Bruce Hall Memories

Some of these are memories of my time in UNT’s Bruce Hall, while others are facts I’ve remembered from the years:

  1. I was the only person (I know of) to nearly hold every position in Bruce Hall: fire buddy, wing representative, RHA Representative, Vice President, President, Resident Assistant, Assistant Hall Director, and Hall Director, and Bruce Award reciepent. I’m not sure how I let Treasurer and Secretary slip from my grasp.  Besides this, I was also RHA Vice-President, Special Assistant for Programming, and RLAC Vice-President.
  2. Between the boiler room and the basement of the cafeteria was a dark, winding hallway, which terminated in a small doorway that noone had a key to. It creeped me out most particularly, especially while performing late-night rounds on weekend shifts.
  3. Several of the old activity rooms in Bruce Hall no longer exist, because of the need to make way for resident housing. These include: The Lorena Lounge and Art Room (A400 wing), the Computer Room and Assistant Hall Director office (C200).
  4. There are actually two elevators in Bruce Hall: the one everyone knows about at the base of the B wing, and the other in the cafeteria. It is used to shuttle supplies from the basement.  It’s a classic old-school elevator, where you get inside an open car and slide closed a wooden railing.
  5. Contrary to urban legend, TAMSters never snuck into Bruce Hall to shut off the power. Attempting to shut off the main power transformer was incredibly dangerous, and it is highly unlikely anyone could have done it with extreme frequency without cooking themselves. It’s likely that the power overloaded because all of Bruce Hall’s wiring was old, with the exception of the new wiring put in for air conditioning in 1994.  The Bruce Jam equipment was a massive power drain when running late at night.
  6. The RA who wrote up the most people got the moniker “The Impaler”. This nickname would swing back and forth between myself, Germaine, and Rob. Rob usually won out, which made saying “Casper the Impaler” all the more interesting.
  7. I invited myself along a roadtrip to California with Germaine, Capt’n Courville, and Halee. From Denton to San Pablo Bay, CA, it took 28 hours of non-stop driving through the desert, including the detour towards San Diego to drop off the girls. Germaine drove the entire way without sleeping, stopping only for gas and to kiss the ground just past the California state border.  I remember going down IH-10 in L.A.; we were looking for the exit to IH-5; Germaine’s eyes blink and he shakes his head, as if coming out of a trance.  He then asks, “Where are we?”  After 20 hours behind the wheel, he seriously didn’t know.  I just leaned back and enjoyed the ride.
  8. The Bruce Hall lobby used to be hardwood, just like the Bowling Alley that goes north-south on the second floor of Bruce and the Concert Hall on the north side of the building.  In 1996, a lone contractor was hired to remove the old hardwood flooring and replace it with new oak.  He was a Vietnam vet with a nasty temper.  One day, Jim Casey asked him if it was OK to walk on the floor, as it was being varnished.  The contractor didn’t say yes or no.  He said, “You’d better not walk on the floor or I’ll break your fucking neck!”  From that point, he became known as Agent Orange.
  9. Once when I was BHA President, I held a staff meeting that only one member showed up to: Jason Bunch.  The goal of the meeting was team development.  We spent the time prank-calling everyone on the RHA phone list.  We convinced Rachel, the president of Clark Hall, that someone was after her for mowing down their dog on the highway.  We convinced a tear-stricken “Grandma” that after a recount she was not indeed elected to RHA.  One person who shall not be named picked up the phone while they were having sex, which made for an interesting conversation.
  10. In 2000, I participated in Bruce Hall’s Jell-O Wrestling program.  I accepted a challenge from Slappy, with the condition that the loser would have to wear a dress to that night’s BHA meeting.  During the match, we were tag-teamed by two wrestlers who pinned us both.  Since we both lost, both of us had to wear the dress.  It was the last time I cross-dressed at Bruce Hall.  Apparently video of the most-famous incident (Bruce Secrets) is roaming around, looming over my political career.
  11. I can remember the names of all my R.A.s, as each of them had some major influence on my life.  Dave Claiborne taught me to have fun my freshman year.  Willy Golden taught me magic tricks.  Guillerme taught me that shitting in the shower is not cool as we have no water pressure.
  12. Before the wing baths were redone, taking showers was hazardous to one’s health.  Bruce Hall’s hot water came from a boiler in the basement.  One flush of a toilet several wings over was enough to melt your skin like biting into a freshly-microwaved Hot Pocket.  It was common courtesy to yell, “Fire in the hole!” when you flushed.  Over time, one became very aware of minute sounds in the pipes and water stream, which gave you split-second warning about impending scalding.  It was like  Spidey Sense!
