A Tale of Two Coffee Dates

In the last installment of The Sitcom That Is My Personal Life, I introduced myself to – and was quickly annoyed by – the world of online dating.

But, boys and girls, fear not. Following a few weeks of sporadic visits to the Web site, I took a semi-deep breath, resolved to begin round two,  and four people contacted me in the span of about a week and a bit.

Two resulted in meet-ups, which happened just last week. While not completely disastrous, I supp0se they were … well, edcuational.

Thursday. My first “coffee” date in about two months. What I know about the guy – whom I’ll call H – is minimal. He works for a medical device company. And he likes to ask random questions in his e-mails (“Do you believe in optical illusions?” and “What did you eat for dinner?” among them).

As soon after work as I can, I hurry towards Queen Street, and just miss a streetcar.When I finally catch one about five-ish minutes later, I call to let him know I’m running late; he tells me the place we’d planned to meet at is closed. So I ask him to wait until I arrive. About five minutes later, in front of the closed coffee-shop, I see him cross the street.

H is … how do you say … petit. (As I’m now learning, whatever height is displayed on a person’s profile page, be prepared to subtract a couple inches.)

We end up at a Second Cup just down the street. When the conversation finally starts, it’s … okay. He’s a bit soft-spoken; I almost think I sound loud in comparison.

Turns out he’s only been in the city for about five months. Before that, he survived two years’ worth of winters in Winnipeg. And before that, he lived overseas. And has family all over the place.

Beyond that, I find the conversation borderline-strange in spots.

Online, he’d asked me what my favourite country was. When I divulged and then asked him in kind, he wanted to save it for when we met in person. So when I ask him again, he says Cuba, mainly because of the music. When I ask him if he’s ever been there, he says no, not just yet – he doesn’t want to spoil the image he has of the country in his mind.

“Well, you’d better go soon,” I said. “You don’t have much time.”

I also remember asking him what his holiday plans are. I figured he’d say he would spend it with relatives in Montreal.

Instead, he replies, “I was hoping you would invite me.” I think he’s kidding. Kinda. Maybe.

Gulp.

He asks me if I like downtown, to which I reply how I’d like to live closer, and I like it since I work and play down here. THIS is when I find out that – despite working right downtown – he absolutely HATES downtown. At first, I figure it’s because he drives, and the downtown core isn’t entirely car-friendly. Which is completely understandable.

No. He REALLY hates downtown. When he decides he wants to leave his current job, it sounds as if he wants to get the hell outta Dodge and move to a suburb. He even asks me why I don’t leave my current job and work closer to where I live. Eeesh.

To be fair, some parts of the conversation are easier than others. But just barely. And it’s the silences – when he’s just looking at me, blinking – that make me feel awkward.

He asks me how old I am. I tell him and then ask him point-blank in return. Apparently we’re the same age. I say apparently, because if he’s 32, then he must be an OLDER 32, despite being born in March.

When our coffee date ends, he offers to give me a lift. I say, sure, just drop me off at the closest station. Instead he wants to drive me home – because after all, it’s so far. So, gauging my instincts – and the logic, considering how far away I live – I agree.

Driving along, he tells me he didn’t even read my profile at first – just looked at my picture and, because he liked my smile, sent me a message.

He asks me – in the QUIETEST voice possible – if we could meet again. He tries taking it back, but I’ve already heard him. I say, “Maybe. We’ll see.”

A couple of minutes down the road, he asks me, out of the blue if I want to have children someday – and how many. Because, NATURALLY, this is perfectly appropriate small talk to make with someone you just met a two and a half hours ago.

(And for the record, he wants four or five – he “likes to dream big”.)

As things presently are, he has my phone number, on which he left voice-mail on Saturday evening. And he wants to meet up. Again. For wings. In Scarborough. Most of you reading this may likely write, “drop this guy”. And it’s likely I will, because I don’t really think we’re on the same wavelength. But I also signed on to this site for the dating experience. Finding a boyfriend this isn’t my main objective – it’s a possible bonus.

Saturday. Coffee Date Number Two is way the hell up at a Starbucks at Yorkdale Mall. I’ve literally talked to this guy – whom I’ll call M – via e-mail for probably the same amount of time as H, maybe less. But I get the impression that he wants to meet right away.

Arranging the day is not free of organizational annoyances. M wants to make plans for Saturday afternoon; I explain I can’t meet because of work. He responds that maybe we could meet Thursday or Friday afternoon instead, and then maybe dinner and a movie on the weekend? Exasperated and almost ready to stab my cellphone with a sharp object (which I partially attribute to PMS), I text back that, again, I cannot meet him at those times because of work, and suggest either (a) sticking to the original plan or (b) suggesting lunch, because I’m actually off that day. In the end, we sort it out.

