On December 4, 2009, I received a text from an unknown number. This wasn't particularly unusual — even though I had owned my number for several years, whoever had it before me had many acquaintances who would call or text occasionally. Initially, I had ignored them. Gradually, however, I started to respond. Honestly.
(at 6:00 am) “Hey you need a ride this morning?” “No thanks, sleeping in.”
I never lied, but often omitted truths. One Sunday, I carried on an increasingly ridiculous text conversation over several hours with a girl named Erica, who originally invited “me” to lunch. Eventually I told her she had the wrong number, and she fortunately thought it was hilarious.
I had no idea who “I” was though. I had gathered “I” was a male, in his early 30s who lived in Atlanta. On this December evening, the text read:
Hi, the education folks are meeting for brunch at Ariccia's in case you're around Auburn this Sunday at 11. Hope all is well.
Interesting. Ariccia looked pretty nice. I glanced to my roommate, Tim, and we had the same thought: “Whoa. That was nice of them, inviting me to brunch.” We laughed the kind of laugh friends have when they are trying to feel the situation out.
“Uh, should we?” “We?” “Yeah, we. Should we go? I love brunch.” “Sure.”
Auburn was a five hour round trip. Neither of us thought the other was serious, so we carried on. We googled the phone number, and found a résumé of “Aron Ali”. With that, we found his website, with a picture. Tim said, “You know, we now would be able to recognize him if we went.”
I texted back “Sure! Mind if I bring a friend?” Several minutes passed, and then my phone rang. I can't answer. No voicemail.
At that point, the plan was on. It couldn't possibly end poorly, right? Either we'd crash a brunch party, or chicken out and enjoy a nice brunch. The plan was to leave early Sunday morning, get to the restaurant ahead of 11:00, and catch Aron as he walked in.
On Sunday morning, after struggling to wake Tim up early enough, we left. He drove quickly — our plan required that we got there earlier than Aron. We probably listened to 3oh!3. Eeesh, I know.
We arrived 20 minutes early and parked out front, facing the door. Every time anyone remotely looking like Aron walked by, I shrieked “it's him!” No, not him. Him?! No.
30 minutes passed, and I saw someone who may have been him. We decided to text Aron to see if the passing man would grab his phone. “Hey, sorry running a little late. You there?”
“Yep, we're inside waiting, just got seated,” was the reply.
Crap, we missed him. We walked into the building, the Hotel at Auburn University. Inside to the left was the restaurant. We walked up to the hostess, and I said “Hi, we're meeting the ‘education folks’.” “Sure, what's the reservation name?”
I paused. I had no clue what name the reservation would be under. “Aron Ali?” “How many people in your party?” “Uh, I have no clue.”
She looked at me oddly. I said, “So, it's a funny story,” and told her the short version. The text, our road trip. How much I love brunch.
She laughed, and said she could help. She knew who Aron was, and pointed him out. “Good luck.”
In my excitement, I walked to the first person who looked remotely like Aron. “Aron?” No. Ah, I could see him. Definitely him, standing in front of the omelette stand.
“Aron?” He turned around, and I stared face to face with the mysterious brunch inviter. He stared face to face with… well, not the person he meant to invite. He was dressed well and had a giant smile.
“Yes?” “Hi. I'm Andrew, this is Tim. You, uh, invited us to brunch. So we're here!”
“Excus... uh... oh no. Oh no.” The smile melted off. No. No. No. No. He gathered his thoughts, and followed with “Do you know Dave?”
“Dave? Nope. I'm Andrew.”
“Every year, I invite people who used to work with me to a brunch to catch up.”
I was invested. “Why did you invite me then? I’ve never worked for you.”
He paused, unsure how serious we were. Then we cracked, and laughed. So he did, too. “Oh wow, that's so funny. So you knew, and came anyways? You guys just happen to go to Auburn?”
“Actually no. We drove here from Macon Georgia. Two and a half hours away, about.”
“Uh, wow. But… but why?”
“ I love brunch. ”
We talked in front of the omelette stand for several more minutes, before he got us seats. Aron’s group of friends was very welcoming. Some thought our adventure was hilarious, others were unsure. His wife seemed to be most cautious, but that may have been because I kept making funny faces to their young kids.
The brunch was truly fantastic. We sat in front of a live Jazz trio, eating until we were more than full. On our way out, after enjoying the wonderful meal, the hostess came to us and asked how it went. Fantastic.
Everything had gone well so far — we actually followed through and Aron wasn't too freaked out — so I pressed my luck. “Do you have anything you could give us, so that people will believe our story?” “Let me see,” she replied.
She came back with a Hotel at Auburn key card and an Auburn rubber duck. “You can have one, or both.”
We took both.
Aron and I have mentioned our shared brunch experience to each other a few times since, but I was not invited to the following year's brunch.
Small details, including names, changed to protect innocent texters.