I had just left Costco with my haul of economy-size groceries (you can never have too much hummus) and decided to avoid the "Christmas-is-only-six-weeks-away" traffic on the interstate. As I waited to turn left on the state road toward home I glanced up into my rearview mirror and spotted them. The Hallmark couple.
She was behind me and he was in the adjacent left-turn lane. Her open door caught my attention first, but then I realized she had dashed from her minivan to kiss the driver of the SUV beside her. Just a quick smooch, then she jumped back into her car, giggling.
I make up stories about folks I see on the road all the time. If I see a grumpy guy hunched over the wheel I guess that he's had a fight with his wife about going to her family reunion again when he'd rather go to the Outer Banks. If a minivan with a luggage carrier on top and bicycles on the back passes by I wonder how the family inside is faring on their big road trip: "I'm always in the wrong lane!" "She's looking at me!" "He's touching me!" "I asked you if you needed to go five minutes ago!" But I've never had a story drop into my lap.
Once the light changed we all turned left: Hallmark Guy, Hallmark Girl, and I. My observation of the couple must have affected my pressure on the gas pedal, because the minivan and the SUV moved ahead of me in short order. I strained to see if either vehicle turned right or left but both traveled along together until they were out of sight.
What was that kiss about? Both drivers were alone in their cars, so no passenger dares were involved. I assume they knew each other, but what if they didn't? Was I witnessing a Hallmark Channel movie come to life? Two strangers meet at a sample table inside Costco's frozen food aisle and fall in love by the time they reach the checkout.
I do love Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. I don't care that they start airing even as the jack-o-lanterns grin. I can't resist the sweetness of the stories and the guaranteed happy endings. And I love the romance.
Mr. Pettit, bless his heart, indulges me by enduring countless variations of "Boy meets girl at Christmastime, love begins to bloom, misunderstanding ensues, Santa arrives and true love wins." Since I wind up watching each movie multiple times he's developed a shorthand summary for each: "Is this the one where the woman bakes cookies?" "Oh, this is the one with Henry Winkler."
The one with Henry Winkler (also known as "the Fonz"---we'll wait if you need to check Google) is my favorite: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. It contains the two pivotal elements required for a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie: Attractive actors and a completely unbelievable storyline.
Here you go: Cute Guy helps out Beautiful Woman's uncle (Henry Winkler) when he flies out to visit her. Uncle persuades BW to let CG crash at her house when CG's flight is cancelled due to weather. BW falls for CG as he teaches her how to cook, hangs lights on her house and fights an ill-tempered toy store owner over BW's Christmas gift for her son. BW is torn between CG and her fiancé, Big Money Dude, until she sees BMD's true colors and goes racing after CG as he prepares to fly out of her life. She catches him, of course.
What's not to like?
I'm a news junkie. I read our local paper and The Washington Post daily, watch cable news and visit news websites. I think it's an important to stay informed about local, state, national and international events.
But news, with few exceptions, is bad. And even when dictators are taking a break, terrorists are lying low and the economy isn't sputtering the challenges facing my friends and family weigh heavy on my mind.
So sometimes (okay, maybe a little more often than that) I go down the rabbit hole into Happy Christmas Fantasy Land. I settle in and watch Santa playing matchmaker, angels playing matchmaker, the Fonz playing matchmaker and even cats (yes, cats) playing matchmaker. As the final credits roll I float back up into reality and resume my Serious Work.
And the kissing couple at the traffic light? I haven't come up with their story yet, but I think the Hallmark Channel has a pitch coming its way.