You Had Me at Helvetica
Six years ago today, Derek and I went on our very first date. Little did we know that we would end up where we are today after that fateful night at Dairy Queen in Schulenburg, Texas. Romantic, no? In honor of this day in history, I wanted to share our story. You've been warned though. This is a long one.
T H E B E G I N N I N G
Back in the summer of 2008 I had graduated from college and was ready to enter the work force (not). That year happened to be the peak of the recession, and the pretty little job I had lined up in Dallas designing high end retail stores had literally gone bankrupt weeks before I was supposed to start. One of my best friends Kate from design school (who lived in San Antonio at the time) ended up being in the same situation, so we decided to enjoy our last free summer together rather than getting jobs. Priorities. I drove down to San Antonio for what was supposed to be a long weekend, and ended up staying for 90% of the summer. We traveled to Washington DC and Michigan and blew all of our graduation money. It was wonderful. I made a few new friends along the way in San Antonio, and she met some of my friends from high school. Isn’t it so weird to see your two separate lives collide like that?
Fast forward to the end of the summer when I went back home to the Dallas area and decided to step into the big leagues and actually start the job hunt. This meant that I also needed to build a website, update my portfolio and all of that jazz. So I bought myself a MacBook Pro. Since I had been a PC user for so long this was foreign territory for me, so I also signed up for One-to-One classes at the Apple store. Once a week I’d go to either the Northpark or Knox Street Apple stores to try and learn how to use my new machine. Kate had raved and raved about this One-to-One program because she had been meeting with a guy in San Antonio who was in Architecture school that would teach her Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator. I thought that was pretty cool considering 1. I had pretty much figured out how to use my Mac after one class and 2. I was getting a little rusty on Adobe software and wanted to keep learning something that actually applied to what I do for a living. As I bounced back and forth between the two Apple stores in Dallas, I never found anyone who knew that software or really gave a hoot about design. They just wanted to teach people how to check their email. So when the fall rolled around, and after lots of job hunting, Kate ended up getting a job in Dallas and I ended up getting a job in San Antonio, and we switched places. Like on Freaky Friday. Not really.
When I moved to San Antonio in the middle of October 2008, one of the first things I realized was that I could now go to her guy and learn more about design software. I was pretty pumped. I had her brother (who also worked at Apple at the time) set me up with this infamous nice Architecture student guy so that I could schedule my weekly appointment with him specifically. Which isn't usually allowed, but I had connections. That next Wednesday we had our first appointment at 6:00pm. I was actually working on an exterior rendering for one of the local school districts at the time so I brought that for us to work on to make it look even more legit. (You don’t want to show up to a meeting with a Photoshop guru empty handed! Not cool bro.) So we sat down, we made jokes, he talked really fast and worked really fast, he called me “dude” a lot, and the next thing I knew our hour was over. I was pretty excited to finally meet with someone who had a background in design and was actually helpful. So we scheduled our next appointment for that next Wednesday. Oh. And his name was Derek.
This became a regular thing for the next few weeks. We even ran into each other outside of these meetings because we both had mutual friends who were musicians so we'd end up seeing each other at shows around town. He had a super serious girlfriend at the time that lived in Houston so it was all very platonic. We’d catch up on the design world and the projects we were working on. I even ended up going to the Apple Christmas party that year with some other friends and sat next to him at Alamo Draft House (it’s a movie theatre where you get to eat dinner/have a drink during the movie for you out-of-towners). That next week I found out through the grapevine that he was graduating that December and transferring to an Apple store in Houston where he was from. You know to be closer to his girlfriend and all of that.
I confronted him about this news at our next meeting (which apparently was a huge secret) but he confessed and said that the next week would be our last appointment. I was really sad about this because I still had 10 months of my membership left and zero people with his background to help me. So when that last week rolled around I had decided that I was going to go to the Cotton Bowl instead to see my Alma Mater play, and wanted to leave that Wednesday right after work and head straight to Dallas. So I ended up canceling our last appointment, which made me feel like such a jerk. I wouldn't even get to thank him! As it turned out the person I was riding with to Dallas couldn’t leave until later that evening so I didn’t have to cancel our appointment after all. I quickly emailed Derek to reinstate our appointment, and we met one last time.
Months and months went by and we sort of kept in touch (like Apple geeks circa 2008 did) through Twitter and Brightkite. We weren’t even Facebook friends yet. So clearly we weren't real friends either. I remembered he would tweet about yummy dinners he was cooking, and going on dates with “this brunette girl” (his words). So I assumed they were about to get engaged or something, I mean he moved all the way back home to be with her. For some reason I always pictured her to be this petit little hipster artsy girl with curly hair and probably some tattoos or piercings (like him). And I always thought they were the perfect match. (I had no idea who she was or anything about her mind you.. but I knew it was meant to be). Everyone said so.