  13. My freshman year, I had three roommates.  The first was Greg, who left school early to play saxophone for a country-and-western band.  Following him was James, who would perform psychological experiments on my when you wasn’t dropping acid and encrypting his emails.  James met Karen, whose father was one of the more-prominent instructors in the School of Music; when he heard she was having roommate conflict, he invited her to live in our room at Bruce without my permission.  I didn’t mind this because I thought Karen was cute and cool.  What college freshman would object to co-habitating with a woman?  Exactly.
  14. For awhile, it seemed if your name was Dave, it must also be prefaced by an adjective.  Sleeping Dave, Smoking Dave, etc.  For awhile, it seemed that everyone nicknamed C.J. was gay.
  15. For a period of time, everyday I went to the 7-Eleven on Oak Street and got as 32 oz. Dr. Pepper Big Gulp.  Most of these trips involved Jim Casey and/or Mark Peterson.  During my Assistant Hall Director days, a trip to 7-Eleven in Jim’s truck was our equivalent of a daily staff meeting — in the quiet confidentially of the cab, we would discuss the business of running the building, who required extra attention or discipline, how programming was going, etc.
  16. One of my proudest moments as an RA was winning the Housing Department’s Outstanding Resident Assistant award in 1997.  It was important because it was the first time in my professional life that I cared about being the best.  It also meant so much because I knew the award represented the respect of my peers, some of whom are still my best friends.
  17. Before cell phones were common, I would have to call long-distance but stay on a budget as the minutes would add up.  In the Union were two phones on the top floor, in tiny windowless rooms, where you could call anywhere in the nation for free.  You would sign up, wait in line, and make your calls.  The phones were taken out because some students from India were able to rig them to call Asia, and the costs of those calls were a hit on the SGA’s budget.
  18. Bruce Hall opened in February 1947, and at the time it was the largest building on campus.  It was designed by George Dahl, a prominent Dallas architect who also designed the building next door Masters Hall.  It was intended as relief for Music Hall, a dormitory to the south.  It was originally thought of as two separate halls within one building; they were called Bruce Hall North and Bruce Hall South.  The front desk of BHN was where the old weight room was (just inside the exterior doors).  The building remained all women until sometime in the 1970s.
  19. Before the window units were installed in 1994, there were only three places in Bruce Hall that were air-conditioned: the lobby, the cafeteria, and the practice modules.  Just before that time, you could smoke in the cafeteria.  Instead of a TAMS/Bruce division in seating, it used to be a smoking/non-smoking division.
  20. The Aryan Nation-looking mural in the cafeteria was originally in Marquis Hall, which itself was a dormitory.  It was later moved to storage in Terrill Hall.
  21. One day, Jim and I were contacted by a parent who wanted permission to get into their son’s room and move him out early.  We came to find out the son, who lived on D400 above the loading dock, had withdrawn from UNT earlier in the semester and not told anyone, including his R.A. or roommate.  Upon further inspection, we found out he was lazy about his trash: he removed his window screen so he could dump his trash directly into the dumpster below.  One day, while throwing out a heavy bag, he got caught up with it and flew out the window himself.  He fell three stories to the ground below, breaking his leg and hip.  He slinked away and quit for the semester.  We suppose he didn’t tell anyone because of the embarrassment.
  22. The sound of those emergency exits alarms blaring is still echoing in my head
  23. The best bathroom graphitti was in the D300 bath, in the second toilet stall.  To read it, you had to sit on the john, lean forward, and almost turn your head upside down.  You would then be rewarded with the words, “You are now shitting at a 45 degree angle.
  24. Shara was the RA for the female wing B300.  At the time, it seemed like everyone on B300 was dating someone on D300, my wing.  Shara resigned between the fall and spring semesters, leaving an opening on her wing.  I volunteered to be R.A. for B300 until we could hire a replacement, which we were slow to do because we didn’t want to hire just about anyone.  I remember holding the first wing meeting of the semester, the one where the RAs gather everyone and read them the rules.  I told the girls if they needed anything, and I mean anything, just ask.  Soon enough, they took me at my literal word, as they asked if they could borrow any tampons.  Sadly, I had none.
