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Last year, I fretted over an appropriate anniversary gift to my wife … the kind of thing that would be thoughtful, yet wow Kim and her peeps. Turning to the almanac, I learned that the traditional first anniversary is “paper.” Not much to work with there, but I pondered the possibilities for several minutes nonetheless. A little frustrated, I finally relented and bought a wonderfully sappy card … made of paper … get it?

Unfortunately, my better half was not impressed with either my present or the considerable number of commercial breaks that I dedicated to thinking up this brilliant offering. So the pressure was on to do a lot better on anniversary number two.

For this second celebration, I was challenged to come up with a “cotton” related gift. According to the National Cotton Council, one bale of cotton is used to make 313,600 one hundred dollar bills. I think that this is about equal to the amount Oprah Winfrey spends on her “sittin’ shoes” each year. Kim loves the show. I sat back and wondered, “How hard can it be to get tickets?”

It turns out that securing said tickets is not all that easy — in part because of Ms. Winfrey’s enormous popularity and, incredibly, of all things, they’re free. Using her Web page for reference, I ascertained when audience reservations were taken and started hammering away at my phone as soon as the lines opened up. After repeated redials, amazingly, I got through!

I waited on hold until Sherry, from the “Audience Department,” took my order for two tickets. However, as I hung up, I also came to a cruel realization… I really don’t want to go to the Oprah Show.

That problem was resolved when Kim’s best friend, Krystal, stepped up to say that she’d be happy to take my place. Back on the phone with Sherry, I learned that I would not be allowed to make this change. Since my wife and I have different last names (“but mine is so unique!”), Sherry could not be certain that I didn’t use a dialing service to obtain the tickets.

I didn’t, but wish I had heard of such a thing before mashing my fingers to the bone on our phone’s keypad. So the next day, I dutifully faxed Sherry copies of our marriage certificate, wedding invitation, program from the service and a random letter addressed to both of us. I was ready to send her the seven bazillion photos we have of our ceremony when she called a few hours later to ask if I was a lawyer. But Sherry also reassured me that there was no way she could keep from making the change that I had requested. Enter Krystal, exit me.

The Oprah Show coordinator let us know that audience members must wear bright clothing. Apparently, lighter colored wear doesn’t pick up well on TV. Since 99 percent of the time the camera is pointed at the omnipresent talk show host sprawled across a couch, I wasn’t clear on why this should matter.

Naturally, though, this meant that we had to pick out new outfits. We flitted from store to store seeking brightly colored, on-sale garments that wouldn’t clash with each other’s choice. Taking a warm summer’s weekend to shop for clothes was the equivalent of spousal waterboarding.

Finally the big day arrived. Kim and Krystal were attending the 11 a.m. taping of the Oprah Show. We had learned that seating is first-come, first-served, so we planned to arrive early. The ladies were busy poofing, primping, trying to find the perfect matches between jewelry, shoes, make-up and the carefully selected outfits … not to impress me, but to look just right for the other women in the audience.

The cab dropped us all off in front of Harpo Studios at about 9:15, and we were already about 10th in line. The women who came after us were forced to walk past the queue and undergo the rigorous scrutiny of everyone already in place. If they were lucky then they were rewarded with hushed comments like, “Nice shoes.” Some poorly conceived fashionistas walked our impromptu catwalk with condemnations of “No, no, no …” following in their wake.

Six hours after dropping them off, my cell phone tingled with Kim’s call for extraction from Oprah-land. They had not been fed and were very weary, but Kim was bubbling with glee because they ended up in the audience for two shows! More importantly, Ms. Winfrey actually shook her hand, complimenting my wife on her top, “Love the green!”

Omigod!! We have since wrapped the treasured garment in plastic never to be worn again.

I’ve looked ahead and am relieved to see that things are turning my way. It turns out that the third anniversary is “leather.”

Gary Atkinson is 52, divorced and remarried. He has four children from 27 to 9, with his first grandchild on the way. He moved to Townsend in 2006, just in time to learn of the “catch and release alligator program” in his neighborhood, and has been working at Bemis in Shirley for 23 years.

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