That fall (this is 2009 now) I was having coffee with Kate’s brother Jonathan (the one that set up our first appointment) and the friend I drove to the Cotton Bowl with. We were all playing on our phones and whatnot when Jonathan said “Holy crap. Derek Klepac isn’t in a relationship anymore.. according to Facebook.” At this point I had honestly not even thought about him in a while (I mean almost a year had gone by since I last spoke to him), but I felt it was in my best interest to immediately add him as a friend on Facebook. He added me right back and that unlocked the privacy door (on Facebook). I was now able to see all of his photos, wall posts, and status updates so that I could figure out what happened between them without actually talking to him. This is totally normal behavior by the way, and if you don’t agree then you aren’t using Facebook correctly.
All pictures of him and the girlfriend were gone, they weren’t Facebook friends anymore, and he had some pretty emo status updates. This was bad. Like really bad. I snapped back into reality though when Jonathan said something like “you should get on that.” I had never ever seen us that way, but suddenly he was available. And we had a lot in common. Like a freakish amount of things.
So after a few days, I did what any other girl from the 21st century would do and I sent him a cute little Facebook message. Just asking how things were going in Houston, if he had found a job at a firm yet, etc. From that point we started talking on and off. He’d reply to my tweets and even direct message me on Twitter. Like when we were in super awkward third wheel situations in real life we’d always talk to each other about how lame we felt being the single one at a couples only situation. Then one night while I was at dinner with one of my couple friends (totally bored and feeling like the last single girl) he DMed me his phone number and said “Here. This will be much easier”. From then on we texted all day everyday. And when we weren’t texting we were on iChat at work just talking about any and everything. And sending each other ridiculous Photo Booth pictures (the original selfie) at work to pass the time.
I was excited to have a new friend and he was dumping on me all of his breakup drama. But I didn’t care. Because I could see something in him that no other girl had seen. And I knew I had my work cut out for me.
R E U N I T E D
After weeks and weeks of talking nonstop (really texting and iChatting.. never actually hearing each other’s voices because it's the future and typing is our only way to communicate). I decided that we should meet halfway between San Antonio and Houston. We had no idea where that was, but after looking it up on a map decided that it was Schulenburg, TX. Population: 2,872. This was decided over the weekend and after rearranging our schedules we decided on Wednesday, October 21st. As that day went on he kept asking if it was really a good idea, and saying that maybe we should wait a week, and pretty much just putting a wrench in my day. Then around 5pm it started pouring down rain outside. Like monsoon pouring. Then I thought “maybe this is a sign that we shouldn’t meet, maybe something bad is going to happen and the rain is a warning”. I was about to text him (while driving because it was 2009 and legal) when I saw a “begin center lane” road sign that had fallen off the pole and all that was left was the word BEGIN. Literally it was a pole in the ground that had a "begin" sign on it. It's off of Fredericksburg and Callaghan you can go see it to this day.
I knew right then and there that that was my actual sign. I had to go.
So I drove 1.5 hours to little ol’ Schulenburg and headed straight to the movie theatre where we had planned to meet. The theatre in this tiny town shows one movie a night on weeknights at 7pm. So needless to say we would have to haul butt to make it. When we both got into town I had already driven by the movie theatre and it looked REALLY stabby so I texted him with the news, and then he called me. I hadn’t heard his voice in almost a year so when we he called to decide on a new meeting place I started to get butterflies all over again. We ended up meeting behind the downtown square next to a set of railroad tracks. Also romantic. After getting out of our cars and hugging and having that first awkward moment of wow-you’re-kind-of-a-stranger-even-though-we’ve-been-talking-all-day-everyday-for-the-past-month.
Since our original plan was totally foiled, Derek mentioned that he had brought his hard drive which was full of movies so we had decided to sit in the back of his truck and watch something. And then it started to rain. So this operation quickly moved to the backseat of my car. Which sounds pretty bad. But it was seriously harmless. Contrary to what most people have heard about our first date, we actually ended up watching The Shooter. Yeah the one with Mark Wahlberg. -- When telling the quick version of this story we just tell everyone that we watched Helvetica, which we did on our actual first date. This still isn't considered a date. It was just a rendezvous. -- It was a nice action packed (so not romantic) movie that I was having a hard time getting into because I was totally nervous. In the middle of the movie I professed that I was starving (to which Derek agreed) so we drove around to find some grub. In this bustling metropolis our only options were Fred’s Country Kitchen and Dairy Queen. Given that we had heard of the latter we went with DQ.
