Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Presenting the Engagement Ring Man

You've waited long enough. Finally, after all this interminable delaying, the pictures I promised. This is how I proposed to my girlfriend (spoiler alert: I'm engaged): Ring Man from Mega Man 4, built out of LEGOs.

He's much taller than I'd originally imagined.

As soon as I'd gotten it in my head to assemble a ring-bearing Mega Man character (or two) who could help me propose to my gal, I threw open the door to my closet and dragged out my big bucket o' LEGOs. I had the idea, I had a few hours to work, and I had a near-endless supply of bricks that had been accumulating since the time when we still paid attention to the choking hazard warning on the box.

The first step was to go online and grab the sprites of Ring Man and Jewel Man. Open up good ol' Microsoft Paint, blow up the robot masters (kaboom!) to 8x magnification, turn on grid-lines, and I'm ready to rock, man.

Then I opened the LEGO bucket.

I can't tell if this is a manufactured memory or not, but I vaguely remember the day a few years ago when I last put my LEGO bucket into storage, and I can't help but feel that I was just a very slight bit annoyed. Someone, presumably my mother, had organized the majority of my loose bricks into bags sorted by color. All the red bricks here, all the blue bricks there, plus a bag of wheels and axels for good measure.

My bucket had always been a cataclysmic mess of pieces that I could dump out onto the carpet, and then go treasure hunting. I enjoyed sifting through countless useless pieces to find that elusive 2 x 3 flat piece I'd been searching for. Placing everything neatly in bags diminished some of the fun.

I take back anything negative I've ever thought or said about plastic bags.

Opening the bucket to discover that everything had already been sorted made me immediately thank whoever was responsible, even though (a) I couldn't remember who that was, (b) if it was my mother, she wasn't anywhere close to being within earshot, let alone the same state, and (c) there was a slim chance I was actually thanking myself. If the bucket hadn't been semi-mysteriously organized, I might still be picking out pieces of Ring Man's nose.

Blessed with half the work having already been done for me, I set out to cull only the finest double-wide pieces from my collection. Doubly thick bricks seemed to be a nice balance between stability and portability--after all, Ring Man had to be transported to our Anniversary Hotel in secret and in one piece.

I figured I could recreate Ring Man pixel for pixel, or rather, brick for pixel. I started with the feet and worked my way up, but I knew I might get confused if I kept switching back and forth between different brick colors. I assembled all the red parts, then all the yellow parts, then all the black parts, and started clicking them together as soon as they became structurally feasible. It wasn't until I was putting on the finishing touches that he actually looked like anything, but I was proud indeed by the result:

You may notice a few things about this picture, which you've been so patiently waiting to see for, like, almost a week now. Things such as:

(1) He's pretty awesome.

(2) He has flat platform feet. Ring Man became problematic when I began fastening his head to the rest of his body--that is, he'd keep falling over and unfastening his head from his body.

(3) The colors are slightly off from the sprite art. I panicked when I remembered that Ring Man had eyes, and worse yet, that he had a little bit of extra face showing. Gray was the closest color substitute I had for fleshy robot pink, or apricot, or whatever the heck color it is.

(4) A couple of sections, most notably the (slightly larger) ring on his head, differ in configuration from the sprite art. This was strictly for the sake of stability. Loose pixels are fine on a screen, but a standalone black LEGO brick can't just hover in the air next to a yellow or red brick without the aid of viscous magic (A.K.A. glue). Maybe the professionals do it, but I could never imagine myself intentionally gluing any of my LEGOs together.

(5) I'm never getting these bricks back. I had this disheartening revelation about halfway through my building. I realized, "I'm never getting these bricks back." It is a testament to how much I love this woman that I would sacrifice virtually every double-thick brick I had collected since I was about four years old. Or, it is a testament to how I should plan out these schemes farther in advance so I can drive out to the nearest LEGO store and buy fresh, non-sentimental supplies.

(6) He's holding a tray with the fabled ring box on it. After a few rejected ideas of putting the ring in a treasure chest mounted on his head, or having some part of Ring Man open up to reveal the ring, I determined that heirloom ring and sharp-edged plastic toy had no business with one another, which left me with this cool-looking statue that accomplished absolutely nothing. "Here's a Ring Man! And also...would you marry me?" No no no. Knowing the ring would have to stay in the softly padded interior of the ring box, and knowing that Ring Man still had to be involved somehow, I figured he could hang on to the ring for a while. He looks like a waiter.

(7) There's no Jewel Man. Frankly, I had exhausted my supply of usable black bricks on just one robot master--one who turned out to be twice as tall as I had originally envisioned. Jewel Man was only necessary when this idea in my head was a little diorama with a reasonably sized Mega Man boss standing on either side of a comparably sized ring box. At this height, it'd look like he was playing Mega Man Soccer with the ring box.

What matters most is that I had a finished product that I was overwhelmingly satisfied with. I wasn't trying to outdo anyone. I wasn't even trying to impress anyone. I simply wanted to present my gal with something handmade, something uniquely me, and something that would romantically and geekily win her heart.

