A Speedy Decision

Something guided my dad’s split-second choice, writes assistant editor Daniel Kessel

Posted in , Feb 9, 2015

Blogger Dan Kessel's parents in 1982.

Today’s guest blogger is assistant editor Daniel Kessel.

In the popular psychology book Blink, author Malcolm Gladwell argues that we should trust our gut when making decisions, big and small.

In the blink of an eye, he says, our instincts automatically size up any given situation and tell us how to behave. “Thin-slicing,” Gladwell calls this almost instantaneous process. Or as we call it at Mysterious Ways, listening to your inner voice

When I first read Blink, I couldn’t help but remember a story my father, Mark, shared with me when I was growing up. Just a moment, really, but one of the most important events in our family’s history—and to think it happened in the blink of an eye.

August 1980. My dad was just a gawky 16-year-old watching the custom cars tear across the dirt track at the Flemington Speedway, the place be on a Saturday night in central New Jersey. Built in 1915, the speedway was known statewide for its 5/8 mile track and high-speed modified-car races.

Dad sat with his brothers Matt and Luke on the bleachers around the track’s third corner. Or, as my dad likes to say, “where the cool kids sat.”

Matt and Luke had long hair, were in their own band and wore the ripped jeans, flannels and band tees of the day–clothes we now call vintage. Dad had that look too, but he went for the thrill of the races–a born car enthusiast.

That night, a cool breeze passed through the bleachers. Dad concentrated on the cars. Behind the roaring engines, though, he heard a girl’s voice.

“Brrr,” she said. “It’s chilly.” Dad glanced at her. She stared back. Tall, with striking brown eyes and a pleasant smile. The T-shirt she was wearing wasn’t warm enough for the weather. He’d never seen her before and didn’t know her name, but instinctively, Dad took off his blue-and-white flannel and went to offer it.

Before he handed it over, though, another girl in the bleachers spoke up. “I’m cold too,” she said.

Dad looked. He’d met the second girl before. She knew his brothers, and they were on friendly terms. Now both girls looked at Dad, and he had a choice to make. Who was going to get the flannel? A girl he knew, or one he’d never met?

“I listened to my gut,” Dad told me. An inner voice. Faster than a speeding race car, Dad made his decision: He handed the blue-and-white flannel to the brown-eyed girl.

That moment transpired almost 35 years ago, and the brown-eyed girl? That was Jen, my mother. It turns out that my dad had caught her eye months earlier, and she’d waited all summer for a chance to talk to him.

She was afraid he was “too cool” and would never notice her. Not the case. My mom and dad quickly became high school sweethearts and have been together ever since.

As for the blue-and-white flannel, Mom has held onto it all these years and keeps it in a safe place, never forgetting that moment at the races that warmed her heart.

Do you have an unbelievable story about how your parents met? Or a tale about their courting days you were surprised to learnShare it with us

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