Saturday turns out to be THE Hairiest Work Day I’ve had in a while. So by the time I leave the building, the last thing I want to do is travel a half-hour northwest to meet a complete stranger at a coffee shop. But I can’t back out now – I’ve already agreed to it.

Despite texting that I would be a bit late, I arrive at the mall on time, and find the Starbucks about 10 minutes later. As it turns out, HE texts back to say he’s going to be a bit late, as he’s stuck in traffic. So I end up ordering a chai latte and a cookie and sit.

I’m about to text my friend about coffee date bailing etiquette should he not show up by 9 p.m., when the man of the hour appears, around 8:45. He gives me the kind of hug one would give an acquaintance, removes his jaunty hat and sits down.

M is physically the opposite of H – taller and bigger. He only seems to resemble one of the pictures he’s displayed up on his online profile – which later, he tells me, was set up for him by one of his friends. His profile says he’s 29; he’s actually 31.

The conversation feels a bit more comfortable to me than the one on Thursday, but it wasn’t completely devoid of odd moments.

At one point he asks me, “So, why are you still single?” Huh? Perhaps he was inferring that he was surprised that someone else hasn’t snatched me up yet. But it didn’t come across that way. Funny, though, ’cause H asked me a similar question on Thursday.

(Apparently I have issues I don’t know about, which I need to deal with.)

This meeting is odd – not so much in conversation, but in other ways. For one, he doesn’t order anything. Okay, fine. But if that was going to be the case, we could have just met outside the Starbucks and then gone somewhere else.

But then it’s also his body language. He doesn’t take off his coat the entire time we’re talking. And I can’t tell whether he’s just a laid-back person but just a bit nervous, or disinterested – when he talks, he seems to be looking all over the place. I know people don’t tend to stare at someone they’re talking to. Their eyes wander. But it’s noticeable enough for me to – at one point – try and figure out WHAT he might be looking at.

After about 15 or 20 minutes, he asks if I want to go for a walk. So we leave the Starbucks and basically walk back through the mall the way I came, over to the subway entrance.

He says maybe we can meet up sometime; I said sure, since my schedule allows me weekdays off. But to me, he seems more of a friend than three-plus-dates material. Who knows? He may not decide to call ME back, either. It wouldn’t be a great loss.

Yep, yep, yep, yep.

And thus ends my epic for now.

One Big Crapshoot

I’ve never considered myself a gambling kind of woman.

Well, there was that ONE time in Windsor this past summer, when I went to a casino in Windsor for the first time and made $70 on a slot machine … but that was an exception to the rule.

However, on recent subway rides around town, there’s this one lottery ad that’s been catching my eye.

Called “It’s A Wonderful Life” (yes, just like the movie), it boasts – along with a stylized depiction of Jimmy Stewart and Donna Bailey in a loving embrace – a winning pot of … wait for it … $75,000.

Which isn’t a lot.

But lately, it sure seems like a fortune.

And who hasn’t thought about the idea of scratching one’s way to a potential Christmas miracle?

I mean, it happened a couple of weeks ago to that couple in Manitoba, who were down to their last $10 before hitting the big one …

But still. I’m constantly talking myself out of it.

The fact is, I never regularly play lottery tickets, because I never win a red cent. Last Christmas, my brother bought me a whole gift pack of lottery scratch tickets; I didn’t even win a free card.

And yet, the other day, I found myself thinking about what I would do if I won – how I would divide up the sum – after taxes, of course.

Silly? Yes.

But it’s gotten me thinking about other things lately.

While I do believe that everyone and every thing has a purpose, that everything happens for a reason …

Sometimes I wonder …

Aren’t there some things in life that just one big cosmic roll of the dice?

Or maybe because we take that risk and make certain decisions that put things into play?

Ah, perhaps I should just shut up … and re-consider buying that lottery ticket.

Toronto’s Transit Troubles

While at work a few evenings ago, I ran into a colleague of mine.

In the midst of our chat, he told me about going to buy subway tokens on his meal break … and having to go to THREE subway stations for tokens.

At the first two stations, the ticket booth collectors told him they were out of tokens. When he arrived at the third, there was an enormous lineup.

It’s stories like these that I’ve either read or heard, since the TTC approved their impending fare hikes last Tuesday.

The approval was then followed by the official announcement on Wednesday …

And was almost immediately followed by a colossal shutdown on two sides of the Yonge-University-Spadina subway line.

