Mr. Right's Rush for a Golden Opportunity

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Last week, while reporting a story about high gold prices, Washington Post staff writer Ylan Q. Mui asked District resident Noah Cuttler what effect the rising costs would have on his plans to surprise his girlfriend, Garen Singer, with an engagement ring. That put him in a quandary: Should he reveal his intentions in the article? The interview sent Cuttler, urged by two friends, on a romantic adventure. Here is Cuttler's account of what happened when the demands of journalism collided with a volatile commodities market.

On Thursday, Jen Zuccarelli, my ex-roommate and hard-nosed press person for the Department of Treasury, e-mailed me. "Wash Post wants to talk to you about something. DO NOT FWD this e-mail to Garen."

I've known Jen for three years, mostly in the context of someone who loves "The Wire," a healthy dose of trash television like "The Girls Next Door" and, of course, pillaging our other roommate's mint chocolate chip ice cream. I snapped to attention.

"They want to interview you about your choice in metals for the ring. But you'd be speaking strictly on background so you aren't unmasked," she instructed in firm press speak. I was happy to do that, but in a follow-up e-mail Jen copied my other ex-roommate, Jaci Barrett, bound for Harvard Business School. Jaci, late to the conversation, added, "This is great. Is this how he's going to purpose?"

"That's so cute," Jen replied. "Noah, are you willing to speak on the record?" This would essentially mean proposing in the article, as Garen read about my plans for a ring.

"Do you think it will work?" I asked.

Team Engagement, Jen and Jaci's newly-minted-impromptu consulting agency, batted the idea around and decided this was much cooler than proposing on my birthday, which was the original plan.

An hour later, Ylan called. "I love it!" she exclaimed after I told her that Team Engagement had decided Garen would read of my proposal in her article. "We'll want to run it Saturday," she said.

Saturday! I didn't even have the ring yet. I bought it, but my diamond guy warned me not to take it home unless I was ready to propose or else I'd succumb to temptation and preempt any plans. Now I now needed it ASAP, and my diamond guy was leaving for vacation.

As I began leaving him frantic messages, Ylan e-mailed. "Red Alert! My editors want to run the story tomorrow. And our photo people want to get a picture of you picking up the diamond. Can you get the ring in time?"

I leveled with Ylan: "I'm not going to get the ring in time, but run the story anyway. This is too good to pass up!" Then I dashed off to Whole Foods for pancake mix, blueberries, flowers and champagne. When I returned, I called Garen's dad and stammered through several disjointed sentences before he stopped me to welcome me to his family.

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