I’ve been working with my Creative Writing students on the art of Storytelling. What makes a story worth telling? And then how do you tell it? I launched into the following story told first as a recollection of what happened and then as a creative narrative with all the passion, disappointment, and sarcasm I felt that night as the date unfolded. Both are true accounts of the story, but the latter has a certain punch that makes it much more interesting to read and/or hear.
The Horrible Date
Three months had passed since my disappointing break up, when this guy, let’s call him Dave, asked me for a date. He arrived early and waited while I finished getting ready. I dressed versatile since I didn’t know his plans.
As we were walking to the car, Dave asked me if dinner and a movie would be acceptable. I simply smiled. The less I have to talk tonight the better, I thought.
Dave drove a red Camaro, which apparently in the world of guys is a GREAT car. For me, it was just another clunky muscle car. He drove rather recklessly, much to my chagrin, but miraculously, we arrived in one piece.
It seemed Mr. Dave had underestimated how much time it takes to actually eat because he only allowed 25 minutes for us to be seated, order, eat, get to the theater, buy our tickets, grab our popcorn, one last potty break for me, and find our seats.
So we decided to inhale our food at Denny’s and we raced over to the theater. Again he underestimated the time necessary to get tickets to a movie on its opening night because after waiting in line for some time, the movie was sold out. My Denny’s was starting to give me indigestion. I suggested we go to another theater and he obliged.
He tried to put his arm around me in the theater, but I resisted and before the credits even started rolling I was halfway out to the car.
I had my keys out ten feet before the door and made sure to leave no time for a goodnight kiss. However, when my voicemail light was blinking before I got to my bedroom, I knew he’d left a follow up message, and I dreaded hearing it.
“I had fun and would love to hang out again. I’m new at this dating thing, please let me know what I’m supposed to do next. Chat soon, Dave.”
What a horrible date.
A Horrible Date
Three months had passed since my disappointing break up, when this guy, let’s call him Dave, asked me for a date. I wasn’t sure I was ready to spend the evening with someone new, but getting back in the saddle was necessary and so I accepted.
He arrived at my home 30 minutes early. At the time, I lived with my parents and he just waltzed in to talk with my dad. I did yell down asking why he was so early, to which he replied, “I was just so excited to go out, I couldn’t wait!”
Great. An overzealous dude with no respect for my time. I reluctantly dressed in what would be considered a versatile outfit since I hadn’t been informed of the events of the evening. I made sure to pack my new cell phone in my purse. If things got bad, I was calling for back up.
We walked toward his car as he informed me we were going to take in dinner and an 8 pm movie at Fashion Island. My watch read 7:10 and I was immediately concerned he had not allowed enough time for our travel plus dinner consumption. He assured me he had it under control.
He politely opened my door, scoring back some of the points he’d lost for early arrival, and asked what I thought of his shiny red Camaro. I shrugged which surely disappointed his enthusiastic desire to impress me with his GREAT car. Unfortunately for him, the novelty was lost on me, as I am more interested in how you drive versus what you drive. To that end, I was about to have my nerves rattled.
At one point, I had to ask why he was speeding up and slowing down at the non-traditional speeding up and slowing down places. He explained that he really liked to be out in front of other cars; so when he was in the middle of traffic he had to weave around and speed to get in front of it.
While digesting this tidbit of idiosyncrasy, he asked if I ever had itchy tan lines. I wasn’t sure where he was going with this, but answered. “When I get sun-burned.” He proceeded to detail for me his recent trip to the tanning salon which resulted in itchy tan lines from wearing his briefs. Hmmmmm. I’ll roll with this. Everybody has weird quirks. I take frequent baths, purchase way too many office supplies, and like taco bell sauce on my eggs. Perhaps weaving through traffic and tanning salon itch is typical of men in their twenties.
The drive took about 20 minutes leaving us 25 minutes to be seated, order, eat, and get to the theater. It was this attention to my watch that had me unaware of his driving the car to the front door of the Hard Rock Cafe. Did he have some arrangement with management such that he could avoid parking in an actual spot and bypass all the people in line? I didn’t think so. The looks given to us by, not only the Saturday night dates waiting to be seated, but the restaurant staff taking names assured me this was not prearranged. I sunk down in my seat hoping that no one knew me, while Dave was chastised for his behavior and told to leave the premises. Could this get any worse? Ironically, asking the question usually indicts things getting worse.
