We met for coffee after work, one of the most benign scenarios I could conjure. I only agreed to meet him because he'd cut right through all of that emailing-back-and-forth song and dance that is apparently "the process" of online dating and just simply came out with, "Your profile looks interesting. Meet for coffee?" Thank you for your directness; to reward you: yes. Besides, he seemed marginally interesting. PhD candidate, didn't look like an insane creeper in any of his photos, and didn't throw off any inherent red flags like, "Married," or "Sex Offender."
Side note: last summer was the one and only time in my life I attempted online dating, and I did so primarily out of curiosity, and because I was encouraged by friends who thought I would get some good story material out of it. Apparently, I did. I didn't write about it at the time, however, partially because I was still psychologically rattled by it (see story below) and partially because I lived in fear of one of the dudes somehow stumbling across my blog and reading scathing commentary. At this point, it's been a year, I think statute of limitations is up on that.
So, this guy was new in town and asked for a suggestion of where we should meet, stating that he didn't know the area very well. I suggested a date and venue, he accepted, game on. I met him there after work, and he was sitting, sort of defeated-looking, on the steps outside. Not a great first impression. Apparently, the place I had suggested was closed. This, apparently, had thrown him entirely off. Or so I thought at the time. Perhaps he was the kind of person who becomes rattled when wrenches are thrown headlong into plans. I could understand that, to a certain extent.
"OK, well, do you have any ideas of what you'd like to do instead?" I asked. And in that split 10-second window where we both realized the plans would have to change, I engaged in the sin of Instant Judgment.
The guy just STARED at me. Not in any nice, flattering kind of way. In a blank, passive, "please tell me where to go" kind of way. Lights were out.
Now, granted, this guy was new in town. So, a little forgiveness was in order for him not knowing where to go. But my main concern was this: within the span of a minute of meeting this guy, he had already proven himself to be Not A Problem Solver.
Which is a huge problem.
Jaunt once used that phrase, "Not a problem solver", to describe a co-worker whom she had correctly ascertained within moments of meeting that he would do nothing but create more work for her. Non-Problem Solvers are the bane of any workplace, let alone romantic dating situation. You can't do for yourself--don't expect me to, either. I've got enough on my plate without having to worry about you, too.
So, this dude had already identified himself as a Non-Problem Solver, which was a huge strike mark in my book. I have dated, worked with, and in general interacted with infinite numbers of Non-Problem Solvers, and I do not play nice with these people. My patience is very quickly stretched very thinly if I have to do too much for you, and that includes thinking.
Still, I had agreed to the date and was willing to let the awkward moment pass and even going so far as to assume that, perhaps, I may have rashly judged him. Perhaps he was simply thrown off and needed some time to recover. Dates are weird anyway. Let's all give ourselves a break.
I located a new venue, we went inside, and the Non-Problem Solver proceeded to make the next five minutes of my life excruciating as we were faced with the daunting and overwhelming prospect of "Seat yourself."
Don't just stand there and look at me. And when I ask you where you'd like to sit, don't just shrug. If you really don't care, then just sit somewhere. Don't stare at me, waiting for me to run down the list of possibilities, and passive-aggressively shrugging at each one.
Finally, I just sat. Thankfully, he followed suit.
At this point, I had already made up my mind that this was going to be a "coffee only" date. I couldn't imagine breaking bread with this dude, and the thought of watching him roll through menu options seemed overwhelming. It was difficult enough when the server provided us with two options on coffee. You'd have thought she'd said, "Columbian Fair Trade, French Roast, Ethiopian Harrar, French Vanilla, Turkish, Guatamalan, or espresso?" Instead, she said, "Decaf or regular?" I thought his brain would explode, working overtime.
It got worse.
If there's anything worse than a wishy-washy Non-Problem Solver, it's a Non-Conversationalist. I wish I had somehow recorded the interaction, but, as it's burned painfully into the recesses of my mind for all time, I'm fairly certain that what is written below is an accurate representation of what panned out over the next fifteen minutes of hell.
"So, you're new to Baltimore, where are you from?"
"Oh, nice. How do you like Baltimore so far?"
