a good idea in theory…

“So tired now of paying my dues
I start out strong but then I always lose”
-Vertical Horizon

Do you remember that commercial – I think it was for DSL service – where a guy is sitting at his computer surfing aimlessly with his kids playing in the background?  Suddenly, the computer chirps and says “You have reached the end of the Internet.  Please start over…”

I was talking to a friend of mine in NY the other day who tells me that his dating life has just reached that point. The women he’s met on-line are starting to talk to each other.   He has begun to recycle – and not in a way that at all benefits the environment.  My response was that there can only be so many woman using http://www.tapmyass.com – maybe he should expand his search a bit.  That may not have been sound advice in his case – maybe a change of venue is in order – but that’s a graphic story for another day.  Or maybe I’ll spare you that one…

Anyway, he is quite the player, I’ll grant you.  But the situation is real enough.  I think we’ve all become SO virtual these days that we have actually, by default, come full circle.  I’ve see kids sitting on a bench in the park, beautiful weather, perfect Sunday afternoon in the park.  Are they playing Frisbee, or feeding the ducks, or playing cards, or chess, or reading a book?  Nope – they are texting…each other. Flirting has changed tremendously since I was kid.

Truth be told, I dove head first into the stigma of on-line dating many years ago and, although I’ve made some great friends – and had many ‘successes’ – lately I’ve begun to think that my only option is to start my own recycling program. Does the road often traveled look different the second time around? Dunno.  But as a Yankee trapped in the buckle of the bible belt, my own personal options are certainly limited. Actually meeting someone would be nice.  Stigmata aside – it’s hard to gauge someone through email.  Chemistry, compatibility, level of insanity…

Social clubs were brought to my attention awhile ago.  Not like Studio 54, or a rave.  Just a bunch people with similar interest meeting to explore those interests.  Nothing sexual implied here. You know – http://www.we-drink-beer.com. A motorcycle riding club.  Off road Jeep clubs.  Wine tasting.  Walking your dog in the park…  Whatever.  No matter your fancy – someone, somewhere has the same interest, right.  So why not?  I thought I’d try one.  Makes more sense than texting teenagers in the park – and presumably there is no bail money involved.

Events and Adventures is one of those social networking clubs that has everything from cruises to horseback riding to movie nights. I liked the idea of actually speaking to someone with a pulse before I ask them out, as opposed to just signing up on line and subjecting myself to the rigors of ‘dating in the Internet cloud’.

I called this place and left my number for a return call.  Their zeal in returning my call was annoying to say the least. One time I actually answered thinking it was a business call, and the onslaught began.

I was at a concert when the call came in. If the caller ID didn’t say it was from a state when I have been doing business, I would have let it ring…

“Hi.  Mr. Bragman!”  Even with the high decibel level, the uber-cheer in her voice came through loud and clear. I was instantly annoyed.

“Actually it’s Bingham,” I said.   “Who is this?”

“It’s Sarah from Events and Adventures.  Glad I caught you. I want to talk to you about…”  I tried politely several times to stop her so I could get off the phone, but she kept right on going… Like a dog with a milk-bone… So I hung up.  A few moment later I get a call from the same area code.  Different number, but from Ft Lauderdale.  I knew it was a trunk line, but didn’t want to chance missing a business call. If I was being called from that office – someone really needed something…

“Hi.  This is Bill.” I answered the phone as I always do, and waited for a response. None was forth coming.  I’m sitting in the amphitheater in crash position now.  My head between my knees with the phone in one ear and a finger in the other.  I must have look REALLY disappointed in the opening act…

“Hello?” I tried again.

“Oh.  I thought it was a recording!  Mr. Bringhamton – This is Sarah again.  We got cut off.  I wanted to talk to you about…”

Now people have commented for years on the lush,velvety tone of my phone voice (and my modesty of same…  Apparently I give good ear). But with a guitar screaming in the background?  Come on now.

“Sarah?  Sarah…  You need to stop talking, please.  I’m at a concert right now.  Can I call you back later?”

“Sounds like you are at a concert.  Who are you seeing?”

“Can I call you later?”  Still holding on to the delicate facade of politeness.

“I love concerts.  I just saw one last week.  Some 80’s band.  Do you like that kind of music?  Do you go to many concerts?”

Really?

“Sarah.  I am at a concert right now!  I am hanging up the phone.  Please do not call me back tonight.  I will call you…”

I hung up.  The phone rang five minutes later.  I chuckled and ignored it.

The next day my phone rang with the 954 area code again. I feel like I’m playing Russian roulette with my cell phone, but I had to answer it.   It was, of course, my old friend Sarah…

“Hello Mr. Bringerman.   I’m glad I caught you.  How was your concert last night?”

“It’s ‘Bingham’ actually, and it was nice, thank you.  Listen – now is really not a good time for me…”

“I’m glad I caught you,”  She was not giving up.  “We have some 40 different events and adventures in your area each month that you would be interested in.  Have you had a chance to look at the web site?”

Clearly I need to either give these people some attention, or stop doing business in Florida.   I took a deep breath – summoned what little patience was available at the moment – and plunged forth.  I figured I’d just skip over the part where she knows what I would be interested in…

“I did.  It listed some activities, but wouldn’t give me any information on any of them with out being a member, and there didn’t seem to be a way to sign up.” I asked the question knowing both the answer and the fact that I wouldn’t like it.