  25. I was known for having an original Bill the Cat doll (from Bloom County fame).  I would hang it from my ceiling fan by a homemade leather noose.  Later on, when I was an RA, I never locked my room during my entire time at Bruce.  This would annoy Jim Casey very much, but it was a boon to many of my friends that used my room as a nap location between classes.  One day I came home to find my room filled with smoke.  I freaked out thinking that everything had gone up in smoke.  Instead, my Bill the Cat doll had gone up in smoke.  My friend Sarah had catnapped earlier in the day, and she left my eiling fan light on when she left.  I later received a note drawn in crayon that said in several ways, “Sorry for burning down your dorm room.”  For several months, I was able to guilt her into buying me lunch.
  26. The telephone numbers for the RA rooms are grouped together, starting at 369-6360 and running through 369-6369.  This equals 10 numbers for 11 wings.  The lone exception to this sequence was my RA room (D321), whose phone number was 369-5276.  I still remember that phone number, although I don’t remember which order the 369-636* sequence went.
  27. For several years, T.A.G. (The Assassination Game) was Bruce Hall’s most-popular program.  In one semester I competed, I made it to the final four by spending copious amounts of time eating at Kerr Hall (on the opposite side of campus) and hiding out inside the Information Science Library (on the opposite side of a wormhole).  I was ambushed while eating a late night hamburger at the Clark Hall cafeteria.
  28. T.A.G. worked by pitting participants against each other in one large Circle of (Anti-) Life.  Assassin A hunted Assassin B, who in turn preyed upon Assassin C, and so forth until the final participant targeted the first.  During Spring Break one year, the RAs entered each resident room to ensure that anything dangerous wasn’t left plugged in.  I entered Victor and Cory’s room in The Ghetto (B100) and came upon an amazing discovery: on the wall of their room was The Circle, all laid out in giant detail.  The two of them had been researching every assassin’s assignment and put the pieces together.  I later discovered that word had gotten out about their research, and the two of them became quite particular who they let into their room to share their knowledge.  My first thought upon seeing their efforts: “It likes to put the lotion in the basket.”
  29. The best semester of my Bruce Hall life was the spring of 1997.  It was my final year as a Resident Assistant.  I had one of the most-active wing communities thanks to the freshman of the D300 Rebel Alliance.  My boss Jim Casey was also my best friend.  I was almost done with my undergraduate degree.  I had gotten beyond several cycles of depression.  And for the first time in my adult life, I felt like I knew what I was doing.  The worst semester was the Spring 2000.  It was my final year at UNT.  I was in graduate school, although each passing week increased my doubts that I was actually doing the right thing by staying in school.  My girlfriend Rebecca, the RHA President, broke up with me on Groundhog Day.  For several painful months, I had to see her on a regular basis because my job as BHA Advisor required I attend nearly every meeting together.  By the time I left town in August, I was in serious need of some spiritual healing.  Thankfully all of that is far, far in the past.
  30. The Bruce Hall staff was required to return to campus a week before the building opened for new residents in August.  As a reward for our attendance at RA training and getting the building in shape quickly, Jim Casey would permit us to play flashlight tag.  All exterior windows would be covered in blankets and/or trash bags, creating a pitch-dark environment for RAs to sneak about the in the dark armed only with flashlights.  Imagine the zaniness and mortal fear of being snuck up upon without warning, or having an RA who was hanging from the ceiling jump down at you.  One favorite memory is when Dora was sneaking around D400 and bumped into an unexpected object.  She flipped on her flashlight and yelled over and over, “You’re dead! You’re dead!”  She had bumped into Rolly’s bicycle.
  31. As part of the ceremony for burying my own time capsule, I left letters all around the UNT Denton campus in locations that were meaningful or significant.  These locations included all of the dorm rooms I live in, inside of books in the library that changed my life, and miscellaneous places where important events happened, both good and bad.  Each letter contained a self-addressed, stamped postcard so that the finder could send me any message they desired.  To date, I have received two out of twenty of these postcards.  In retrospect, instead of postcards, I would have created a website, as each postcard is addressed to my parent’s old address in Southlake.
  32. You are invited to the opening of my time capsule.  Mark your calendars for April 9, 2022.  You can meet me in the Bruce Lobby.

