FTD Fail, Candy Hearts and Other Valentine Stories

Got a timely Valentine’s Day e-mail today. It was from the FTD.com floral spot that I had done some business with the other day.

“Despite our best efforts, due to exceptionally high seasonal demand, we regret we were unable to fill your order as requested,” it said.

No “Be My Valentine,” no nothing.

The site had been doing a disservice to Mercury, its branded Roman figure, by messing up just about every order I’ve made in recent months. When I ordered a pointsietta for my mother in law in Florida in December and didn’t hear from her, it turned out that the ┬álocal florist just never filled the request. They finally got one over there — five days late. Luckily that wasn’t tied to a specific date; the Valentine’s Day failure was more serious. They said they could deliver it two days from now — and they could give me a $20 coupon for my trouble. Unfortunately, the birthday of Kim Jong-Il and Lupe Fiasco is not as celebrated as the one for St. Valentine, so I was happy to cancel the order entirely and adjust all future shopping plans with FTD.com.

It also meant I went to the store to fight the crowds for Valentine’s shopping. I already knew things were brutal from the report I heard last night: Shelves were empty at Target, whatever was left was scattered on the ground. I wasn’t that impressed with their offering when it was better stocked — too much Star Wars themed stuff and dolls; not enough variety on kids’ cards or smaller candy.

Things were much worse at CVS today, though there were some small boxes of candy and Spanish language cards still there. What was left of their flowers were horrible, though — broken, wilting, sad. I thought maybe I’d see the guy near the Metro stop who sells flowers 365 days a year, but he had some severely restricted offerings too — dividing his roses into individually wrapped stems; turning to candy and bears and other pink and red holiday fare. I went to that old standby the grocery store to find some roses that didn’t look dead, thanks to its refrigerator. They were ready for crowds, and while a lot of red carnations and single roses were taken to the registers, there seemed far more of those oversized Mylar heart shaped balloons that say “I Love You” or whatever.

Have you ever gotten a Mylar balloon? The things stick around forever. Not like helium balloons that give up the ghost after one day and start skittering to the ground. They stay aloft for days, weeks, longer maybe than some of these relationships that are being commemorated with them. Valentine’s gifts can be cloying and fearsome. I think of one girl in middle school who I put my arm around on the bus on the way back from a church retreat, a move that announced to the world and ourselves our new relationship. But when she gave me a little statue of a mouse holding a heart that said I Love You the next day (and it wasn’t even Valentine’s Day), I panicked. I gave back the mouse and ended the thing. It was probably the wrong move, but I saw a life of bad taste bunnies and mouses and hearts and Mylar balloons hadn’t even been invented yet.

I like cornier things, things given ironically maybe. Like candy hearts. I buy a box every year and read them like tea leaves for how they subtly reflect our world. Oh BE MINE is still in there, but there is also the more contemporary TEXT ME and FRIEND ME that wouldn’t have made sense a decade ago. A few incorporated numbers: TIME 2 DANCE, 1 ON 1, and JUMP 4 ME. I liked the two hearts that said GO GO GO. Just one sounded like a Prince song, U MOVE ME. But another sounded like a Blondie song, CALL ME. Many hearts implored the taker to do something to the giver: HUG ME, RACE ME, WIN ME. Other orders included STEP UP, HOLD HANDS. Just one seemed spoken to a third party, LOVE HER. But I liked the simplicity of ANGEL, ME & YOU and TRUE LOVE, another message that has spanned the decades.

As for the candy itself, it certainly doesn’t taste any better.

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