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.

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