My “Thankful” Journal

I sat down at the computer, armed with a steaming cup of instant coffee. In the midst of my morning routine of simultaneous web-surfing, podcast downloads, and lacing up of my running shoes, I saw evidence that Jenn had once again failed to sleep through the night. My RSS feed reader showed that her blog had been updated during the night.

Her most-recent entries contained three specific things she was thankful for that particular day. Reading each of those reminded me that I used to also maintain such lists myself, in a journal that I handmade from raw materials.

Although we had recently moved and many of my older things were still in boxes. I knew exactly where that journal was. So before I headed outside for my morning run, I dug it out of the closet and inadvertently journeyed eight years back in time.

The first entries were in 2000, inspired by my friend Ellen and her suggestion that tough times are easier to navigate when we remember what’s most important. In fact, she wrote the first entry, listing her five “thankfuls” that particular day:

May 1, 2000:

1) Brown eyes
2) D Milk
3) Horns
4) No fear of dog spit
5) My health

The next day, I started writing entires on a regular basis, each day trying to list five things that I hadn’t previously recorded. Some of my specific “thankfuls” require little explanation, and they all apply today:

“Poptarts and coffee — the breakfast of champions”

“A nice set of boobs”

“Being a Skeeball wizard”

“Knowing it’s not always my fault”

However, the context for others have faded with the passage of time. I once wrote “That Zoe has such good friends.” I have no idea who Zoe was, but I hope she’s doing alright. And I can only imagine the fun I had the night before I wrote “Not knowing where I was when I woke up!”

For a good stretch, I was dedicated enough to write five “thankfuls” per day. However, the entries began to peter out around July of that year. That was the month before I relocated to Austin — perhaps I had packed the book away in preparation for the move? If that was the case, it was eventually unpacked, as entries resumed again around October.

However, the last entry was dated October, right before I returned to Denton for my college’s homecoming:

October 4, 2000:

1) Hope that I’ll find love again
2) Pajamas
3) Big baby eyes
4) Celis White
5) Historical perspective

No more entries after that. It was during the following weekend I found out that Rebecca was engaged to marry someone else, as big of a kick to my spiritual nuts as could ever be given. I imagine that’s why I stopped writing altogether.

Yet as I reread that distant final entry, I winced at the thought that I had lost the ability to count my blessings. Obviously since then, I’ve rediscovered this resource, and nary a day goes by where I’ve not motivated by how incredibly freakin’ lucky I am. My homemade journal was so beautiful. Handbound with needle and thread, with a cover of delicate rice paper and rose petals, it would be a shame for this piece of art to continue gathering dust. That just wouldn’t do.

So I pulled out my pen and wrote the first of hopefully many new daily “thankfuls”:

May 21, 2008:

1) My home
2) My health
3) My wife

April 9, 2022

Everything was loaded in my truck Kilgore. I returned to my vacant apartment to perform one last survey and ensure that I didn’t forget anything before hitting the road to Austin, my next in a long string of hometowns. Just as I thought, nothing remained — except for my time capsule.

