GREENSBORO, NC—Although he has had a cordial relationship with officemate Karl Harrison for almost two years, Jeff Ashland reported Monday that he has no idea why he was asked to be the best man at Harrison's wedding in June.
"It's an honor, I suppose," Ashland said from his cubicle at Whitehead Consulting. "I just wish I knew why it fell to me. Karl went to college just down the road, and he's lived in Greensboro for five years or so. He must have met at least a few other guys during all that time, right? But I'm the one he chooses to be his right-hand man on the biggest day of his life?"
Harrison asked Ashland to be his best man on March 12, the same day he publicly announced his engagement to his girlfriend of four years, Tracy Newman. Ashland said he had trouble feigning the joy expected of someone assuming such an honor.
"Karl came up to me with this big grin on his face, so I figured his business card was picked out of the fishbowl at the Gumbo Pot again," Ashland said. "But he told me he'd proposed to his girlfriend the night before. As I was congratulating him, trying desperately to remember Tracy's name, he dropped the bomb. He said it'd be 'awesome' if I'd be his best man. At first I thought he was making one of his non-funny jokes, but he was serious."
Ashland said he felt he had no choice but to accept the invitation.
"What could I say?" Ashland asked. 'Sorry, you're just some guy I work with—go look up someone you knew at summer camp'? Seriously, doesn't he know, say, anyone else in the entire world? Doesn't he have a cousin somewhere?"
Adding to Ashland's misgivings about standing before a crowd in support of Harrison's nuptials is the ever-increasing list of duties the groom has asked the best man to perform.
"Apparently, I'm sort of a ringmaster for the whole thing," Ashland said, flipping through the Greensboro tuxedo-rental listings. "I knew I had to be the bridesmaid's date, but now Karl says I'm also in charge of the ushers and shuttling the damn presents around. I really don't need this hassle on top of the wedding-dinner speech."
"My only hope is that the kind of guy who asks a coworker he barely knows to be his best man won't have very high standards," Ashland added.
Ashland said he has been forced to research the speech.
"I've been plying Karl with questions about his courtship, his childhood, and his parents' reaction to the engagement, just to get anything that will give me an inkling of what to say," Ashland said. "And Tracy—who, as best frickin' man, I've finally had the pleasure of meeting—is no help. How can I ask her personal questions about Karl without tipping her off to the fact that I have no idea who he is?"
In spite of Ashland's concern, the bride-to-be has expressed no misgivings about her future husband's best man.
"Karl's always talking about how nice it is to have someone as cool as Jeff at the office," Newman said. "God only knows what they're up to all day, but boys will be boys. It's great that Karl and Jeff got so close in so short a time, especially since Karl doesn't make friends easily."
Harrison had little to say on the subject of his selection criteria for best man.
"It's so nice that Jeff's doing this," Harrison told acquaintances at an after-work get-together which Ashland, citing a need to shop for black shoes, did not attend. "We're gonna have such a blast at my wedding. And I can't wait to see what he's got planned for the bachelor party. I have no idea what's going to go down, but if I know Jeff like I think I know Jeff, it'll be booze and strippers all the way."