The mission was a success. My rate for collecting fiancées: 100%.

I picked her up from work on Friday, the day of our fourth anniversary (and, incidentally, National Kazoo Day) and drove her off to Small Romantic Town, USA. After a lovely (read: partially lost) romp through some quaint back roads, we reached our waterside hotel--just about the nicest place either of us had ever stayed in. If my calculations were correct, the luxurious hotel suite with its waterfront view would be an appropriately quiet and romantic setting to pop the question.

But first I had to pop some bricks back into place. I had to snap off Ring Man's signature headgear to fit him into my bag, and I assumed that one or two other pieces of questionable loyalty would break away during the voyage. It shouldn't take more than about a minute to set him up again, and I knew exactly where I'd put him.

I had ordered a dozen roses to be placed in the room for when we arrived, and there was ample space for a ring bearer nearby. (I'd also use that space to display the Star Wars collector's lunchbox she got me as one of my anniversary gifts, but that's not relevant now.) My gal walked in the door with me, admired the roses as we dropped our bags, and then she headed off to the bathroom after a few moments.

Now was my chance.

I opened the bag, took Ring Man out of another bag to make sure his pieces didn't get too far separated...and found that he was in five pieces. I had expected a number of different reassembly scenarios, and none of them included the particular dismantled parts I found myself with. I scrambled to put him back together properly, and when I heard the bathroom doorknob start to turn, I shouted something to the effect of, "Wait! Secret things are happening!" Truly, I am the master of surprise.

It only took an extra eternity or so before Ring Man was finally reassembled with his hand on backward, but I finally gave the word for my gal to step back into the room. Judging from the "Oh, wow!"-type noises she was making, she approved of my gift.

I could also tell that she was thinking. But it wasn't apparent that she had caught on yet. Sure, she might have suspected I was about to propose, but for right now, I was just giving her a neat LEGO statue of some Mega Man boss.

After a moment, I went over to her and asked her who she thought it was. Now, I grew up with a family that encouraged educational guessing games such as "Name that Tune," and I've been challenging my gal to identify Mega Man characters, etc. since we started dating. She might tell you that she's hopeless at my guessing games, but she's proven her geek cred on multiple occasions, and I've told her every time, "You can totally be my girlfriend."

This guessing game was a big one. I had to see if she had what it took to be more than a girlfriend. More importantly, I had to see the look on her face when she realized who I had built.

"Um...Bomb Man?" she guessed. Well, the color scheme and basic design were about right, so not a bad first guess. Try again. "Hm...Guts Man?" Again, the color scheme and basic design weren't too far off, but at this rate, we wouldn't make it to Mega Man 4 bosses until morning. I went to school to be a teacher, though; I was trained to lead students to discover the answer for themselves, and this is one answer I was not going to give away.

I could tell the guessing was becoming stressful, so I pointed out the object on the statue's head, and the box that he was holding. What might they mean?

She stared at the statue for a moment, and with an earth-shatteringly quiet revelation of "Ring Man," she collapsed to the floor under the weight of the realization that I was finally about to give her a ring.

It was worth every single brick, every hour, every nervous second to see it click in her head. I was honestly not expecting her to fall over.

Ring Man, she'd said.

"You can totally be my fiancée."

I picked up the ring box, dropped to one knee (both out of tradition and to be on the floor with her), and I asked her to marry me.

Over dinner, she told me that her guesses weren't completely random. "It's Bomb Man! Maybe he's dropping the bomb!" or, "It's Guts Man! Because he's finally worked up the guts to propose!" It didn't even occur to her at first that there was a Ring Man. That's all for the best, I say--it kept her guessing until the end.

And somehow, during all this, I was still thinking of a way to propose to her using a sound clip of Captain Picard saying, "Engage!"

But I wouldn't trade this for the world.

[Actually, I do manage to sneak Captain Picard into the mix in the next portion of the story, where the wedding planning begins. The engagement story is at an end, but you can see where things go from here in Part 1 of the wedding saga.]


AJG said...

So, I was going to shoot you an email, but I figured I should probably leave a public comment, instead, as I am very rarely impressed by anything.

Well, sir.

I'm officially impressed by Lego Ring Man.


Scott said...

I'm very impressed as well. It was worth the wait. Have you considered using crazy glue (blasphemy!) to glue everything together for posterity?

If you'd had some extra time, you could have bought one of those Pi-cards with the voice chip that says "Engage!" and wired it to the back of the ring box.

Too cheesy?

Too awesome.

Flashman85 said...

Officially: Thank you, Alex. :)

Scott: And thank you, too! I thought about glue, but gluing LEGOs together just feels wrong to me, and having never done it before, I knew I'd mess up if I tried.

"Pi-cards." You're a funny man.

El Legendario said...

Thank you for sharing this romantic and nerdy (Emphasis on nerdy) engagement proposal story! Blip! Blip! Blip!

Flashman85 said...

Manuel: My pleasure! Not only was this fun to write, but it's been extremely useful in being able to easily direct people to the full story, pictures and all.