A petty cash box purchased from Office Depot, I had spent the past several years collecting the flotsam I intended to bury the day I finally moved out of Bruce Hall for good. Each item represented both my current time and place in the world:

  • One of my laminated ID cards from the North Texas Premiere Soccer Association, within which my team The Mama’s Boys competed
  • The operating manual to my first computer, a Intel 386SX with added math co-processor
  • Various photographs of family and friends, all of which I hoped I would remember
  • A VHS video cassette featuring a Kenmore advertising campaign, a separate contribution from my ex-girlfriend and fellow creative Margo
  • Tassles from both my high school and college graduation mortarboards
  • A small tin of Spam, my calling card
  • A black spiral-bound journal filled with sentiments from cover-to-cover

One by one, I added the items to the box, never pausing to consider their symbolism. After all, I had stared at these trinkets for over a thousand days, ever since I decided to create a time capsule on April 9, 1997, the day that the population of Bruce Hall buried a time capsule in commemoration of its 50th anniversary. With so much time cohabitating with such trinkets, they held no more intrigue. However, the last item in the list forced me to pause and ponder its contents.

In my hands was the black journal, whose insides I never once saw. For the past three years, I carried the journal everywhere I went, asking everyone I met to write whatever they wanted inside. I promised them I would not read the journal until I opened my time capsule a quarter of a century later. Contributors were not bound by my self-imposed trust, and in fact I encouraged them to read it. Sometimes, the journal would disappear for days, as my friends took the time to read it cover-to-cover. On occasion, I would hear a report that some daring things had been written inside. I know that some of the authors were girls I liked at the time, and for years I wondered if they used my journal to confess any romantic sentiments.

My mind returned to the present and the journal before me. Right before I was to hide the book for decades, I was tempted one final time to sneak a peek. Doing so would spoil the wonderful treasure I created and the joy I would feel when rediscovering it,. This chance to preserve a slice of my youth was too precious. With a grin, inside the box went the book. I gently closed the lid, turned the lock, and slipped the tiny key into my pocket, where it sits to this day mingling with my other keys.

Nearby was a stack of white vinyl stickers, each adorned with the green University of North Texas logo. Leftover as spirit giveaways from years of attending student housing conferences, I peeled the backing off each and adhered them to the outside of the time capsule, layering them like shingles on a roof. Soon enough, the entire box was uniform in outward appearance and quite well-sealed against the elements. The only feature exposed was the clear plastic window behind which I slipped the following note:

Ahoy, fellow spelunker!

This is my time capsule that was buried during the ancient 20th century. It is intended to remain closed until April 9, 2022, twenty-file years after I first began to amass its contents. Please do not remove or open this time capsule, as I plan to return that Spring day to retrieve my belongings. So if you are reading this, please put it back where you found it — and consider yourself invited to that day’s opening festivities. I look forward to meeting you then.

As ever,

Matthew

My time capsule was complete. Now came time to secret it deep within the bowels of Bruce.

Because I had already turned in the master key, the prime regalia of my recently-vacated job as hall director, I borrowed the submaster key from the key box downstairs. It would prove good enough to get me where I needed to go. Soon enough, I was on my hands and knees, crawling in dark passages, hiding my treasure in a dark, dank location known only to myself and Jim, in case I am personally unable to return 22 years from now.

I emerged from the expedition with caked dust on my shoulders and the musty smell lingering within my nostrils. It was a melancholy scent, as the fact I could smell it meant all of my work, my purpose, at Bruce Hall was now complete. It was time to leave Denton behind, and along with it the bittersweet memories of the past year spent trying to ride things out.

I returned to the key box both the submaster and my apartment key. Then I headed out the back door, hopped in Kilgore, and drove away to my new life.

