The Greatest Story Ever Told
Dani and I were in the living room having just finished supper and watching tv.  "Let's go exploring," I said.

Dani looked at me like I was a little crazy, but a kind of crazy she was used to after nearly four years together.  Our anniversary was in about a week, and most of our relationship had been punctuated with adventures exploring the sometimes extensive drainage systems beneath any city where we found ourselves, including our own Fort Worth, of course.

"Oh, come on," she said.  "Why?"

I said, "I want to show you something really cool.  Get changed."  Dani was still in her work clothes.  While she somewhat reluctantly went to the bedroom to put on a pair of jeans, I ran out to the shed and grabbed my hip waders.

"Why are you wearing those," Dani asked.  Normally I wore regular knee-high boots for exploring tunnels.  The water in almost every drainage system is rarely more than a couple inches deep, usually even shallower than that.  Their job, after all, is to drain water, not to store it.

"I just like these," I said.  She didn't really care so long as I didn't track mud in the house.

We hopped in the car.  Dani's boots were already in it from exploring another tunnel about a week earlier.  I also had a ladder in the back of the car, extending from the trunk through the back seat.  I explained that we could use that to get down into the tunnel.  She knew which one we were heading to.  We entered it at the mouth where it empties into the river.  Usually we tie a rope at the top of the incline and use that to walk down the sides.  It isn't as easy as it sounds, so a ladder seemed like a better approach for a change.

We drove over to the tunnel; it was only a couple miles from our house.  Dani asked me why we were going back to this one again.  We had been through it several times over the years since I'd first discovered it, including several side tunnels.  I explained that I had read something online about something new down there.  I was kind of vague about it.  I like to give Dani surprises, so she knew from experience not to ask too much; there was usually a payoff.

On the way I made a wrong turn because I couldn't go up a one-way street.  I had to loop around to get to the tunnel.  Once there, we unloaded the ladder and brought a couple flashlights.  I had to sit on the edge of the top of the tunnel and lower the ladder down with my foot.  Dani wasn't sure it would reach the floor of the tunnel from the precipice.  I told her I wasn't either, but it did once I extended my leg far enough to get the ladder situated at the bottom.

We went down into the mouth of the tunnel and made our way upstream.  The tunnel is maybe seven or eight feet high, but about two or three hundred paces ahead it opens out to a big room with a twelve foot high ceiling and is more than twenty feet across.  In the corner opposite where we entered, there is a series of hand rungs cemented into the wall that lead up a shaft another six feet or so to a manhole at the surface.  Oddly enough, hanging from one of the rungs about chest-level was a little boom box.  Dani held back fearfully.  After all, what if this was a trap or if someone was still in the tunnel?  She glanced around the room for signs of footprints.  "Maybe you shouldn't mess with that," she said.  She expected it to contain recordings of satanic rituals.

I hit "Play" anyway.  Out of the speakers came the arpeggiated opening chord to Only You from the short-lived '80s group Yaz.  The song was immediately recognizable to Dani; it has become "our song" over the years.  Although I first heard it back in high school, the song didn't gain any significance for me or Dani until it was featured on the last episode of the BBC version of The Office.  Not to give too much away, but it represents the culmination of something important on the show (Now go rent it so you'll have something to thank me for besides this story).

Dani gasped audibly upon hearing it.  I was standing about twelve feet from her, but the room had such reverb that the sound carried.  "The song," she said.

I said, "I want to show you something..."  I tugged on a long string dangling from high up the wall.  Out of the shaft above came a huge banner that read,

Will you marry me?
I went over and kissed her and told her I loved her.  Then I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me.  I pulled her ring out of my pocket.  Though we had designed it together on paper and the computer over the past year, she hadn't seen the real thing before and probably barely could at the moment, seeing as how she was tearing up.  She sobbed a "Yes" to me, and I slipped it on her finger.

As some of you know, Dani doesn't always have the best memory.  I asked her, "Will you remember this?"  She said she would.  As always, I had brought along the camera on this expedition, so we took lots of pictures this time as well, just to make certain.

In reality, so much of the night (leading up to the proposal, of course!) was a ruse.  I had invented the story of reading about something new in the tunnel.  After three trips driving to the tunnel from my house over the previous two days getting things set up, I certainly knew how to get there, so there were no wrong turns I couldn't make without intentionally throwing in that one.  And of course I knew how far I had to lower the ladder.  I had done that a couple times as well.

Additionally, there were lots of little tricks thrown in that Dani didn't pick up on until after the fact.  For example, if you're going to get down on one knee and propose to the love of your life, you probably don't want to be distracted by the water creeping up your pants leg.  I wanted to be totally prepared, so I even swapped my keys to the other pocket so I could pull the ring out without fumbling around.

But why in a tunnel?  Yeah, it doesn't seem terribly romantic on the surface (no pun intended), but this spot had a number of traits that were lacking in so many other scenarios I considered.  Specifically, I wanted to propose someplace personal that had some history for us and represented a major aspect of our relationship.  The "adventuring" has been a constant thread (as this website attests).  For another thing, I wanted a space that was quiet and provided solitude.  After all, proposals in restaurants always seem to go well in the movies (except comedies), but that's never the reality.  I didn't want to be interrupted by the waiter.  I didn't want people gawking.  I didn't want this moment to be a business lunch over which to discuss a merger with a potential partner.  Obviously some people have a different idea, but to me, a proposal is something private between two people... that I just happen to be publicly blabbing about now after the fact.

Sure, no one but Dani and I get this.  I'm sure the explorers are like, "Huh?  Why'd you get engaged?" while the non-explorer chicks are all like, "Huh?  Why'd you get engaged in a tunnel underground?"  [sigh]

The answer to both is the same: I got engaged to the person who said she wouldn't have wanted to be proposed to any other way.

Okay, who wants to see pictures?  Go to the next page.

Alexplored 12/14/06.
Continue to the Pictures!