After all, Valentine's Day is in and of itself a minefield of planning and a holiday of deceit and deception.
Believe me, I know. She loves me; she loves me not. Get the picture?
Each year we endure this Valentine's dance of deception. "I don't want anything for Valentine's Day" is always the refrain. That has come to mean, "I'm not giving you the slightest idea what to get me for Valentine's Day, so you're on your own, buddy."
And this year I nearly fell for it.
Day in, day out the "Don't get me anything for Valentine's Day" instruction was repeated. I was being lulled into believing it, too, especially when the wife reminded me she was happy with her new kitchen and that it would be enough for a lifetime of Valentine's Days. Amen to that ... and pass the convection oven-made biscuits.
As we drew closer and closer to our Feb. 14 deadline, I was getting as nervous as a Capone gunman's trigger finger.
Then there I was Monday afternoon, having lunch at McDonald's, a stone-cold nugget's throw from CVS and its grand array of Valentine cards. I decided to hedge my bets with at least a card, something sweet, printed in red and suitable for displaying on a new refrigerator.
So up and down the card aisles I wandered.
I found Valentine's designed to come from the family dog. I found sappy ones about "being lost until I found you" or tritely proclaiming "you complete me" or some babble about being soul mates.
None of that fits Ruth and me. And I doubt it fits many of you. The people at Hallmark need to just retire or at least quit watching the movies on their own cable channel and experience real life and love for a change.
Looking for love sonnets in all the wrong places, I did a 180 in the CVS aisle and found another batch of cards.
Too serious. Too religious. Too old-fashioned. Suddenly I knew how Goldilocks must have felt faced with those Three Bears' beds.
This just isn't happening, I began to realize. Maybe I should take the easy way, cop out and make like I truly believed it was actually don't-get-me-anything-for-Valentine's-Day time this year.
But there, among the discards of Valentine cards I had picked over and passed up, was what looked like a real keeper. Tasteful. Colorful. Nice message. Easy on the wallet.
As I reached for it, I heard a familiar voice from the end of aisle.
"Pick out a good one, honey," wife Ruth instructed from her position near the Forever Lazy display on the aisle cap.
In response, I let that perfect card slide out of my fingers and drop back into its slot like it was radioactive.
"Now you really aren't getting anything for Valentine's Day," I laughed as I accompanied her to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. And no, it wasn't Love Potion No. 9.
"Don't get me anything this year," she again instructed, knowing full well I had been caught cardus-interruptus only moments before.
She reminded me we were going out for a Valentine's Day dinner that night (since the City Council had a lovely meeting on Tuesday), and that occasion was gift enough this year.
Now most men might have believed that, but I have become pretty good at reading between the lines. I made a beeline to Kroger, where I found an even better Valentine and even an interesting bottle of wine as a peace offering.
I barely got that Kroger bag in the door and hid it behind the stereo before the wife was ready to leave for dinner.
I jumped into the driver's seat and as I reached for the gearshift in the center console, I spotted a distinctively red gift bag on the floorboard.
"What's that?" I asked.
"Your valentine present," came the sardonic response.
"I thought we weren't doing that," I countered, knowing I had an ace in the hole back inside the house.
"You believed that?" she smiled with a twinkle in her eye.
Now I'm not sure how old Bugs Moran's gang really ended up in that garage on Chicago's North Clark Street in 1929, but it wouldn't surprise me if they weren't lured there looking for Valentine's Day presents.
So remember this next year: It's an ambush!