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Tardy Romeos try to make up to their valentines


C On the day after Valentine's Day, it's the thought that doesn't count.

No matter what you buy, the fact is, the gift is a day late. And if you give the wrong gift even if it's on the right day, you're still in trouble.

Greg Rogers, a 42-year-old sales manager from Kent Island, had this idea. Call it impulsive, romantic -- and ultimately useless. On Valentine's Day night, he suggested to his wife that they fly to Florida for a long weekend. Forget the flowers and candy. Think sunshine, honey.

After three marriages, one would think Mr. Rogers is an expert on Valentine's Day. He is not.

He says his wife told him the Florida idea was one of his typically irresponsible ideas. Doesn't he know what bills they have?

"I should have had a manual," says Mr. Rogers, who still hasn't figured out how to handle Valentine's Day.

On the Day After, Mr. Rogers and a stream of other sheepish guys hit the Louis Rheb Candy Company store on Wilkins Avenue in a desperate attempt to make up. Other men throughout the republic spent a few minutes Tuesday at other candy stores and flower shops and cosmetic counters and maybe bar stools -- knowing their belated efforts could backfire.

Some couples have broken up over forgotten or late Valentine's gifts. We don't have proof, but you might notice the absence of baby booms nine months after the day after Valentine's Day.

At Rheb's, Mr. Rogers bought his wife a half-pound box of assorted dark nuts, clusters and turtles. "I buy her a box even though she can't eat chocolates because she gets migraines," he says.

Get this man a manual.

At Flowers and Fancies at Calvert and Lombard, more than 50 men had ducked into the store by early Tuesday afternoon and bought roses at $5 apiece, according to Jane Ricktor, who was working behind the counter.

One customer was overheard asking for the cheapest flowers in stock -- for his mother.

The shop looked ransacked, with petals littering the floor like broken glass. The coolers had been plucked clean of all roses. Store workers say men were then reduced to buying Teddy bears and blooming plants.

Because of the lousy weather, Gov. William Donald Schaefer "officially" extended the holiday until Sunday. "I don't care what Schaefer says. You miss that one day and your wife, lover won't understand," says Ms. Ricktor.

But a darker issue lurks among the light-headed Mylar balloons and red-dyed candies.

"Valentine's Day was not designed by men," Joe Janyska says. "I'm sure the average working guy didn't come up with a day to do something nice."

Mr. Janyska, average working guy, was tardy but had an excuse for not getting his wife of 23 years a box of candy. He thought Tuesday was Valentine's Day.

But memory loss has never been a defense for marital crimes. Mr. Janyska, a 45-year-old from Eldersburg, paid $14 for many gift-wrapped nuts and caramels from Rheb's. "You got to tell me when this will appear, so I can hide the paper."

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