The Softer Side of Sears: How I Met My Wife

How I Met Your Mother Barney with a hot/crazy bar graph
Stay away from the red zone.  
Some couples have these amazing stories about how they met each other.  Some even have multiple seasons aired on TV like How I Met Your Mother to deconstruct the complexity surrounding their togetherness narrative.  I, on the other hand, met my wife while working at Sears, and it was the best deal I ever finagled there.

Jill, however, was no clearance special. She merely worked at Sears two different summers while she returned home to Eugene during her college summer breaks.  Likewise, I was on school break, only my break was pushing two years. The rigor of community college made long hiatuses necessary.  READ: I kept running out of money, and was slightly directionless at age 21. I was eight credits short of an Associate of Arts degree, and not looking forward to the horrible schedule and hours that those last few classes needed. She had just finished her junior year and was double majoring. This personifies our personalities.

We both had recently come out of long term relationships.  Mine so traumatic and intense that it is the central theme of my novel. Hers was opposite; sweet, and "perfect" that it didn't seem real to her. Neither of us were looking for a serious relationship.

Gay cruise boat with shirtless guys
Okay, this wasn't what I meant by a girl-free paradise.  
In fact, I had vowed off relationships of ANY kind for a year. I was eight months into a girl-free paradise. I wanted no drama, no dates, no romance, no anything. I wanted to be a completely free man: the only chick that was getting any of my hard earned money was the cashier at Paintball Palace or the forty-six different pizza establishment waitresses around town.

But my friends were in relationships. And they couldn't let me be a single man while they were told that they couldn't wear socks and sandals together. So Aaron, my well dressed sporting goods compadre, took on the impossible task of making my untucked-shirt self  fashionable--he knew the only way was via a woman.

Aaron was dating a girl named Tami in the children's department. Everyone knew they would get married by the weird muted arguing they did in the Sears break room. Sometimes I overheard their conspiring to destroy my bachelor status, by finding "catches" around the store, and they would awkwardly dump me into social aquariums where I was forced to politely unhook these fishy women.  It wasn't hard for the ladies to pass me up either. I was a social piranha, and about as good looking as one too. My previous relationship had soured me so badly that I purposely acted like I had salmonella.  

How I ever caught the eye of my now wife, is beyond me. I think she momentarily set her bar low and I found a way to limbo under her standards. I made her laugh, I guess, and that counts as something, not that I was trying.

Somehow we both found out that we were interested in each other (probably via Tami/Aaron). Jill was physically different than most girls in the early 2000s. She had beautiful curly hair that went past her waist which was so Paul Mitchellesque, that old ladies were constantly asking if they "could run {their} fingers through it?" She also had blue eyes that glowed. They sparkled with vitality that could pull even the deadest soul from his emotionless coma.  I desperately wanted to swim in those eyes and splash the life on my wilted skin.  As much as I needed a girl like Jill, I was still holding myself hostage to the failures of my previous relationship.

Ross dress for Less aisle with pillows and merchandise all over the ground floor
Ross:  Where even the floors
are usable selling space.  
So the one night I was supposed to nerve up and ask her out to a movie, I chickened out. My department was always ready to close an hour before closing, as we had very little duties, whereas, the children's department was always disheveled by desperate mothers mistaking our store for Ross. Clothes tossed on the wrong rack, unfolded, stored away in the corners of the dressing rooms, etc. The inequity of work meant that the children's department could always use an "extra hand."  An extra hand I had not once offered in the two previous years because I was smart enough to not work in that crummy department.

However, Jill and Tami did. Tami called Aaron and I, and said that if we didn't go help them, that we would all be stuck 30 minutes past closing. The subtext was that I would have to make my move.

But it wasn't natural that night. Three other guys were conveniently helping out, two of which were also interested in Jill, and I wasn't looking to get "racked" by another prospective buck.

So after a few minutes of unmotivated, untalented clothes folding, I walked back to my department.  Very little, if any, flirting happened.

We got the overhead call to close the store, and I swiftly exited Sears.  Alive to fight another day.  

Halfway to my car I heard a voice yell out, "Hey!  Stop being such an introvert!"  I turned and saw Jill almost chasing after me.

