I hadn’t been on a date in three years.
Next thing you know, in an hour and a half I’m going on 11 dates in eight minute increments.
Note: I don’t talk to guys I like. If you’re a gentleman I’m fond of, chances are I’ve never said a word to you. Maybe I’ve uttered a hello and then scampered away without making further eye contact. When I think I’m out of view, I’ll break into a run.
God forbid I should have to talk to Mr. Dreamy!
As a journalist however, cold-calling strangers or meeting them for interviews doesn’t faze me. Throw me into a crowd of no names and I’ll learn their names, what they do, where they’re from and if they’ve been to Disneyland.
Interviewing isn’t scary. Dating is.
Welcome to speed dating
I show up late.
A group of men in suits and sweaters, all in different shades of grey, greet me. The co-ordinator pops her head out from around the corner, “Christine! Finally, you made it. Grab a drink. We’ll get started.”
I beeline to the bar.
As I’m waiting for my 9 oz. pour of the house red, the co-ordinator lays out the evening’s itinerary.
Everyone is handed a pamphlet. One half is for making notes. The other reads “Name:” blank space with boxes to check “yes” or “no.”
“If you put a ‘yes’ next to somebody who also put a ‘yes’ next to you, you’ll get their contact information in the morning,” the co-ordinator says.
The ladies are instructed to take a seat at one of the two-person tables surrounding the periphery of the room. The women will remain planted while the guys rotate clockwise, hitting up every table along the way.
I choose a table tucked into a corner and remind myself that I am here for work.
Guy #1, Jon, the “grapple” guy. He reminded me of Tony Danza from “Who’s the Boss?” He’s the grapple guy because we discussed the merits of genetic engineering. Thus, the grapple: the hybrid grape and apple. It looks like an apple, smells like an apple, but tastes like a grape. Grapple guy works in construction, loves dogs, is petrified of mice and —
DING DING DING. Really? That was eight minutes?
“Dating is like fishing. You have to enjoy the process. Release your expectations of the outcome. Hopefully you get the best result — a catch.”
Guy #2 is Dave, the first engineer of the evening. Our conversation feels like a date. I’m bombarded with questions: “So what do you do for a living? What do you do for fun? Do you do sports?” I am forthcoming with my answers and every time there is a brief pause, a new question is introduced to fill up the forbidden silence.
I am being interviewed.
DING DING DING. The bell reminds me of boxing. But, I am getting used to this. Dave and I thank each other as he gets up to meet his lady #3.
Guy #3 has game.
“Christine,” he exclaims as he offers me his hand for a shake and gives his body a pivot to show his nametag.
“Well hello Sean,” I say.
The nature of our introductions makes it seem like we’ve known each other for a while, not 20 seconds. He apologizes for his rather charming, perfectly tailored grey suit. “I should’ve gone home first and changed.”
I assure him he looks great.
He too is an engineer. If he won the lottery, he’d go back to school and take astronomy or philosophy. He’s “the greatest Oilers’ fan.” He pokes fun at the fact that I was late and everyone was waiting for me. Our favorite books, movies and musicians are discussed and then —
DING DING DING
As he’s leaving he says, “It feels kind of weird. You’re in a conversation and then you’re just out of it.”
Guy #4 looks like George Stroumboulopoulos. His name is far less complicated, Ron. Grey knit sweater.
He is an echo man.
He asks where I am from. I ask, “Why am I not from here?” He repeats, “Why are you not from here?” He asks if I’ve ever done speed dating before. I say, “No, it’s rather strange to me.” He replies, “Is it strange?”
I feel like punching him for repeating me. Where is that bell?
DING DING DING. Thank God!
Guy #5 is Chad.
He’s wearing a grey flannel sweater and is either stoned or tired.
He announces he wants to “chill out for a second.” I agree. “It’s totally exhausting. Let’s just sit and whatever comes naturally, we’ll just go with,” he says, slumping a little further into his seat.
We sit. Both of our eyes wander to the televisions mounted on either side of the room. He sees hockey. I see curling. This silence is nice.
I actually like curling. I tell him so. “Have you ever played shuffleboard?” he asks. I have not. He awakens as he begins describing the game.
Next thing you know we’re drawing pictures on our checklists trying to describe different things to each other.
He asks how I feel about the evening. I tell him I find it, “Interesting. It’s different. I am constantly thinking, ‘What are you judging me on?’”
He laughs. “Exactly. What are you judging me on is the biggest thing.” I tell him about my anxieties coming over — about what I should wear, should I paint my nails? I wave my undecorated fingers before him. “I did not paint my nails.”
He jokes, “I am so judging you right now.” We laugh.
The bell rings.
Guy #6 looks like Val Kilmer. There is an eerie slickness about him that I don’t trust.
Guy #7: Another engineer but the first real awkward fellow.
He introduces himself with a firm handshake and settles into his seat.
Like a door ajar, one elbow rests on the table while the other rests on the back of his seat. His posture is perfectly erect. He will remain this way for the next eight minutes, no lie.
All that moves is his head. He is a real life bobblehead.
He’s got a great career, a baby face and broad shoulders but nothing except his head moves when he talks. Poor thing.
Guy #8 is the only guy wearing stripes. Our conversation breezes by. He commends me for going solo to the evening. Apparently most of the girls have come with friends.
The bell rings before we know it.
Guy #9 has a heavy accent and makes jokes I do not understand.
He says, “dating is like fishing. You have to enjoy the process. Release your expectations of the outcome. Hopefully you get the best result — a catch.” Guys #10 and #11 also prove to be entertaining for 16 minutes.
When it’s all over, I gun it to the bathroom to call my best friend.
On my way, a group of ladies was huddled at a booth discussing who was a “yes” and who was a “no.” They invited me to weigh in on their decision-making.
I declined the offer, but wished them luck.
Though I did not check anyone off as a “yes” because the whole thing was a work assignment for me, I can check one thing off another list.
Yes. I can date.