October 21, 2009
Then we drove around to find a new spot that wasn’t next to railroad tracks and settled on the parking lot of the local high school. Way more well lit. During the rest of the movie (and my Blizzard eating) we were kind of snuggled up, but I didn’t really think anything of it because it was pretty cold out (and I was eating ice cream). Afterward we went our separate ways and the whole way home I had no idea if that was a date and if there were any feelings behind that snuggle action.
The next morning we started texting like normal, and didn’t really mention how either of us felt about our previous meet-up. A whole week went by and we decided to meet again on that next Wednesday, October 28th. What very few people know, is that I was interested in a guy that had moved out of the country that previous summer, who was back in town for the first time since he had left, and wanted to grab some coffee. A big part of me wanted to go catch up with him, but a much bigger part was telling me to go to Schulenburg again. So I did. This time was much more comfortable. Derek decided we should pick up some DQ before watching a movie so that we "wouldn't be interrupted". Hmm.
He had his arm around me, my head was on his shoulder, and we ended up watching Helvetica and bonding over our love of design, and it was basically the most perfect first date I’ve ever had.
That next morning, I had a text from Derek: “I left my wallet in your car”. Crap! Luckily we had already made plans to possibly meet up that weekend in Houston at a Mute Math show, where we were each bringing friends with us and it was all very casual (you know.. no big deal). Well this whole wallet situation meant that we definitely had to hang out again. So much for being cool.
As Friday quickly approached my friend bailed on the Houston trip, but I was still obligated to go and deliver the wallet safe and sound (otherwise I probably would have backed out too). Thanks wallet gods! I told Derek that my friend backed out and he offered up staying with him (and his parents at the time). I love parents and I didn’t have anywhere else to stay, and I was pretty excited he made this bold move to spend more time with me, so I agreed. So on our second date I arrived at his house and his mom was just finishing up a pot of chili. Super! Not only am I meeting his parents immediately I also have to sit through a dinner of awkward get to know you time right off the bat. I was pretty nervous, but luckily his mom is pretty chatty and the conversation never stopped. Also I love chili and automatically started crumbling up my cornbread into it with my bare hands (like a caveman). Before I even realized how gross I was being his dad was like “oh awesome idea!” and started doing the same thing.
After dinner we got ready for the show and headed downtown. We were still meeting up with Derek’s friend Ari (that’s right I met the parents and the best friend all on our second date). Luckily Ari is totally awesome and we got along famously. We were able to get to know each other before the show over some drinks at the Flying Saucer before it started. So that took the edge off a little. At the show Derek would hold my hand to lead me through the crowds, but I wasn’t sure if he was being affectionate or just trying not to lose me because I was also clinging to the back of Ari’s shirt so that I didn’t lose him.
Mute Math at Warehouse Live – October 2009
The next day (still in Houston) happened to be Halloween. It was a Saturday and Derek had to work at the Willowbrook Apple store so I was left to hang out with his parents all day. Which I had planned to run around Houston and probably go to Ikea or something. Then it hit me. I had left my keys in his truck, which was now across town in the Willowbrook parking lot. I had to ask his mom to drive me there to get them so we had more one on one bonding the whole drive there (which is like 45 min. Because Houston.) At this point his mom knew more about my life and family than he did. And we weren’t even dating yet!
When I got to the mall I decided that I’d just hang out there for the day and do some shopping and work on a client’s website at the Apple store while Derek taught other people how to use their computers. That night we didn’t have any Halloween plans or even costumes for that matter. Derek’s friend Crystal ("Fresh") invited us to go on a Halloween pub crawl with her friends/family so we had to whip up some costumes pretty fast. They weren’t mind blowing, but for having about an hour to come up with something Derek went as Helvetica and I went as Derek. Genius. I even had a fake lip ring!
We brought Ari along again and met up with Fresh’s group downtown which ended up being another night of getting lost in crowds and keeping a death grip on Ari’s shirt. Needless to say we bonded quickly. That night after all was said and done Derek and I went back home and (after waiting what he says to be a solid five minutes of me not getting the hint) we finally had our first kiss. In that moment I knew that he liked me like really really liked me.