“We do that intentionally,” she replied.  “We want to screen members before they join.”

What are the odds?

“Then why did you ask if I looked there if you knew I wasn’t going to learn anything.”  I thought it was a fair question. An answer should be forth coming….

“Tell me what you do for a living.  Are you single?  Do you travel.  What kinds of activities do you like to do?

Apparently I was wrong.  It’s happened before… Anyway, two can play that game.  I was pushing forward.

“Do you do a background or credit check?” I asked

“No Sir.  We just want to meet everyone face to face. When would you like to come in?”

“What can you tell me about your service,”  I asked.

“We like to pre-screen our members before we give them any details.”

“OK.  WHEN can you tell me about your service?”

I’m starting to feel like I’m talking to a lamp post.  My dogs converse better than this.

“Can I schedule an appointment for you to meet with a qualified membership specialist?”

I thought about asking what they were qualified for, but decided against it.

“You can’t tell me anything else?” I asked.

“We meet all of our members before they join to make sure they are the caliber of people that we would like in our community.  This is not a singles club or dating service and we have everyone from CEO’s to students actively involved in your area.  There is no monthly fee.  Just a one time charge that we can make fit into anyone’s budget.  Can you come in tomorrow?”

At this point my interest in the program has completely vanished, but if I hang up she’ll just keep calling…

“Would you please do me a small favor?”  I asked as kindly as possible.

“Certainly.  What day works for you?”

“No, no.  A favor.  Please?”

“How about Tuesday?” She was persistent.  I’ll give her that.

“Please turn off your monitor so you can’t read the script in front of you…”

“Uh.  What do you mean?”

“I’m sorry.  Let me ask a different way. Please turn off your monitor so you can’t read the script in front of you…” Yeah.  I’m over it.

“Sir.  Would you like to pick a different day to come in and speak with a specialist?”

Houston.  We have a problem….

“Wow!  OK.  You’ve talked me in to it.  Can I come in today?”

“Sure.  How’s three o’clock?” The fact that it was ten till three didn’t even enter her mind.  I’m going to guess there are many things that don’t get in there…

“Three o’clock is great,”  I said. “Now that that is settled, tell me something.  If you are not a dating service why does it say on your site that you have to be single to join?  If you are not running background checks on people, why do you want to meet them?  If there is no monthly fee, why do you care how much I make and why should I have to think about my budget?  Finally, how the hell would you know what my interests are?”

“Uh…”

I could almost see the poor girl getting red faced through the phone…

“Would you like me to ask a different way?”

“Uh.  Sir.  Would you mind holding for a moment?”

“Yes.”

“Uh… Excuse me?”

“Yes.  I mind,”  I said.  In my mind there is a fine line between being polite and being a putz.  Said line is quickly approaching…

“Just hold for a moment please.”

“Nope.  Don’t put me on hold.”

Silence.

“Don’t even tell me you put me on hold…”

“No Sir.  I’m still here, but my supervisor is on the line with us and would like to speak with you.”

A new voice enters the arena.  Older.  More confident.  I’m guessing I’ve reached ‘problem child’ status and reinforcements were summoned.

“Hi. Mr. Brigman is it?”  Still with the name.  It’s like they are paid by the consonant..

“Close enough,”  I said

“I’ve been listening to Sarah’s conversation with you and I can address your concerns. First.  Can you tell me what you do for a living?…”

“Sure.  Right after you tell me why its any of your business.”

Yup.  I’m over it…

“Well, I see you have a three o’clock scheduled here.  Can you still make that appointment?”

I wonder if her next call will be from someone needing tech support…

“I’m going to guess that you don’t charge a monthly fee, but your ‘one time charge’ is so large that people want to break it in to monthly payments that you folks will, conveniently, finance for them.  Which means that I could never stop paying for your non-dating singles activities.”
Silence…  For, like, a long time.

I piped back in…

“Did you know that the human head weighs eight pounds?”

“Sorry.  What?”

“My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my Father.  Prepare to die…”

I thought I nailed the accent.

“Mr. Bigmanton.  I need to know what you do for a living.”

“No Ma’am.  You really don’t.”

Silence…

“My Mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun…” I said

Any excuse to quote Shakespeare.  I know.  It’s shameless.

Silence…

“Sir.  Will you be able to make your three o’clock?”

I give up.

“Absolutely. Let me stop at the bank first.  I’ll be the the tall guy with blue jeans, black t-shirt and $100 bills falling out of his pockets.”

“Terrific.  We’ll see you then.  Please call if you need to change the appointment for some reason.”  She said cheerfully.

“Ok.  Listen.  Since you are a supervisor, can YOU do one small favor for me?”

“Certainly Sir.”

“Great.  Take a really deep breath… and hold it until I get there.  I’m on my way.”

It is entirely possible that I have just squandered my only chance for social redemption.  Surprisingly, I’m not too worried about it. I feel rather confident that the only thing I have lost here are the five minutes on the phone that I will now never get back.

One small donation to the Gods of creative expression and comedic fertility.

Besides, anyone that hasn’t seen Jerry Mcguire or the Princess Bride can’t be much fun to hang out with anyway, right?

‘Course that’s just how it looks through my eyes.  Your view may differ…

-B