(Which – while completely unrelated, and coincidental in its timing –  was unfortunate, but somehow symbolized the problem with the whole situation.)

The TTC’s decree resulted in people running to subway stations around the city, to buy as many tokens as they could get their hands on. But not before the commission clamped down – first by limiting the number of tokens per person to five, for the princely sum of $11.25 …

And then by ceasing token sales outright … announcing they would only be selling temporary tickets from now into January. (When fares go up, those tickets will have to be supplemented by a quarter to make up the full fare.)

I think there are a few places where they’ve got the five token rule back – for now. But what a mess, indeed. And it’s not just tokens being affected.

Patrons like myself, who use the subway system more than 10 times a week, have to brace for an 11 per cent fare hike …

From the $109 we pay now for monthly passes, to a whopping $121.

And as I read a couple of days ago in one of the commuter dailies’ transit columns, forget about investing in the yearly subscription plan at 2009 prices. They’ll be sold in January at the new prices … which, after taxes, probably puts the total monetary amount somewhere in the mid-$1500 range.

Excuse the crude visual, but talk about bending over and grabbing your ankles.

To be fair, I don’t think the fare hikes are to help pay workers’ wages. Believe what you want, but I don’t think so. It’s a bigger issue of subsidizing – or in our case, a lack thereof. The TTC isn’t exactly at the top of the list when it comes to well-subsidized transit authorities.

In the meantime, the only thing commuters such as myself can feel, is an increasing sense of frustration.

Will things on the transit lines EVER get better, even with the promise of Transit City, some 10 years away from completion?

And will THAT mean we should just prepare for more fare increases to come?

Personally speaking, I also don’t think this latest announcement is going to help encourage people to use transit as an environmentally-friendlier alternative to commuting around Toronto.

If anything, I wouldn’t be surprised if it drove (or kept) them out of the seats of subways and streetcars, and right back into the seats of sedans and SUVs.

Or maybe it won’t change a thing.

Only time will tell, come January 2010.

Time Flies When You’re Working

If you asked me to recall my first day of work at my current employer, I don’t think I could, to save my life.

I can only guess it was on a November day. The air was cool. And it probably wasn’t raining like it was today.

I do wish I could remember what I could have been thinking as I entered the building for the first time …

Likely sidling up to the security desk … asking for someone by name … getting authorized, then handed one of those fluorescent “visitor” stickers.

I’m pretty sure I was nervous. Knowing I was starting from the very bottom of the totem pole. Hoping that I’d do a good job.

And I’m sure that if someone told me that I’d still be working there eight years later, I’d probably look at them as if they were insane.

Sure, I’d say, that’s what I hope for. But who knows? And considering I how lucky I was to find a job just two months after September 11, you’d probably understand where I’d be coming from. 

And yet, here I am. In the future.

I’ve managed a slow ascent up the evolutionary chain – gaining a better station, vacation time, benefits. The stuff working adult lives are made of.

And again I’m lucky, pulling off the monumental feat of being fully employed in the midst of a world-wide recession – keeping afloot in an industry being hit with closures, layoffs and threats of  bankruptcy.

I suppose I have that proverbial brass ring – or half-ring – people talk about.

At least I HAVE a job, I keep hearing.

So I should just shut up and be happy, right? Well, easier said than done.

I have moments. Of nervous energy. Frustration. Lack of motivation. Yearning for something else. Something that’s lacking.

I know there are so many people out there who feel that way. And I’m tired to being made to feel ungrateful for not being over the moon about my job.

Honestly, eight years kinda takes the shine off things. Sometimes, it doesn’t even take that long.

I’m regularly reminded of the world happening outside the bubble I work in – usually by reading Facebook or blog updates by former classmates. People whose raw talent I was in awe of, who I SWORE would be the future of my industry.

But they left – or didn’t even enter, and are blissfully happy. (Or seem that way.)

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately.

Part of me knows there’s nothing stopping me from leaving at any time, and it’ll be just fine.

But the other part watches the people who’ve come after me, wriggling their way up to – and past – me on the pole,  and I start psyching myself out. Wondering if I’ll be a failure for leaving … or if that’s just my tattered self-esteem talking.

Life always looks greener on the other side.

I always told myself I wouldn’t become a “lifer”. That I’d give myself 15 years, then get out.

But perhaps I’m just need to let the dust settle, and that will give myself the opportunity find that niche that, until now, has been eluding me.

Or perhaps I’m still kidding myself.

Either way, I have the type of job security people out there right now would kill to get … even if I’m not 100 per cent happy.

So until bluer skies return, I suppose I should just button my lip, keep my head down and roll up my sleeves.