She was right...I'm one of the few people I know who drifts in and out of introversion/extroversion at will. I chose to not ask her out, and she called me out for it.

"Oh, hey. Yeah, I guess we were supposed to go do something, right?"

"Well, when you make it sound like that, how could I say no?" she shot back with a wry smile.

I'd never had a girl put me in my place with wits before. She obviously could challenge me. It was one of my rules to never date a girl A. smarter, B. stronger, or C. funnier than me. She at times, is all three, but I didn't know it than. Just another reason having "rules" for prospective dates is silly.

So we walked over to the movie theatre in the same mall and decided on What Lies Beneath. We both liked Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer. The movie turned out to be incredibly intense. It was awkward sitting next to a girl I'd only talked to for a total of five minutes, and almost screaming like a girl at the Hitchcockian suspense on screen. Then, adding to my pure awesomeness, my stomach started growling. I hadn't eaten in eight hours.

1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass Wine Red vinyl bucket seats
Mmmm.  1970s Vinyl seats.  
I did something I'd never done before, and never since. I bought candy from the concession stand which went against my 1/32 cheap Jewish blood. I forgot to ask her if she wanted anything. I bought Redvines licorice that must have sat on the shelf for over a year, as it was the same consistency as the vinyl seat of a 1976 Oldsmobile Cutlass. Each piece took a full twenty seconds of tugging to break away in my mouth. My jaw was actually sore after eating five pieces. But I was going to like this damn four dollar snack, whether I wanted to or not.

"This is the worst licorice I've ever had..." then, realizing that she was eating nothing and I had hardly been chivalric, said, "oh, would you like a piece?"

"A piece of the worst licorice ever?" She asked. "Thanks, but I'll pass."

She was good. Too good.

Eventually I gave up on my snack, and we just watched the rest of the movie in a strangely unified, horrified, awe. We still watch the movie once every few years. It's less awkward now.

We followed the movie up by going to Shari's Diner. I ordered the appetizer platter which I believe is a 4000 calorie fried wonderland and she got something less substantial.

Chris and Jill Plumb in the early 2000s
Back in the day.  I miss that hat.  
I listened to her nervously talk. She talked about anything and everything. I liked what she had to say. I didn't say much. In fact, we stayed there until two a.m. and she talked for at least three hours straight. I probably said 165 total words to her 6,700. She probably thought I was dull; but she didn't leave very many openings. So I nodded my head and smiled a lot. Girls like guys who can listen. (She'd probably argue that I don't do nearly as well now...but I'm writing this, so...).

No kiss, not even a hug.  Just a, "I had a nice time," and we went our separate ways.

I made her wait three days before I called her again. I hadn't read books about how to "play" a girl, no, I just had to build up the guts to call her up. Plus I suck on the phone.

Jill and Chris Plumb in the early 2000s before wedding
Months before our wedding.  
And the rest, they say, is history.  We don't sweat the little stuff.  We have two things that are important in our marriage.  God and family.  Everything else is trivial.  We can fight, we can have different opinions, we could vote differently, and it doesn't mean a thing.  But putting those two priorities in place has made our partnership, our teaming, our union, our love, successful.  (I should've wrote this for Valentine's Day...oh well).
Chris and Jill Plumb's wedding in July 2003.
Chris & Jill: July 12, 2003--a day that will live in infamy, er, amity.  


  1. I love it Chris! Can't beat a good "how me met" story. Great way to start my day.

  2. Ha! The "girl free paradise" photo cracked me up! I almost got in trouble at work...;)
    But the "I desperately wanted to swim in those eyes and splash the life on my wilted skin"?
    Beautiful. My inner romantic is swooning. You guys are cute. :)

    1. No laughing at work, ever! My wife actually walked into the room while I was image surfing for the right gay cruise photo and looked at me funny. It's research Jill, and for my blog! I still think she thought it was odd.

  3. Awwww, such a cute story!! Just from this story, I love Jill! Her quick wittiness and going after what she wants; you have a great woman, there! Also, I was busting up at the licorice part! Been there before.

  4. Love how you wrote this wonderful story, and the fact that is true makes it even more wonderful!