Four the Record: How the biggest gamble I ever took turned into a jackpot |

Four the Record: How the biggest gamble I ever took turned into a jackpot

by Christy Chalmers, staff writer

This is a how-we-met story about ignoring common sense and living happily ever after.

It started in a dorm room at California State University, Chico. I lived in Esken Hall, sharing a room with another girl named Kris.

I’m still not sure how Kris and I got paired. I am shy and introverted. She was outgoing and seemed to make friends and acquaintances wherever she went.

I was studying in our room one night a few weeks into the school year when someone knocked at the door. A guy with shoulder-length hair and a scraggly mustache asked for Kris. They had previously met at the library and he had helped her with some math homework.

I told him I didn’t know when she would be back. The encounter would have ended there if I had followed the advice given during freshman orientation (and by my parents) about not letting strangers into dorm rooms while I was alone.

But he seemed nice, and I felt bad just sending him away. I could use a break anyway. I asked him if he wanted to wait for Kris.

He sat on her bed while I sat at my desk. He struck up a conversation and we found we had many things in common.

His name was John, and he was majoring in math. He lived in Oroville, a small city not far from Chico. He’d had a summer job at a fruit cannery, but his job was better than most entry-level cannery jobs because his neighbor happened to run the place.

I was from Yuba City, another small city not far from Chico. I had just come off a summer job at a tomato cannery. Like John, I had been rescued from the drudge of sorting fruit by a neighbor who happened to run the place.

He asked about a bumper sticker on my bulletin board advertising a radio station called KZAP, based in Sacramento. We agreed KZAP was the best. Too bad the signal couldn’t reach Chico.

We talked for 45 minutes, but Kris didn’t come home. John left, and I went back to my Human Communication Studies homework.

He dropped by once or twice the next week, looking for Kris. He seemed really interested in helping Kris with her homework, but so did a lot of others. I thought he would figure this out soon and stop coming to see her.

He did. Then he started coming to see me.

He invited me to a local fair, and to eat dinner and meet his roommate. We went to movies and when the residence hall students held their annual ball, I asked him to go.

People started asking if we were boyfriend and girlfriend. I insisted we were just friends. My mother smirked when I told her that.

After about a month of this friendly socializing, I finally realized what everyone else had figured out some time ago: We were a steady couple.

That was 10 years ago, give or take a few weeks. We stayed steady through college and made it legal in June 1995 with the help of another of his neighbors – this one a superior court judge.

A lot has changed. KZAP was replaced by a country station and those cannery jobs we once coveted are long gone. John is a clean-cut, clean-shaved junior executive whose job has very little to do with mathematics.

I sometimes think back to that night in 1990 when we met. By the rules, it never would have happened. He didn’t live in my building, and really shouldn’t have been able to get in. I shouldn’t have let a stranger into my room. A lot could have gone wrong.

Somehow, everything went right.