Did You Win?

Until a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t know I enjoyed them.

I live in a tiny beach town in the Pacific Northwest. Every morning — if the surf isn’t good — I’ll ride my bike a short distance in the cool ocean air to the cafe to enjoy a nice cup of coffee and visit with friends. The place is quaint and cozy, and mornings tend to be abuzz with locals and visitors.

Recently there were some newspapers strewn across the large round table where I was seated. Normally I don’t bother with the newspaper, but this particular morning there was a crossword puzzle staring me in the face, and for no particular reason I borrowed a pen from the counter and gave it a go. I don’t believe I had ever really given crosswords a serious try, but as they say, there is a first time for everything, and this morning was that time.

To my surprise and delight I have discovered that I really enjoy doing crossword puzzles. The pleasant din of the shop, the fragrance of a hot cup of coffee, and the sneaky clues of the crossword all combine into a gentle, soothing challenge. Unlike surfing alone, during which I am always on edge about being mauled to death at any moment by a two ton great white shark, or hammered and drowned by a huge clean-up set, the consequences of attacking the daily crossword puzzle seem rather minimal. Sure I use a pen, but still.

So for the past two weeks I have been happily alone splashing around in my own world, being playfully tossed up and down in crisscrossed waves of words. And yesterday was no different. Until…

“Did you win?”

It took a moment for me to realize that I was the focus of the query.

I turned, only to find a very attractive woman sitting right next to me. Adrift in the Sea of Vocabulary with only my writing instrument for flotation, I had failed to notice her. With a big, beautiful smile she again asked, “Did you win?”

Just like the crossword clues, her question was deviously tricky. And just as with 40-Down, with which I was struggling, I wasn’t sure how to answer. As a novice crossword puzzler I had never entertained that winning was an option. And once that Pandora’s Box is opened, losing rears its ugly head as a yet another possible fate. Perhaps crosswords are not so safe after all. I was stumped. But her beaming white smile continued to press for a response.

And so began a very enjoyable, if not completely unexpected, conversation with this stunning stranger. Very quickly it became perfectly clear that she was engaging, smart, interesting, funny, playful … in a word, confident, and apparently for good reasons.

And I soon learned that she was cycling alone down the coast to Los Angeles, and had set aside five or six weeks for her adventure. Good for her! I love cycling. Along with swimming three days a week, I do pretty serious rides four days a week to train for surfing. We had more than plenty to talk about.

About an hour later I reluctantly had to leave to keep an appointment. After all, those whom the gods would destroy they first make punctual. But Little Miss Confident didn’t skip a beat, and asked for a way to contact me. (Yeah, I get that all the time.) We exchanged vitals, and bid each other good-bye. She rode off to her next destination down the coast. I went to my appointment, only to find the other party had stood me up.

A few hours later, I received a message: Hang out more??

The ride to the next camp site had taken far less time than she had anticipated, and with a full afternoon and evening open, LMC was asking me to join her. I smiled upon receiving the invitation, and sneaked out lest the gods should notice and finish off their handiwork.

We had a great time. Her campsite was spectacular, and surprisingly empty despite it being the height of summer. We went for a long walk on an even longer beach. We went into the small town and fetched a delicious pizza to bring back to the campsite. I love good pizza, but hadn’t had any in eons, so that sure was a treat! We gathered wood and made a respectable but rather smoky fire, as the wood was a bit damp from our being near the water. And we happily chatted away for hours about this topic and that, as if we had been friends for years.

It was getting late, and my pedaling pal, who was battling a bit of a cold, had to get to bed. The next day’s ride was going to be considerably longer.

We said our good-byes for the second time.

While driving home, I was really struck by how much I appreciated this awesome young lady risking putting herself out there. I appreciated her confident directness. Yes it was very flattering, to be sure. And refreshing. But it was far more profound than that. But for her amusing little question she first put to me, we — total strangers — would not have enjoyed such an unexpected and special day together.

Did you win?

Now I know the answer!