness of hotdog and $5 bill handups, and Jack, irrepressible at the end of his leash, I caught that smile one more time, and I never let it go.
(The 2010 Bike Town Bash returns to the Dankhaus in Lincoln Square. The ballroom will be transformed into an 80’s dance party in celebration of 25 years of advocacy). Make it a night to remember and get your tickets online today.)