Last Friday I went to Taco del Mar for lunch. It’s quite a walk from my office and it was OK outside so I didn’t mind. However, it was a bit cold, and the Taco del Mar I go to is tiny so I got it to go and brought it back to my building.

On my way back, I also stopped at the bank, which took me out of my way a little, also. I found myself approaching the building I work in by an unfamiliar angle.

I got to the corner of SW 2nd and Oak, where there’s a parking lot, and rounded it. I spotted a short cute red-headed girl in a black biker’s jacket and a short plaid skirt, messenger bag slung behind her, well-used bicycle propped against a street lamp, standing in front of a trailer. At second glance the trailer was serving food – Thai food, it looked like from the sign, which read “Thai Basil”. A little old Asian lady was leaning out the trailers’ tiny window, but she quickly disappeared back inside.

I still had my Taco del Mar bag and drink in hand. I started to walk past, but something nagged at me. “Say something!” the inner voice said, and, in the exception to the rule, I listened and obeyed the inner voice.

I turned back around, and smiled and asked the girl standing on the sidewalk, “Is this place any good?”

She smiled, “Oh, it’s awesome! And so cheap. You get” she pointed at the menu “noodles, a spring roll, and a bottled water, all for five bucks!

I was impressed. “Wow,” I said, “That’s a great deal!”

“I eat here all the time,” she said.

I lifted my TDM bag, shrugged, and said, “I’ll have to try it sometime.” I pointed down the street. “My office is just down there. I’m pretty close.”

She nodded and… waited…

“OK, thanks!” I said, and turned and walked away, back to my building.

Two blocks away, I was kicking myself. Hey, at least I said something but, damn, she was cute. I could have… um… I don’t know. So close, so far away.

Once I’d finished my lunch, at my desk, I realized that what I had just experienced was a “Missing Connection”. I love reading those ads that people put in the back of the Willy Week or The Mercury where they announce publically that they had an instant connection to someone… and blew it. So many stories behind all those ads… and now, I had had one of my own.

I didn’t want to wait for the ad to show up in one of the weekly rags, though. But craigslist offers instant gratification.

So, I posted the following in the Missing Connections section of Portland’s craigslist:

Beautiful Redheaded Bike Messenger Girl
Reply to: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX@craigslist.org
Date: 2006-02-24, 3:09PM PST

To the Beautiful Redheaded Bike Messenger Girl:

I was observant enough to notice you – maybe it was the red hair, maybe it was the bright red plaid skirt. I was brave enough to circle back and at least ask you something, if only to confirm that you are, indeed, attractive. Even though I had my lunch already in hand, the only thing I could think of was to ask you about the Thai trailer you were waiting at.

Even though I didn’t get your name or spend a little more time talking, I still walked away with something: a recommendation for awesome, cheap pad Thai, and a smile. Since I work in the area I’ll be sure to give it a try.

…probably every single day until I see you again. Just sayin’.

If you’d like, email me back and we can share other good cheap food recommendations. Or just conversation.

Signed,

Almost-bald guy in brown leather coat, taking Taco del Mar lunch back to office.

* this is in or around SW 2nd and Oak

The ad has since been pulled so don’t bother looking for it and replying.

I didn’t expect an answer. And yet, I did. Or at least, I compulsively checked my email – friends who are reading this will understand that that means I checked my email even more often than usual – for a reply. The weekend came and went, and no reply.

Monday and Tuesday I ended up having other lunch plans, so I didn’t make it back to the Thai trailer. But, today, my plans were fairly open. My friend Tracy was also working downtown, but she was pretty easily convinced to try this new place out. She was already aware of my story from Friday, and had seen the ad I’d placed.

Tracy met me at my office and we walked to the spot. I pointed out a spot where there were usually tons of bikes parked, and mentioned to Tracy that I wasn’t sure if it was because lots of people in the building used bikes, or if it was an office for bike messengers. I wondered if the girl I had seen was actually a bike messenger, and if so, perhaps she worked here. If not, maybe she works in the area. Tracy could tell that I was eager to see this girl again and get a second chance.

And, in mid-sentence, I stopped. Stepping off the sidewalk and walking away from us, at right angles to our path (we were going east, she was going south)… was the girl.

“..and that’s her,” I said to Tracy.

She had her bike, and her Timbuktu messenger bag, but had on a different skirt and no hat… but it was her. She did not appear to notice us – but we were a half-block away.

“Damn,” I said, “that’s totally her. She does work in the area. Maybe she is a bike messenger!”

Tracy just watched her walk away, and looked at me expectantly. I didn’t move. I couldn’t.

“If that wasn’t a perfect opportunity,” Tracy said, “I don’t know what is.”

Tracy was right. I’ll probably never see the BRHBMG again.

Turns out the pad Thai was pretty good. Kinda sweet and not too spicy (but I’d asked for medium just in case) and it’s just as cheap and filling as the girl had suggested.

I’ll probably get sick of Thai food for the next week, or so, though.