The first time was at a crowded Mexican restaurant on the Upper West Side of New York.
The tables were so close to each other you had to turn sideways to move between them. We were practically in the laps of the young man and woman seated next to us.
We didn’t mean to eavesdrop. Really, we didn’t. When you’re in New York, especially when you are eating a delicious Mexican meal, you have better things to do with your time than listen to people seated nearby.
But we couldn’t help ourselves because we were so close. Soon, we couldn’t tear ourselves away from their conversation.
Admittedly, “conversation” might not be the most accurate word, because that would imply that both of them were doing the talking. It would indicate a certain back-and-forth. But this was all one way.
They were on their first date, a blind date arranged by a mutual friend. The friend thought they might make a good pair. The friend has a less astute understanding of her friends than she thinks.
The guy wanted to make a good impression. But obviously, he knew nothing about how to impress a woman. Also, he knew nothing about interacting with other human beings on any level.
He was a writer on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, he said, and he asked her if she had ever heard of it. This was a few years ago, before the show was quite as well known as it is now, and she had not.
His disappointment was palpable (and honestly, even though it was a few years ago she probably should have heard of the show). That was clearly his best gambit, and as he started to panic he mentioned — several times, if you catch my drift — that his work on the show had won an Emmy Award. And he brought up — several times — that he had just been on the Today show.
Any guy with admittedly great credits like that knows to introduce them slowly, casually. Perhaps he should show a flash of personality first, or demonstrate the wit that won him an Emmy Award for comedy writing. Possibly he might even consider asking her something about herself, anything, even one tiny thing. But no, he unloaded both barrels.
The best part was when he told her that he had also co-written a book of dating advice.
The second time was at a famous restaurant in Chicago. This time, the eavesdropping wasn’t quite as intense, in that my wife and I actually talked to each other at some point instead of spending the entire dinner caught up in someone else’s conversation.
But the conversation across the aisle was so entertaining. Again, it was apparently a first date, and again the man was clearly more impressed with himself than his date was.
Dressed inappropriately in an ugly checkered shirt, the middle-aged man was a mathematician; I’d bet good money he teaches at the University of Chicago. I’ve known a couple of math professors in my day (I just now realized that both of them married women I had previously dated, which has to mean something). They may have been a little odd, but at least they could hold a conversation with other people.
Not this guy. This guy’s idea of making small talk on a first date was to tell math jokes and jokes about other mathematicians. After a few minutes, the woman stopped even pretending to smile.
My wife, who knows a thing or two about bad dates, said it was her idea of dating hell.
The third time was here in Toledo, at a seafood restaurant. Middle-aged woman, slightly younger man, colleagues at work, first date.
This time, it was the woman who talked. And talked. And talked. And talked. It wasn’t what she said — the conversation meandered through any number of topics, all of them staggeringly trivial — it was the way she said it: She droned.
It was like hearing an unpleasant sound, such as a dentist’s drill, that just never stopped. She didn’t speak so much as emit a low-frequency hum that was particularly grating and discordant. And it was unceasing. She droned through the appetizers, she droned through the salad, she droned through the main course.
We eventually left. She may be droning still.
Contact Daniel Neman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6155.