As we look back now it’s kind of a good thing we didn’t go see that movie at the Schulenburg theatre (Where the Wild Things Are) because it would have been a bit of a downer for a first date. And it’s a good thing Derek is forgetful and leaves his wallet behind. And I’m forgetful and leave my keys behind. And also, that other guy I had a thing for over the summer was going to tell me that he had met someone in England. And now they are married and having a baby. So that worked out too. Funny how life works.
T H E R E S T I S H I S T O R Y
We continued to meet at what we dubbed “The Clubhouse” every other Wednesday where we would eat DQ, watch random movies in the backseat of my car, and explore the bustling city of Schulenburg. We would alternate these Wednesday visits with weekend visits to eachothers cities. So it would go Clubhouse one week, Houston the next, Clubhouse the next then San Antonio the next, etc. For an entire year. At the beginning of January 2010 we went up to the Dallas area to introduce him to my parents and hangout for the weekend. And go to the Kimball. Naturally.
Sidenote: My mom confessed years later than when she and my dad met Derek for the first time they both agreed that he was going to be their son-in-law one day. Funny how that worked out.
Almost the entire year of 2010 was spent 200 miles apart. We made it work though. We talked nonstop, we traveled to Michigan together so that Derek could meet my family, we went to the zoo, we tried to have a normal dating life, and we made the most of what we had being 3 hours apart. Before FaceTime existed mind you.
Valentine’s Day picnic – February 2010
Downtown Houston – Spring 2010
Mute Math show in Dallas for my birthday – May 2010
Lugnuts Game in Michigan – July 2010
Toward the end of September Derek received a call from Apple La Cantera (in San Antonio) where we first met. They were looking to hire him back on, and he’d be doing the same exact thing he was doing in Houston. But he’d be in San Antonio! He jumped at the opportunity to move back, but he was still rather hesitant about making the big move because he was also needing to start grad school to get his masters in Architecture, and wasn’t sure that all of the logistics would work out. What if he ended up getting into the University of Houston and not UTSA? Then what? We both decided that no matter what happened that we were in this together and we would figure it out. That fall he moved to San Antonio into a house with one of his best friends Chris.
It was funny adjusting to living in the same city again now that we were in a relationship because he had this life here before I really even knew him and I was getting to see some of that, and we were able to blend our two separate lives together. I always tried to put myself in his shoes thinking “what if I lived in my college town and then left and came back to it as an adult and all of my friends still lived there. So weird/awesome! That fall Derek applied to grad school in San Antonio. He had one shot to start that next spring, otherwise he’d have to wait until the next fall or apply to another school in another city. He knew how competitive it was to get in because a lot of people he knew didn’t make the cut. So he spruced up his portfolio and wrote all of the essays and jumped through all of the hoops and fire. And we waited.
Then one day a perfectly pressed letter from the UTSA Graduate School admissions board arrived. He got in! He would be starting in the spring of 2011 and we were kind of nervous about how being in school would affect our day to day and whether it would put a strain on our relationship. But by the end of 2010 I had officially completed my Interior Design equivalent of IDP hours and I was ready to start taking my exams to become a Registered Interior Designer. So needless to say we were both pretty busy studying that semester. When the summer rolled around we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. Derek had his first semester of grad school under his belt, and I had passed my exams. Derek had been offered a job at an Architecture firm downtown and things were just falling into place.
That next fall Derek decided that a new job and a new semester meant it was also time to move into a new place and live on his own for a while. He found a cute house in King William that he was able to call home and we were sort of able to see how our life could be together. We’d eat dinners together, we’d study together, and I got to rearrange his furniture. All was right in the world.
As the year was wrapping up I realized that my favorite date that I had been looking forward to my entire life was quickly approaching. I've always been one to make a wish at 11:11. Don't judge me. But I knew that 11-11-11 was just around the corner, and at 11:11 I'd make the most epic wish. A once in a century kind of wish!
At the beginning of November Derek’s friend Ari (remember from the shirt clining in crowded places? Yeah him.) came into town and we walked down to a cupcake shop in our neighborhood, and as his (then) girlfriend and I were standing outside I could see Ari give Derek a really big kind of momentous hug. Like the bro hug of all bro hugs. And I thought.. “I wonder what that was all about?”. And then a week later (on 11-11-11) Derek proposed. At the Apple store where we first met.
And that is our story! I’m pretty sure most of you know how it went from there. Well we're married. So there's that. I don’t know if any of you have ever dated someone that you previously knew, but I had always met someone and then dated them. I had never fallen for a friend before so it was so funny/weird thinking about how our paths could had crossed so many times (since we had a lot of the same friends) and we didn’t even realize it or care at the time. Funny how these things work out when you least expect it.