The Elevator Repairman Ghost

Bruce Hall is the oldest dormitory at the University of North Texas. Opened in February 1947 as a residence hall, it has persisted in its original function longer than any other dorm, including numerous ones that were built afterwards. It stands out from many of its neighbors, with its pitched roof, elaborate stonework, and hardwood flooring. And ghosts.

The building houses a small elevator, originally intended for freight but overused and abused as a public lift. The misuse of this elevator caused it to be shut down and sealed in the early 1970s. Its closing spawned one of the hall’s alluring legends — that three students died when the cab plummeted from the top floor into the basement, and that their spirits haunt the basement to this day. Even though the ghost story wasn’t true, it did not stop people from spreading it for many decades to come.

Many years passed, and along came…well, me. And except for a two-semester gap, I spent my entire college life living at Bruce Hall. I began as a resident, soon stumbled into hall association, and was later hired as a resident assistant. Amazingly enough, I tricked them into hiring me as the assistant hall director.

Before each semester, a massive amount of prep work is needed to get Bruce Hall into operational shape. And somehow, even though we had cleaned out the storage rooms just one year earlier, they would swell with the accumulated crap of the past twelve months.

So one fall, I enlisted the help of my resident assistants Tyler, Bill, Keith, and Dustin to clean out the storeroom that used to house the elevator machinery. Much of the day was spent tossing old boxes, sweeping mounds of dust, and (as boys are inclined to do) playing grab-ass.

At one point, I was standing in the doorway when a stocky middle-aged man walked past me. I didn’t see his face, but he was wearing an mechanic’s jumpsuit. Judging by the way he was surveying the area, I could tell he was looking for something.

I offered to assist. “Excuse me, sir? Can I help you?” The man turned to face me, and I immediately notice that his jumpsuit had a patch reading “United Elevator Repair Co.”

“Yes, sir, I got a call to fix an elevator at Bruce Hall,” he said with a chipper tone.

For the briefest of seconds, I was speechless. I was fully aware of the elevator’s past, as I was the amateur historian that researched it. I say, “Sir…the elevator hasn’t been working for nearly 30 years!”

The gentleman revealed only the slightest disappointment, but he politely responded, “Oh. Well, musta’ been a mistake,” turned around, and left down the hallway leading to the back door.

Why was someone here to fix an elevator that had been out of commission for decades?, I asked myself. I followed the man in order to get more information.

The repairman reached the end of the hall and disappeared around the corner. I rounded the same corner myself, went out the back door, and…nothing. He was gone. Now, he couldn’t have gone anywhere else but out that door! Since there’s nothing behind Bruce Hall besides an ocean of parking lots, he could not have been able to disappear anywhere without some sort of evidence.

Keep in mind that no one but me would have called in a work order for Bruce Hall. I walked back inside, went to the front desk, called our maintenance department, and asked our administrative assistant Bonnie about the mystery man. She confirmed that no work order had been called in. Bonnie asked what repair company he was from; I told her, and she exclaimed, “United Elevator Repair Company? The housing department hasn’t used them for nearly 20 years!”

My Soulmate

Brooklyn Decker picking her nose. Yes, it can be a deal-breaker. Photo by Esquire.
Nearly every summer in college, I worked on a crew of conference assistants. Our job was to prepare the dorms for the presence of different summer camps, ranging from prepubescent cheerleaders to over-singing barber shop quartets. It involved a lot of cleaning, moving of supplies, and sweat in between. Mostly, it was a way to pass the summer, and not think too hard about the fact I was lonely and desperately wanted to fall in love.

One afternoon, I was part of a crew transporting some materials to West Hall, which was located at the crossroad of a three-way stop T-intersection. My coworkers Dan and Michael were driving a van, while I stood on the curb guiding them as they backed it up to the dorm’s entrance.

Suddenly, my concentration was broken by the epic sound of harkening trumpets. While trying to pinpoint their source, I came to realize they were coming from my heart.

