May 15, 2008
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Hurry Up And Date

SUBMITTED BY TOMATO DIARIES: In an attempt to figure out if this great idea I have for a dating service could actually fly, I recently visited the competition, Hurry Date. I wanted to see exactly how this speed dating thing works and get any tips for what to avoid in my own version of the service, so I signed up for an upcoming party. What better way of learning the ins-and-outs than to actually participate, right?

In a sentence: I should have spared myself and just watched from the bar.

I walked to the event from work, psyching myself up as best I could by telling myself that I wasn’t there to find the guy I would spend the rest of my life with, just to do a little recon. But when I walked into the bar and got a load of the clientele - a guy with a Hurry Date nametag on sitting at the bar snapping his fingers and singing along to “Jessie’s Girl” (the choral version of the white man’s overbite) - I knew in a split second that was out of my demographic and that it was going to be a looooong evening.

I grabbed a beer and took my place at one of the tables set aside for the event in the back room. I had the fortune of sitting next to Wendy, a gregarious blonde in her early 40s whose unfettered optimism I hoped would rub off on me a little. She had done her homework, supplementing the requisite small talk (what do you do? where do you live? is this your first time?) with questions of a more substantive nature (describe your perfect day? if money wasn’t an object, what would you do?) that she found in a deck of 52 in a clever gift shop somewhere in town. The thought crossed my mind that I would probably have more fun dating her.

After 10 minutes of pre-date chitchat, Loudmouth Hurry Date Hostess blew a whistle and the room fell silent. Well, as silent as you can get with a bar full of drunk fratboys and hoochie mamas flirting at the top of their lungs over the blare of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust”. Loudmouth explained the rules: 4 minutes per date, girls stay where they are, guys rotate from table to table. Write down the person’s name next to their number, and when the whistle blows circle yes or no next to their name. Scanning the room, I had a feeling most of my answers would be no.

Suddenly my eyes were drawn to the two TVs on the opposite wall: one playing the Yankee game, the other playing Mets-Phillies. A: I love the Yankees and B: since I’m from Pennsylvania, I’ve always had a soft spot for the pitiable Phils. If this evening weren’t already doomed, the fact that each one of my 24 dates now had unfair competition from two flat screens just drove the proverbial last nail into the coffin. God how I wished I could just be home on my big chair watching the game(s) and eating wings.

With the blare of Loudmouth’s gym teacher whistle, the evening began. If I had a video camera I could tell you more about each one of my possible suitors. As it were, I only remember the night in a blur of faces and impressions.

1. There was Mr. Outer Boroughs who made a big stink about braving tunnel traffic to come to the mixer. He hated Manhattan and all the corporate whores and wannabes that lived here. Maybe I shouldn’t have asked why he just didn’t stick to the Queens parties; I might have avoided 3 minutes of angry glare.

2. There was Mr. Bad Teeth New Jersey who couldn’t understand a word out of my mouth because I was using “SAT words”. He marveled at the fact that I could afford to live in the city and that I didn’t mind not having a car. I changed the subject and complemented his retention of all the lyrics to “Jessie’s Girl”.

3. Then there was the male nurse from Long Island with tattoos and possibly a record who couldn’t hear a word I said and couldn’t stop talking about how uncomfortable he felt. All my questions were answered with either a grunt or a shake of the head. Those four minutes felt like an hour and a half.

Not everyone was horrible. In between, there was a guy who owned a bicycle messenger service who might have been a possibility. I had a great conversation about movies and books with a Brit who had just moved into town, but he wasn’t really dating material and I was a little perturbed that I couldn’t circle “possible friends” as an option C. And then there was Antonio, who was nice-looking and worked at the Museum of Natural History. He made jokes about how lifelike the dioramas look and I was instantly smitten. He was easily the most agreeable man there, and since his real estate was comparatively at a premium, I knew the odds of a yes-yes match were not in my favor.

After 24 dates I was hoarse, tired and a little drunk. I was ready to go home and couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Much to my surprise and supreme bewilderment, some of the attendees had coupled up, grabbing drinks at the bar and exchanging phone numbers. Were they desperate, or just optimistic? Were they clinging to the promise of possible marriage and children with little heed to the whole of the person across from them, or had they found true love connections? After all, isn’t that what E.M. Forster preaches with such fervor throughout Howard’s End: “only connect”?

Connect, I didn’t. Figure out the master plan for my own dating service, I did. But hey, that’s what I came looking for and that’s precisely what I found. The people hanging around after the event came looking for possibilities and that’s precisely what they found. Perhaps a lesson was learned.

In the meantime, I had a date with Detective Mike Logan at 10:00 on Channel 4, and I wasn’t about to break it.

[Photo by mhwolk]

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Comments

  • Xorn Smith says :

    Thanks for a great and fun write-up on the speed dating experience…I’ve always been equal parts curious and afraid to try it and I think you may have just saved me from a really painful, depressing evening.

    I can’t imagine trying to make conversation with 24 strangers in one night. And to actually sound halfway coherent/intelligent while simultaneously making a snap assessment on their relationship potential…yikes. Two coffee dates in a week and it’s hard enough for me to keep them both straight.

    Oh well, go Yankees…

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