By Leiti Hsu, 16, Whitney HS
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This elementary school teacher was truly thrilled to get her bouquet.
Photo by Leiti Hsu, 16, Whitney HS

I didn’t exchange cards nor did I gorge myself on chocolate on Valentine’s Day. Instead I played hooky to play Cupid.

It all started a week before the holiday of love when I popped into Annie’s Florist one afternoon to browse their selection. When I was about to head out, the lady behind the counter, who I presumed to be Annie (her name’s actually Victoria) waved "come here" to me. She said, almost as if she were disclosing a secret, "Are you interested in delivering flowers on Valentine’s Day?"

Her hush-hush manner immediately made me wary. I thought, what she means to say is: "Are you interested in child labor for less than minimum wage?" But she clarified the terms (I’d only be making local runs) and what got me hooked like a willing fishy was the prospect of money, the next best thing after my very own Valentine … presenting with me a Tiffany & Co. diamond.

As she whipped out a business card, I promised I’d get back to her soon.

I mulled it over.

My day of ditching dangerously

Alas, I’d be merely a messenger of love, once again not receiving any love for myself. Sure I’ve had my share of romantic flings (sorry Mom, there goes my secret) but they never lasted through February.

That leaves many of us girls to coo over everyone else’s flowers and indignantly feel sorry for our worthy (we’re sure) selves and wonder why a saint with a fancy name had to give us strife.

After I told my friend Josh about the job, I wasn’t so sure I wanted it anymore.

"Annie’s Florist? Isn’t that by that one lingerie shop?" he said.

"Yeah, so?" I answered.

"Well I don’t know about you, but that place always seemed a bit shady to me."

"What do you mean?"

"There’s probably a secret door in the back that connects the two stores. And it’s part of an international child ring and you’re gonna be sold right back to Asia."

Of course I didn’t believe him, though the boss lady did have a suspiciously coarse Chinese accent. But coupled with Mom’s half-baked warnings about evil grimy men who order flowers on Valentine’s Day just to invite the gullible delivery girl in the door to abduct/rape/murder her, his imaginative tale started to give me doubts. Besides, in horror movies, the doomed teenager was always rebellious and smart-alecky and carefree—the one who refused to listen.

But I was being silly.

I had the parentals convinced, despite their more realistic uneasiness about me driving around too much.

I was set except for one more minor detail, which I remembered in a brilliant flash of an afterthought. February 14 was a Friday so I had school. Right. I put on my thinking cap and devised something ingenious. That "something" is how this L.A. Youth article came about: as a way for my adventure to be veritably an academic pursuit. Furthermore, I came down with some kind of bug on Valentine’s morning anyway.

The night before the gig I looked up directions on At $6 to $10 a shot, depending on distance of destination, I didn’t mind the extra homework so that I could get the most deliveries out of each run.

Part of me wished that maybe, just maybe, some hot guy would open the door, take one look at me, grab the flowers from my hands and declare (with a British accent), "Bloody forget my girlfriend. She’s getting boring. Won’t you be my valentine instead?" And then I’d proceed to sigh like a soap starlet and drop the flowers in happy disbelief.

Besides the fact that all the orders were in vases and couldn’t be stylishly dropped like hand bouquets, little else went as planned either. First off, all the flowers were delivered directly to the lucky women. I smacked myself. Why would a guy deliver flowers to himself instead of personally making a run to the shop.

Moreover, it wasn’t as breezy a job as I thought it’d be either. I arrived at 8 am. and loaded the first batch in my ’91 Honda Accord. Easy enough.

After driving no more than 20 feet though, a flustered me stopped in the middle of the parking lot. The turns and speedbumps did no good for my pricey passengers, who were tottering like tipsy barroom drunks. I scrambled in the backseat to seatbelt the arrangements across their vases.

It didn’t stop there. Once on the road, I realized that all the mirrors and windows were decorated with blooms galore and obnoxious metallic balloons cheaply screaming "I Love You!" I drove on precariously, cursing, shoving things aside, ducking my head to regain a partial line of sight, and praying that no car be in the way of my right turns and lane changes.

I learned about love

I visited dental offices, insurance companies, malls, hospitals and homes. Diverse locations, yes, but there was a running theme in the deliveries. Like when I walked into Lindora Weight Loss Center and the lady at the counter giggled and called for a woman named "Sunny" as in, "Sunny, I think he’s redeemed himself this time!" Apparently Valentine’s is not only the day for making out, but also a day for making up.

I made two mental notes to myself to be filed in the "Love and Relationships" category in the back of my head: "Don’t forgive your significant other so easily on Valentine’s Day just to fit the occasion —make him apologize genuinely, preferably with something just as genuine from Tiffany’s."

Nevertheless, it was heartening to see these women smile and blush to match their deliveries when their coworkers teased them mercilessly. It was encouraging to see painstakingly cut construction paper hearts adorning the windows of William McKinley Elementary where a husband sent a dozen pink roses to his teacher wife. It was certainly more stirring than another mundane day at school.

I also made some extra change—$106 dollars of extra change to be exact. Much more than I had ever found between those funny-smelling couch cushions and in the local Chuck E. Cheese’s ball pit combined.

I was ready to resume my normal life. I made a mad dash to the mall and figured I couldn’t bear to part with my hard-earned dollars just yet. That evening, I went to the annual Valentine’s Dance and did a bit of traditional moping before I happily resorted to shaking it single-style, once again.