To my left, a vision arose on the horizon. It shimmered like a mirage only to become material as it approached me. Soon, a black Jeep appeared, emblazoned with orange stripes that stood out like wings. Instead of rolling towards the intersection, it glided above the road on a cotton-like cloud that glistened with silvery brilliance.

As the vehicle came to a halt before me, the heavens parted and a shaft of the purest light shone from the sky. It beamed down like a spotlight on the Jeep, making all things around it inferior in comparison. Angels high up could be seen crying, and as their falling tears hit the ground, fresh flowers would sprout in their place.

It was then that I first saw the unearthly creature in the driver’s seat. She rode high, wearing a cute halter-top that revealed lean, sun-browned shoulders dancing underneath an ocean of strawberry-blonde hair. Sugar-sweet winds, like those that blow forth from Pan’s flute, whipped through that fiery mane, making it dance back and forth around her face. And that face — it was almost impossible to look at, it was so perfect. It was at this point that time stopped and all other people in the world disappeared, leaving just the two of us.

She turned to look at me, and the gleaming emeralds which were her eyes caught my gaze and wouldn’t let go. And with the voice of a thousand songbirds, as if she had known me her entire life and had been looking for me forever, she said, “Hi!”

I was so stunned, the most I could do was stare and murmur, “Uhhhh…”

Her stop now complete, she drove forward, away and out of my life. The heavens sealed back up, and the world resumed its normal schedule.

Dan and Michael poured out of the van, ran up to me, and couldn’t hold back their excitement. “Dude, who was she?!”

I was still reeling. “Uhh…I don’t know.”

“Dude, what did she say?!”

“Uhh…I don’t know.”

Dan couldn’t believe me. “Damnit, Matt”, he said, “that was your soulmate. And if you had said the right words, she would have stayed with you forever!”

And for the next several years, at every opportunity, Dan and Michael would not let me forget it.

It was the first day of Spring. The cloudless sky sparked with sunny warmth, and I celebrated by sitting in a horrible traffic jam during my daily commute to the office.

My drives to work occurred during the dark days before Tolltags, when there wasn’t an elite group of RFID-armed individuals that could easily zip past the huddled masses of the tagless waiting in queue to pass through tollbooths. No, at this time we were all equals. As in equally screwed, stuck in a slow, ponderous line to pay the piper.

While sitting in the traffic jam, I passed the time using my mirrors to check out my surroundings. My rearview mirror showed an endless stream of cars following me. Just behind my vehicle was a Jeep, itself tailed by a Toyota, followed by a Ford, and so forth. We were all lined up like lemmings with no other way to go but forward. My attention went back to the Jeep. Its top was down, providing a view of the beautiful woman behind the wheel.

A woman with strawberry-blonde hair.

Suddenly, a flair of recognition! The mirror became a portal back in time, and my mind drifted away from reality into memory. I saw it all as if it was yesterday, that provident event from seven years ago where I encountered my soulmate for the first and last time.

I snapped back to my senses and once again looked into the mirror. Her hair glowed in the sun. She was also passing the time, directing her gaze to the left and getting lost watching the sea of opposite traffic. But then she looked forward! I quickly took my eyes off the rearview mirror, but slyly used the side mirrors to continue my research.

Like the woman I remembered, the driver was slender and quite attractive. Her Jeep was black, adorned with the same orange stripes that were burned into my brain. Could this be my soulmate? Like Charlie Brown, was I in the presence of my little red-headed girl?

Oh fickle fates, I thought! If it was truly her, I must make up for the mistake of letter her disappear seven years ago. I resolved that no matter where she was headed, I knew I must follow, even if she were to drive a hundred miles in the opposite direction of my office.

But before I could chart such a course, I had to be sure it was truly her. I had to gaze into her eyes and feel the same connection that linked us before. I looked once again in my rearview mirror.

I saw that she was picking her nose.

I then realized then that she wasn’t my soulmate after all.

I laughed and looked forward again. And this time around, angels did me a better favor this time around as the traffic before me cleared up. I threw my truck into first gear, drove away from that wrong soulmate, and went about finding my real one.