For the past few years, I've been part of a team that hosts a panel of speakers for National Adoption Month, otherwise known as November. Through the non-profit organization RESOLVE, we gather a group of adoption professionals in La Jolla to address a crowd of prospective parents. I consider this rewarding volunteer work, as people have told me that they formed their adoption plan after attending this event. We aim for diversity--domestic and international, facilitators, agencies and attorneys, and a variety of countries. One speaker in particular, Mark Goldman of AdoptHelp, I invite every year, because he's brilliant, funny and, well...eye candy. I have such a crush on that man, which I'm sure he knows, since I flirt with him shamelessly. Hey, my mother trained me to perk up around smart, Jewish lawyers.
This year, my co-organizer Mary and I were especially delighted by a particular acceptance--Joshua Zhong of Chinese Children Adoption International, or CCAI.
Because CCAI was our agency--the one that helped us bring home Jarrah and Joy. And it's in Colorado. And Josh is the founder, owner and director (along with his lovely wife, Lily.)
So, what I'm saying, Readers, is it was kind of like Elvis agreed to fly to San Diego and speak on our panel. Yowza.
Mary immediately wrote to express our excitement and assured him we would drive him wherever he needed to go. By which she meant I would drive him wherever he needed to go. (Kidding!)
This post isn't really about the panel, though it was awesome. Mark was hilarious and amazingly comprehensive, as usual. And Josh brought the house down with his easy charm and autobiographical shtick. If I hadn't already fallen in love with him on a 10-minute DVD in 2004, I would be signing up for his agency's services today. Instead, I could just sit back and congratulate myself on the accuracy of my emotional instincts.
The other speakers totally brought it, too, which is why I cringe to share this part: there were only 15 people in the audience. What happened there? The economy? Not enough PR? (Which I don't believe.) In any case, I felt so guilty that our professionals had traveled from near and far to address a crowd, and got more of a...tea party. Surprisingly, the Q&A was the liveliest we've ever had, and I finally had to shut it down before people started doing shots and settling in for the night.
I had picked up Josh from the Sheraton with Jarrah in tow and the ride to La Jolla was pretty painless. In fact, it was quickly obvious that Josh is a pro around strangers--it's part of his job, I suppose. I had pictured us making formal small talk, but instead found myself blurting out how hard the beds are in China (seriously, like sleeping on plywood) and how Jarrah screamed her lungs out for three weeks and how I was so tired I thought my cells might be reconfiguring into an organism that didn't require sleep. He nodded sympathetically (he is a reverend, after all) and occasionally made jokes, and by the time we were applauding Jarrah's bracing version of "Zippity Doo Dah," I felt we'd really bonded.
So when Mary suggested we take him out to eat afterward (he interrupted himself several times during his presentation to remark that he was starving) I thought that would be so cool, like getting some dinner with Elvis. He charmed me by eating his burger with a knife and fork, and sharing behind-the-scenes gossip on China adoption. Before I could think, I was raving about why we only have one kid, people who say stupid things about infertility, and how Jarrah is so totally, obviously brilliant. When Mary offered to drive him back to the hotel, I shushed her, insisting that it would be my pleasure. And I thought it would.
Once in the car, I was yelling about something that was undoubtedly TMI, since he was seeming more and more like a priest who I could confess anything to. And while I was doing some of that (a special treat for a Jewish girl) I vaguely noticed that I was actually driving home, to MY home, and that would be...not near the hotel. Without losing my conversational stride, I swerved onto another freeway, which seemed sort of deserted at 11:00 on a weeknight. I figured it was a bit out of the way, but he'd never know.
Sometime later, I was engrossed in a terrible, ill-advised humorous anecdote about something I read on one of CCAI's Yahoo! groups, and my decision to refrain from sharing it here will give you a fair idea of the inappropriateness of shouting it at Josh. (Had I been drinking tequila without knowing it? What the @#$%&* was in those water bottles we passed out???) As I was reaching a crescendo of don't-go-there, I realized that I'd made a wrong turn and we were now hurtling down a dark hill into La Jolla, which really only has one way in and one way out: long, and not where we were going. At this point, I decided that a full disclosure was best. I told Josh that as soon as I could, I'd turn around and we'd be on our way.
But he was clearly concerned. He assumed I was lost, and I could see him wondering why. I wasn't lost, but every turn had a red line through it, and it was probably not a good idea to muse out loud "Hmmm. No U-Turn here. See any cops?" to the man who had decided I was fit to adopt a child. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed him gripping the door handle a lot, and involuntarily shielding his face when I'd turn or change lanes.
I was a little amused by all this, because I'm a good driver, and while some of you may be shaking your heads, hear this: I've been driving for 26 years without a ticket. I was reminding myself of this comforting fact just as I screeched onto La Jolla Pkwy from a sudden, slightly out of control U-turn on a residential street while announcing "No right turn on red. Oops!" as I turned right on red.
"This is totally reminding me of how I interviewed for Dartmouth, and totally aced the interview, but then locked my keys in the car and had to go back and tell them so I could use the phone," I confessed gleefully. There was no response. In fact, Josh spoke very little after I admitted the first gaffe--clearly he didn't want to distract me more than was strictly required, as I was obviously trying to abduct him and hold him for ransom after circling around San Diego's back alleys until he was too disoriented to get away.
When we finally reached the freeway, I cheerfully reassured him that we were almost there, and then a massive fog bank rolled in and I couldn't see a thing. I briefly remarked how difficult it was to see, but now he was clutching the door handle full-time, so I shut up. All the silence was awkward, and I kept trying to find neutral topics that wouldn't a) further suggest that I was abducting him or b) provoke me into more ridiculous confessions, but I could tell that if I worked too hard at this, I was going to get us lost again, so I decided to just stick with the awkward silence.
And as I pulled into the driveway of the Sheraton, still fully 50 yards from the entrance, he had removed his seatbelt and was making ker-chunking noises with the door handle. He was out of there like a shot.
I called David immediately (hands-free, don't worry) and announced "I needed to talk to someone who doesn't think I'm crazy or a bad driver." Then I proceeded to miss three turns in a row (in my defense, the first two were roadblocked; the third, who knows?) and by the time I found my way home I'd been in the car over an hour.
I'm sure Josh will be rushing to return to San Diego next November. Ya think?