He got back in the car, assured me had it under control and took off.
Time was ticking and I anticipated stomach cramps from waiting until after the movie for dinner when he suggested Denny’s. At this point, I didn’t care.
His behavior in the restaurant was anything but impressive as he demanded to be seated right away since we needed to get to the movie on time. He asked the waitress to make us her top priority. When I indicated I had a headache, he ordered two Tylenol with our appetizers. The waitress actually found some, probably more out of pity for me than wanting to please this idiotic customer, and graciously brought them with a glass of orange juice. He better tip her well.
I excused myself to use the bathroom before we left and pulled out my phone. Who could I call to come get me? This was not just any bad date. This was the gold medal winner of bad dates. It was in this instant that I began to dial my ex. He had shattered my heart, but I didn’t care how desperate this looked, I had to get out of here. Then reason set it. Even if I had no ounce of self respect right now, the movie was beginning in three minutes, and Dave would come in here to retrieve me before I could leave.
I returned to the table and asked if he wanted me to go buy the movie tickets while he paid the bill. He assured me he had it under control. That’s what worried me.
As we drove up the theater, people were everywhere. There were no spots, but again he assured me he had it under control. I was just about to scream when he dropped me off to buy the tickets while he parked. Ahhh sweet relief. I stood in line, wishing I was there to see a movie alone when the teenager behind the plastic called me to her register. I was informed the movie sold out. Shocker! Then other thoughts popped up. I could buy a single ticket to anything and hide out. With ten bucks, I could end this Emmy award winning bad date. Dave would never be able to find me and I would never take his calls again. I looked at the marquee to see what else was playing and then my shoulder angel chimed in. As awful as this guy was, I knew I would not want to be treated this way so I stepped away from the counter and waited.
Not five minutes later, Mr. Dave strolled up. I explained the movie was sold out. True to form, he insisted he could get us in. You have got to be kidding me. He smiled and said he had a way with people and that he was sure he could talk them into letting us see the movie. As he launched into his favorite phrase for the night (and one I would never hear again without wanting to vomit) “I have it under control.” I lost it. My tone of voice moved from stoic to seething and I let her rip. “You do not have this under control. The movie is sold out. No more tickets. They aren’t going to kick someone else out for you and I’m not going to let you humiliate use both by suggesting they do. Let’s go somewhere else.” I really wanted to go home, but was too nice to insist upon it. (Note to self – get over this tendency toward obligatory forbearance before the next date)
Half way through the movie we did end up seeing, he had the audacity to try to put the moves on me. Is he really so clueless? Could he not sense the Ice Queen sitting next to him? Did he really think after all this, I was interested in getting cozy? The rocking nature of the seats worked to my purposes as I “accidentally” rocked his arm between the seats, giving it a pinch that I’m quite sure left a mark.
The ride home was silent and I had my keys out and ready before I even exited the car. I didn’t want to give him false hope, so I thanked him and said goodnight. He raised his hand and howled, “High five.” Perfect.
I couldn’t get the door closed fast enough. If this is what dating again looks like, I’m done with it. I climbed into bed wondering how many horrible dates I would have to endure before I met my Prince Charming, when I noticed the voicemail light on my phone blinking. I hadn’t heard it ring, so out of curiosity I retrieved the message. There were two. The most recent was Dave assuring me had thoroughly enjoyed the evening and was looking forward to a second. Were we on the same date? He concluded by saying he was new at this dating thing, please let him know what he’s supposed to do next. I rolled my eyes and shook my head. The second message. Who could this be? Oh my goodness, Dave must have left this message before our date tonight. “I just got home from off-roading all day,” his cheery voice said, “and am just about to jump in the shower to get ready for tonight. But I wanted to let you know that I’m going to spend a good 10-15 minutes making sure all my zits are popped. See you early…. Dave.”
I hit the delete button and smiled. He never had anything under control.