Birthday Surprises

Photo by David Atkinson on Flickr
It was January 2011 and my then-girlfriend had been working two years for a company that sold medical equipment.

January was “Convention Month” in Boise, Idaho. It was traditionally a slow month for her because she never attended such events only this year her boss sprung it on her two weeks out that he wanted her there because her job title now included the word “regional” and DUH, of course he would want her there, she was exceptional at her job!

So the convention happened to fall on the weekend of her birthday.

“No big deal” she says. “We’ll do a thing when I get back.”

Doing “a thing” meant cutting a cake she’d have baked for herself, having our annual birthday Stanley Kubrick marathon, and us ending the night with her crying in my arms because,

“why doesn’t my mother care enough to even text me on my bday?!”

All of that would’ve been great and everything because I love her crying, or rather, I love being there for her when she cries, except that’s how we celebrated the last three years and I wanted Birthday ’11 to be a little… more.

It needed to be more.

By design, it had to be bigger and better. The way I planned it her first birthday with me had to be incredible. And it was. I’ll tell you some other time.

The next two, maybe even three birthdays could be quiet affairs, bland by comparison. Then, BAM, the birthday that followed had to be spectacular.

I’m talking




Well… all the stops that fell within my meager budget at the time.

If you aren’t familiar with Boise, Idaho, you should know I think it ought to be known for three things:

  • Slopes
  • Rapids
  • Probably its Ghosts.

When you’ve had enough of those you can go have a pint at the pub because how much can one really go river rafting and skiing and encountering haunted spirits before they need to drown themselves in alcohol.

And then when you’ve finished drinking, have another, because you’re living in flipping Idaho.

So what!

If she had to be in Boise on her birthday. T’was but a minuscule roadblock as far as I was concerned. I had a plan and I had somewhat sufficient time to make it happen.

Step 1 was finding out her schedule and hotel booking, and what easier to do that than to hack her email. I know, “Grade-A Boyfriend Material” coming through. What can I say, it made perfect sense to me at the time.

38 minutes later…
Bingo — “Convention Schedule”

  • A two day event which started at nine
  • She’d be demoing her products until four in the afternoon
  • Dinner and mingle at 6:30, which meant she would be free by 8
And that’s when I came in.

Most of the convention center had been booked for the event but surprisingly I was able to reserve a small lecture hall for a few hours. We couldn’t have our Kubrick marathon, but we could at least watch her favorite, The Shining. Our movie night would be followed by a short Uber ride to the middle of a field where awaiting our arrival would be a hot air balloon.

The first month we were together we traveled an hour across town to a hot air balloon festival and rode up in one for the first time. It was one of our sweetest memories and I knew she’d always wanted to experience it again.

It was all set.

Chilled picnic basket ready with cupcakes and milkshakes so we could be up in the air just after midnight to officially celebrate her birthday.

Oh and we’d be wearing pirate costumes. It’s an inside joke and would take too long to explain.

By the morning of, all deposits were paid and everything was ready.

  • Travel expenses $688
  • Movie night $351
  • Midnight hot air balloon ride $402

She was busy most of the morning and afternoon and evening with absolutely no time to call, which conveniently worked out for me so I could fly in under the radar. There were nearly 1,700 people in the convention center ballroom by the time I got there. Lucky for me, you can literally spot her boss’s toupee from across the room, which meant birthday girl would be close by.

Except she wasn’t.

I confronted her boss, told him who I was and watched as his face did a weird thing where his mouth stayed agape like a cartoon character for a few seconds. An expression I would unconsciously imitate a moment later as he explained to me why she wasn’t in the ballroom.

Two days ago, my girlfriend requested to only attend the first day of the convention so she could fly home and surprise me so we could celebrate her birthday together.

As he was finishing explaining, my phone rang. It was the birthday girl. What followed was a conversation full of confessions and apologies which would all be somewhat tragic if it wasn’t so damn hilarious. We decided it would only make sense for me to go through the night doing all the things I’d planned, in solemn memory of what should have been.

And so, with my basket full of cupcakes and milkshakes, my night ended with me spending 72 minutes floating over Boise…

in a balloon…

in the sweet, sweet company of my own failure.

Listen to this week’s episode, Episode 118 — Quatrain, Retrospective, and Jesse James:

Written by Nizar Babul of Comatose.

Comatose is a weekly series of amusing anecdotes, insightful commentary, and pithy stories. Every week three contributors are featured in short segments. The segments, though often unrelated, are tied together using music and narration to set the scene. Relax and enjoy the ride while listening to topics as varied as love, birthdays, and reciprocity.

You can find Comatose on Facebook, Twitter, iTunes, and Stitcher.

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