Picks Column: Senior Home Employees
A sense of dread manifests itself in a hard swallow as I steel my lips into a fake smile.
I hear each number emit a distinct beep as she mashes the security code on the other side of the locked double doors.
I know what's coming next.
"Hey! It's you!"
"Beth," we'll call her, some sort of medicine-handling employee in the senior home's memory care area, is about 15 years older. I don't find her attractive. She acts as if everyone, especially me, must be thrilled to see her. When those doors fling open, I feel boxed. I have to react with scripted, forced delight or risk being rude.
Thing is, the first time or two, her act flattered me. Often I work long solo days. Someone, anyone expressing excitement at my presence is a boon to my ego.
At some point I detected flirting. Repetitive, wink-wink, we're-in-on-this-together flirting. Only we're not.
I moonlight as a medical courier, which is to say I deliver medications by moonlight.
Often I encounter cute, energetic women close to my age and just getting started in their careers, stuck at a desk while the rest of the facility sleeps. Night shift. Their lone interactions during work hours hardly involve peers. Also, they're caregivers with personalities to match. It's the perfect remedy for a guy shaking post-heartbreak self-esteem issues.
Many times they seem abnormally friendly. Either I won't notice until I get back to my car or I'll dismiss it as a product of the work environment.
Usually I'm right. But every now and then, weeks later, I realize I'm wrong. Like tonight with "Vanessa." Something clicked. I browsed my mental catalog, revisiting previous nights through a different prism. I suddenly realize she enjoys seeing me. Maybe one night I'll ask for her number.
I wonder: Is there a way to identify which of these interactions will start to annoy me later? Could I somehow distinguish the women who are bored or outgoing from those who genuinely look forward to a goofy redhead interrupting their night (OK, fine, the latter may not exist)?
It's shades of What Women Want, the corny 2000 film starring Mel Gibson. In the movie, his character gains the ability to hear what women are thinking in real time.
What does this have to do with football, you ask?
Everything. Especially when it comes to picking games in the first few weeks.
Many professional gamblers make a living by identifying which teams are fool's gold ("Beth"), which early surprises are sure to fade (the majority), and which teams will outplay expectations in September because they're better than we think, only we don't acknowledge their skill until the stock skyrockets ("Vanessa").
If you can pick out one or two teams the public has misjudged during the offseason, you can leverage that into huge gains, whether by stealing a couple of games in your pick 'em league or flipping a few Benjamins in Vegas.
Two teams, one I think is a "Beth" and one I think is a "Vanessa," play in huge season-openers this weekend (coughBulldogscough, coughBengalTigerscough).
We'll see if those late nights have given me any insight or left me as signal-deaf as most men.
Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET (Columbia, S.C.)
No. 7 South Carolina 24, North Carolina 14
Bryn Renner is the truth, but North Carolina doesn't have the running game to exploit the undersized and green Gamecocks linebackers. Oh, and there's that pesky Jadeveon.
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Clemson, S.C.)
No. 6 Clemson 35, No. 5 Georgia 31
Only two of our 15 voters ranked Clemson ahead of Georgia in the Power Dozen. I was one of them. Aaron Murray is a Top-5 quarterback with some of the nation's most talented skill-position players surrounding him. The Bulldogs were oh so close to relegating Alabama to less than historic. The defense didn't play as well as its NFL talent indicated, so maybe the wholesale losses to the draft won't affect them as much as we think. But Tajh Boyd completed a higher percentage and threw for more yards than Murray last season. The Tigers do their best hyper-speed Oregon impersonation at home, confounding the young 'Dawgs just enough to emerge as BCS title contenders.
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET (Arlington, Texas)
No. 10 LSU 24, TCU 13
Don't low-ball the recruiting efforts of Les Miles. The Tigers show everyone they're hardly Alabama light on defense, restocking with plenty of NFL-worthy young talent and catching a rusty Casey Pachall more than 11 months since his last college football game. Meanwhile, Zach Mettenberger suddenly looks like — gasp — a real quarterback.
Under The Radar
Kickoff: Thursday, 7 p.m. ET (Bowling Green, Ohio)
Bowling Green 27, Tulsa 24
If you're unfamiliar, this gem features solid teams that won a combined 17 games last year and are expected to contend for division titles. It's strength against strength: Tulsa's high-powered offense against the stout Bowling Green D. The Falcons knock off the defending C-USA champ Golden Hurricane, signaling another dominant season for the MAC among non-BCS leagues.
No. 1 Alabama 42, Virginia Tech 10
Arkansas 27, Louisiana-Lafayette 19
Auburn 31, Washington State 17
Cincinnati 31, Purdue 21
Colorado State 20, Colorado 17
Northwestern 35, Cal 28
Oklahoma State 35, Mississippi State 14
Penn State 21, Syracuse 20
No. 9 Texas A&M 51, Rice 13
Washington 24, Boise State 21
Vanderbilt 27, Ole Miss 23
Season Record: 0-0.
All rankings refer to the Football.com Power Dozen.