Because tomorrow is another work day.

Happy anniversary to me.

A Belated Thanks!

Imagine my surprise upon checking in on my blog earlier this week … and seeing the enormous spike in people who have visited my site!

(Two-hundred and twenty-eight! Probably more than in a given week, that’s for sure.)

In any case, just wanted to send out a belated “thanks!” and to encourage you to keep visiting – tell your friends!

Black(face) Is The New Black?

I’m just going to cut to the chase:

WHEN EXACTLY did blackface make a comeback?

Did a memo go out deeming this trendy, or “ironic”, as the kids say?

‘Cause I’m pretty sure it’s neither.

(If, for some strange reason, you have no idea what I’m referring to, then read this for a historical summary.)

Why am I getting my panties in a twist, you wonder?

Well, these three incidences within the last five weeks have a little something to do with it:

Australia: On October 7th, during a 20th anniversary special of the Australian program Hey Hey It’s Saturday, a group who’d performed as med students back in the day, decided to resurrect their skit parodying the Jackson 5, called the Jackson Jive. One of the judges on the show was American musician Harry Connick Jr.

And, well … here’s what happened:

The thing that KILLS me? It took them until the END of the show to acknowledge, um, wait, this is KIND of offensive to some people. SORRY.

Yes, they apologized. But still.

blackface1France: A week later (October 15), I stumbled across an online article about French Vogue. For its October issue, photographer Steven Klein shot a 14-page spread, with a number of pictures featuring a white model – named Lara Stone – completely covered in black paint. My understanding from what I read was that the photos were trying to push the visual envelope and appear “fresh” and “edgy”. Hmmm … I guess the dozens of people who wrote online articles shortly after … just … didn’t … get it.

A number of them also didn’t get why French Vogue didn’t think to hire black models for its shoot. Because they do exist.

And the kicker? this isn’t the first time the photographer has tried to make blackface “the new black”.

Now, it might be argued that racism isn’t as big a deal as in North America. But I’m willing to bet there are MANY non-white European immigrants who’d be ready to dispute that argument.

uoftbwoysToronto,  this week: This story emerges about a group of University of Toronto students, who decided to dress up as members of the Jamaican bobsled team, from the Disney movie “Cool Runnings”, for Halloween.

Ingenious, right? But wait, it gets BETTER.

To make it more “authentic”, four of the five guys decided to cover their faces in brown makeup.

And to cap off their brillant costume idea, the organizers of the Halloween party they attended GAVE THEM A PRIZE (free admission to their next party – worth $5).

Torontoist caught wind of this and posted this story about them … which sparked arguments on both sides, as well as demands from the school’s black students’ association for an apology.

And in the end, these turkeys submitted an apology at a town hall held on Tuesday. At last check, the black students’ association has demanded an apology from the three colleges who organized the party.

In a TV news story I watched two nights ago, the reporter asked a member of the black students’ association to explain the problem with the costume.

She essentially explained that while it was one thing to poke fun at people, it’s “when you attach race to the buffoonery, that it becomes a problem.”

I agree with her.

But I have a bigger beef. Not with the the guys who wore the blackface …

But with the one guy – a Trinidadian student – who should have known better. But instead, by painting himself white (whiteface?) , he thought this somehow made it okay.

Of course, as he learned the hard way, it’s NOT okay.

Until now, I thought blackface was one of those things I’d only have to read about in history books and encyclopedias – not in the news.

If this is the post-racial world, then fly me outta here.

*Photo of U of T students courtesy of Torontoist.

THIS Works on the Ladies?

For lack of a better posting …

Boys, please take note:

If you’re trying to figure out what NOT to say to someone you’re thinking of dating –  and you’ve only talked to them once –  add the following to the list … part of an IM conversation I had over Thanksgiving weekend last month (I edited out the boring parts):

Me:  how’s it going?
Dude : good and u
Me: fine thanks …
Me:  i’ve been working a lot
Dude: nice
Dude: how is the kids
Dude: and how was your turkey day long weekend?
Me: what kids?
Dude: future kids lol
Me: that’s funny (Ed. Note: No, not really.)
Dude: dont you wanna have kids in the future?
Me: sure … but why are you asking about them now?
Dude: because when , we mixed something i have and something you have , i know we could make kids
Dude: that is why i was asking you
Dude: hehehhehe
Me: oh …
Me: ha ha
Me: ??
Me: you’re being very optimistic
Dude: people who are not optimistic , comment (sic) suciede (double sic) at the end lol
Dude: hehehehhehe

Um, yeah.

Seriously.