"Ok, and, um, how long have you been here?"
"About three months."
"Ah. And your family is...still in St. Louis?"
"My parents are. My brother's in DC."
"Oh that's cool, so you have a relative nearby."
"Do you see your brother often?"
"Here and there."
"Ah. And, um, is he older or younger?"
"So...um...do you have any hobbies? Your profile said you were into music."
"Yeah, I like music."
"Pretty much everything."
"Have you...been to any shows recently?"
"Not really, been really busy this semester."
"Oh. So, you're getting a PhD in music, that sounds interesting."
"Yeah, it's pretty nice."
"Do you want to teach?"
"So, just...music you're into? Any other hobbies?"
"I run sometimes."
"Me too! I have a 5k this weekend, actually! Do you run races?"
"Oh. So, where do you like to run?"
"At the gym."
At this point, I'd drank about four cups of coffee. Because I didn't know what to do with myself. I was that bored. He was volleying back one word answers, not asking a single question about me or seeming to generate any interest in this date whatsoever. Which is why what happened next shocked me.
There was another very long, awkward pause during which he simply stared at me. Again, not in an "I'm intrigued" or even an "It puts the lotion on it's skin" sort of way. In an empty, glassy-eyed, almost serene sort of way. Whatever was going on in his head (which I imagined to resemble a lava lamp in doctor's office colors) was so damn Zen, I speculated if he even had a heartbeat.
And no, he was not under the influence of anything. Believe me, it would have been far more entertaining.
And then he said: "So, you want to get some dinner or something?"
You just sat there and fed me one-word answers for fifteen minutes. I cannot imagine spending any more time with you than I already have and, in fact, I'm so bored with this conversation that I want to cry. I would rather be waiting at the MVA or on hold with customer service. Those are infinitely more interesting activities than this date.
And so, forgive me, but I pulled a Bitch Move.
A mature, responsible, Zen adult would have said something like, "Thank you, but I believe I'll pass. I have enjoyed talking with you, but I am not feeling a connection here. It was very nice meeting you, and best of luck in Baltimore."
Instead, I panicked. I sort of fumbled around in my bag for awhile and produced my phone.
"Oh, um, look, um, I have a text from, uh, my friend and, um, I need to go pick her up."
I couldn't get the two dollars for my coffee out of my bag fast enough, and I was nervously spewing forth verbal diarrhea the entire time.
"So, this was awesome, and, yeah, I'm so sorry I have to go, um, but yeah, maybe we can, you know, do this again and maybe the place won't be closed, ha ha, or you know, whatever...."
"So I should email you?" he asked, and suddenly sounded so hopeful that I felt horrible. This kid was new in town, he was clearly lacking in outgoing social skills, and his first online date was making up excuses to leave after a twenty minute coffee date that had to be at least slightly awkward for him and was downright painful for me.
And, because I am a glutton for punishment and, at times, a push over who cannot find it anywhere in her being to be rude or straight forward or even honest in certain social situations, I stupidly said, "Oh yes, totally, definitely."
WHY DO I DO THAT?
I couldn't leave the place fast enough. I think I burned rubber on my tires pulling out of the parking space. My brain felt so numb from trying to carry on a one-sided conversation that I couldn't even turn the radio on during the drive home. It was so excruciating that I went home, stormed up to my room, slammed the door, and proceeded to lie in the dark for an hour until my brain had cleared.
This is what's out there, I reasoned. This is what I have to look forward to. It was an incredibly depressing moment, thinking that the rest of my adult life might be sprinkled with painful dating situations like that one. I began to climb the ladder of doom and gloom, imagining endless coffee dates with strangers who would simply stare at me and offer nothing to the conversation.
Thankfully, that was the most painful date I'd ever experienced. They got better, I got more discerning, and I canceled my online dating account reasoning that I do better with people in person than scrolling through a catalog of men that might sound good on paper but offer little to the real world, or at least to me.
He did email me, a few weeks later, but thankfully it was only to ask if I knew of any decent running trails in the county. I sent him a website with a map, wished him the best, and blissfully blocked his profile.