Not Exactly ‘When Harry Met Sally’

Is there anything more difficult in the entire human experience than a first date?  I don’t think so.  I would rather face job loss, another Maple Leaf non-playoff season, blackout-inducing ice storms, a former Beatle passing away, my car dying on highway 401 or another family meeting on who hosts the next holiday dinner over a first date.

You can plan out your date strategy from start to finish but it’s all a crap shoot.  After all, you’re dealing with a woman, and usually one you barely know.  Will she laugh at your jokes or have a puzzled look and ask, “are you serious”?  Should there be any physical contact such as a hug or a kiss?  Then of course you need to consider acceptable topics for conversation.  You want to show interest but still talk about yourself.  Say too much and you appear self-absorbed.  What if she’s quiet?  Will I have to carry most of the conversation?

All these issues run through my mind as a drove on my first date with Amelia.  We had chatted online and over the phone for almost two weeks and it was time to take things to the next stage. We agreed to meet over coffee at a Starbucks. The number one rule for first dates: meet over coffee.  If things go bad it’s easy to pull the plug on the date. “Darn I wish I could stay longer but I have to drop off some documents at the bank before they close for the day.”  You can’t pull that off in the middle of a dinner date.

You need to consider what the appropriate time is to arrive for the date.  Never mind you agreed to 2:00 pm – do you show up exactly at the arranged time, a little early or a just a tad late?  Each will be interpreted differently by the other party.  You could be perceived as reliable, over eager or indifferent.  I decide to arrive early and scout out a good spot. You want to locate yourself somewhere more private.  I walk into Starbucks about ten minutes early and check out the seating.   Naturally every damn seat is taken.  So I begin to hover which entails situating yourself close to tables where people have finished their drinks.  Don’t bother with ‘solos’ on their laptops.  These people are using the cafe as their personal workplace and aren’t going anywhere soon.  I dreaded the day Starbucks introduced free WiFi and the all-day Internet freeloaders showed up.  About three minutes into my hovering, a couple of seats open up and I rush to grab them.  Unfortunately, they are situated at a long table that seats eight and not even at the end of the table – not an ideal first date situation.   

Several minutes later Amelia walks in.  She is easy to recognize because she actually looks like her Tinder photo.  She is wearing a green top and beige capris. Her exposed calves are tanned as are her arms and shoulders.  She appears shorter than the 5’5″ she has listed in her profile.  I reach the first decision point.  When I get up to greet her do I extend a hand or move in for a partial hug?  You know, one where you reach around with one hand to her back with little physical contact.  Instead I freeze and stand there in all my awkwardness for what feels like ten minutes.  “Hi!  You must be Josh. Have you been here long?”  She slides down into the seat opposite me.  I follow suit which gets me off the hook.

” I thought I would get here a little early to make sure we had somewhere to sit.”

“That was very thoughtful of you.”  I smiled knowing I had scored some early points despite the fact that it was a poor location.  “But couldn’t you have gotten here a little earlier so that we might have one of those nice tables for two?”

“I thought we would sit here for now and move when one becomes available.  In the meantime let me get you a drink.”  I think that’s a pretty good recovery.

“Thank you.  I would like an extra shot no fat grande latte.”

I put in our orders and get myself a tall latte.  I grab a couple of those green doobers that you stick in the holes of the cups because i don’t want to appear clumsy by spilling coffee on the way back to the table.  I never remember the name of those things.  On the way back I notice a couple get up from a table for two.  I see another person hovering for a seat.  I rush to claim the table but fail to notice the laptop bag in my path.  Of course, I trip over the bag and fall forward but I’m determined not spill the coffees.  My chin hits the table.  I ignore the pain and concentrate on the coffees, making sure I don’t squeeze the cups and produce two steaming hot latte fountains.  With my chin still on the table and my knees now hitting the ceramic tiled floor, I’m able to gently lower the cups without spilling a drop.

“Oh my!  Are you alright?”  

I looked to see a concerned Amelia standing over me no doubt thinking to herself that this man is a disaster.  “Yes, I’m fine.  Here you go, your latte and a table for two.”  I tried to pretend that no pratfall was involved in acquiring the table and I’m not experiencing excruciating pain.

“It’s a good thing you used the stoppers or there would be coffee everywhere.”  So that’s what those things are called?  Stoppers?  Huh.

We began chatting about vacations. Amelia talks about her recent trip to Aruba with a girlfriend. I try to concentrate on her story about a flight mix up. Really who doesn’t have one of those.  My chin was throbbing as I forced myself to smile at her story.  She is wearing a necklace with a green gemstone that matches her eyes and top.  I notice that each time she laughs the necklace swings back and forth like a pendulum.  I find myself paying more attention to the moving stone and less to her story. She suddenly stops.  “You’re staring at my breasts.”

“No I was just admiring your necklace.  What type of stone is that?  The colour matches your eye.”

“Hmm it’s an emerald.  I still think you were staring at my breasts.”

As we continue to chat, I find that now I’m actually staring at her breasts.  It appears to me that her left breast is larger than the right one.  We’re now talking about movies but what I really want to know is whether her breasts are truly asymmetrical. To keep from staring at them I focus on a sign on the wall behind her.  “What are you looking at?  You aren’t the least bit interested in what I’m saying”

“Of course I’m listening to you.  You were just telling me that your favourite movie is Titanic which you’ve seen twelve times. By the way my favourite is The Big Lebowski.”

“Never heard of it.”  

I’m thinking to myself how can you possibly not know about The Big Lebowski?  The film has achieved cult status.  There are Big Lebowski Festivals where people show up in bath robes drinking white russians.  What kind of persons sees Titanic twelve times?  What a waste of 36 hours. “Well, it’s an obscure film by Joel and Ethan Coen.”  Damn I could have come back with something better than that.

 I begin this long dissertation on film noir covering The Big Sleep, The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Maltese Falcon and Mildred Pierce. I notice that she has a glassy-eyed look after ten minutes and is fidgeting with her watch.  But I’m not going to stop until I have covered the entire genre.

“Listen Josh it was really great getting together for coffee with you.  I wish I could stay longer but my mom called this morning and asked if I would take her to a medical appointment.”

Hmm sounds like a bail out to me.  “Not a problem.  I have some documents that need to be dropped off at the bank before closing time.”  Oh yeah that’s telling her.  “Let me walk you to your car.”

When we reach her car she turns to say goodbye.  “Thanks for the coffee.”  I lean forward to give her a kiss.  “What are you doing?”

“I was giving you a kiss goodbye.”

“That won’t be necessary; I don’t kiss on first dates.”  With that she hops into her car and drives off.

Have I mentioned that I hate first dates?

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