Birthday Cheers. Skål!

…And upon the third decade of life, such an elaborate scheme was laid upon the woolen eyes of their victim.

Never before have I been so bewildered and pleased in the same breath. Here’s the skinny on one of the greatest sting operations of all times.

Jeff calls me early in the month of February to schedule me for a stilt-walking gig on the Saturday after my birthday. He asks me if I’m doing anything then and I tell him that it’s the day after my birthday, so not that I know of. Jeff is sketchy on the details as usual, but it’s nothing unusual. Amy even feigns irritation at Jeff’s inability to offer up all the details of an engagement. When my birthday finally rolls around, nothing much happens. I mean nothing. I turn 30 and there’s no recognition, no hazing, no free coffee at Starbucks. “Oh well,” I think – not a big deal. I planned to leave early Friday because it was my birthday. I got out at 3:30pm – big whoop! Traffic was painful, but I get home in time to have daylight that I need to work on my brakes for the Mazda3. It doesn’t go well and I’m stuck in the end with a caliper that I can’t fit back on the rotor. But that’s another story. We meet Jeff and Amanda for dinner, ice cream, and a Darth Vader costume fitting (in that order), but I tell them I need to get back home to work more on the brakes. If I don’t get the brakes done, I won’t have a way to get to the stilt-walking gig Saturday evening. Saturday morning breaks early and I’m off to AutoZone to equip. The boy insists on “helping,” which any parent of a 4-year-old understands the purpose of air quotes around that, so it takes a bit longer than it should. I prepare all my stilt-walking gear and costume and head out to drop Balthazar off at the in-laws for baby-sitting. Pick up some coffee, grab a bite to eat, and drive like the wind to make it to StarTime for a supposed corporate event in which I will be entertaining drunken employees. I call Jeff as I arrive in the parking lot to coordinate logistics. He tells me he doesn’t know where we’re going to be setting up and that he’s looking for the client to get information – wait outside and I’ll come to you. I’m game, because that means he’ll help me load gear into the building. While I wait, I notice a red Toyota Prius near my car that looks just like Isi and Missy’s car. I didn’t check the license plate, which proudly reads “LORAX,” but I don’t really assume it’s their car. I even have half-a-mind to call them to see if they happen to be at StarTime where I’m doing a stilt gig. When Jeff finds me, he tells me that we’re an hour early instead of 30 minutes early so decide to just go in and check the place out – maybe play some games while we wait. As we enter the building, I start eying the ceilings and flooring to gauge the relative ease of transitions and where I can and cannot walk with stilts. We get to the Funny Farm, where everything is going down, and I see a girl taking pictures through the door that looks like my wife…and she’s a photographer…how ironic is that? Even as my mind slowly realizes that it is my wife, I continue to structure my perverse reality and include her in it. Hmmm…that’s weird. Jeff must’ve hired Amy to come out and take photos at the party. Even as thirty people scream “SURPRISE! HAPPY BIRTHDAY” from across the room, my mind is still sizing up the room and my obstacles for the night. It’s not until I see Missy’s hot pink hair that I finally realize I’ve been duped. The cogs in my brain slam against each other and break a few teeth before finally reversing. I can’t believe how oblivious I was for weeks! I can’t believe how well my friends kept their major secret. Turns out, I almost broke Amanda at the Dairy Queen on my birthday. I told them it was my birthday at the DQ and they had to act like they didn’t remember. Amanda didn’t want to be the asshole friend and it nearly stripped her of her secrecy.

So kudos to everyone in on this – especially my esteemed wife! Thank you one and all for my birthday surprise…and thank you for not making it a Batman costume gig in favor of stilt-walking. I couldn’t have hoped for more than a room full of friends and laughs for my 30th birthday.

And now I will seek out the people of the world that share a wonderful day with me to wish them well on whatever year they have successfully reached…