I have a suspicion that the only reason the blind date still exists is that for some few individuals, they actually work. The rest of us must suffer for the sake of the few. Years ago, Dad had a friend at work with a daughter my age, and somehow he managed to set me up with his daughter. So, he gave me her phone number, and after a couple weeks of putting it off, I finally called her. We talked for a bit, and reluctantly I asked her out. She agreed, and we scheduled a date for Friday night.
I have horrible orientation skills, so when I learned that this girl lived in Layton, I nearly panicked. I’d never been to Layton, I’d never known anyone from Layton, and I couldn’t even guess which direction I’d have to drive to get to Layton. There is a tradition that men do not like to ask directions. I suppose this may be so for those who have some glimmer of confidence in their orientation skills. I had long since given up faith in mine. I would ask directions at a service station, and follow them until I reached another service station. Then I’d repeat the process until I was within a block or so of my destination. Occasionally, however, I would get to a station who didn’t know the location I was looking for. In such circumstances, I’d wander aimlessly through a city until I came across another service station – or if there was no such station around, I might stop at a grocery store, restaurant, or business office to ask if anyone knew the way to my location. My family knew about my disorder, so they were usually quite willing to help. Dad offered to drive with me to the girl’s house the night before the date, so I’d know how to get there.
When Friday night came, I was a bundle of nerves. This would be my first single date. I’d only gone on group dates before. On group dates, you can always count on someone to carry on the conversation. With single dates, I knew I’d have half the talking responsibility. I didn’t even know this girl. What if we sat there in awkward silence for half the date?
Just to make sure I would make it on time, and in case I got lost, I left 45 minutes earlier than I had to. As I left, I became conscious of everything. It was summer, and the air was hot and stuffy. This gave the inside of the truck a kind of muggy smell, and I wanted to be prepared to impress my date. So I stopped at a service station and bought a car freshener. I got in the truck, popped it out of the bag, and hung it on the rear view mirror. I had never bought a car freshener before, and I was pleased with my choice – forest pine scent. That should give the car a nice fresh atmosphere. I also rolled the window down to let the old air out. Soon I realized the wind was scuffing up my hair, so I closed it.
After a time, I found my eyes watering with the intense scent of pine. Were car fresheners usually this powerful? I snatched the thing off the mirror and set it on the floor. That helped a little, but just to be sure, I opened the window a crack.
To my surprise, I arrived in good timing, giving me 45 minutes to kill.
Perhaps if I’d known Layton better, I could have window shopped. But the risk of getting lost was too great, so I found a gas station, pulled around back, parked the truck, set my watch alarm to wake me, and tried to take a nap.
Next thing I knew, I opened my eyes and saw my date’s dad staring down at me through the window. “Getting a little sleep in, are we?”
“Uh, oh… hi! Yeah, I was just… I was a little tired.”
He laughed and returned to his car. I could tell this was going to be a grand evening. After that I couldn’t sleep.
By now, the car freshener was getting worse. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a green pine-scented mist emitting from the little tree. I fumbled through the truck till I found a plastic grocery bag to keep it in and stashed the chunk of aroma under the seat.
I showed up at Dalina’s door at exactly 6:00. I didn’t want to be early, in case her dad had told her about my gas station siesta, and I didn’t want to be late lest she thought I’d overslept the said siesta. We left without going inside first, for which I was grateful. No need to meet her father.
The date started out alright – you know, the typical awkward silences followed by one of us (me, in this case) asking a dumb question like, “So where did you go to high school?” I’ve only found one decent use for that question. You meet a girl, and would like to know her age, so you ask, “Did you go to Cyprus High?”
“No, I went to Highland.”
“Oh,” you reply, “what year did you graduate?”
Then you know she’s too old. Luckily this was not the case with Dalina. But on a first date, you thrive on smalltalk until you can grab onto something interesting to talk about.
Dalina had already mentioned that she was going to school, so I asked, “So what are you studying?”
Now I knew I was doomed. Not only was I on a blind single date, but I would be analyzed by an aspiring psychologist.
“What about you?”
“And what would you like to do with your degree?”
“I don’t know – maybe teach.”
“How do you feel about teaching?”
“Uh, okay, I guess. I think it might be fun.”
“And why is that?”
I know now why they call psychiatrists “shrinks.” I felt very small. I felt like I should be laying on a black couch, staring into a pastel light, she at a desk with a clipboard, saying, “Interesting. Very interesting.” I wondered if I should start making up a bunch of horrible things that happened to me as a child that made me what I am today – unfortunately nothing horrible ever happened to me as a kid. Maybe that’s what made me such a dull date. After awhile, I noticed her eyes were starting to moisten. Had I said something to upset her? Had I offended her before our date had really began. “Do you mind if I open the window?” She asked, “Your dad’s air-freshener is burning my eyes.”
I’d been planning on taking her to the Lion House Pantry on temple square, but unfortunately I had not checked their hours ahead of time. The sign on the locked door announced that dinner was served from 5 to 7. It was 7:15. Short of walking over to the mall food court, the only other place to eat nearby was the Garden restaurant at the top of the Joseph Smith Memorial building. Desperate to not look like a fool, I said, “Well, that’s alright, I figured we could go up to the Garden restaurant if this one was closed. Does that sound okay?”
“Whatever you’d like.”
I was certain she was doing a psychoanalysis on my decision-making skills. I was determined not to fail. “Let’s do it then.”
I wonder if she saw my bug-eyed expression when I looked at the price of the menu items. “Get whatever you want” I assured her, hoping she didn’t notice the crack in my voice.
It was a delicious meal, quite like home cooking – which made me wonder why we eat at such places. If we did make it at home, it would cost a tenth of the price, and might even make for a more interesting date. But I guess that would require a bit of cooking skills. I decided I’d best get some before going on another date.
After dinner, we had a tour of the conference center. Most of my early dates included a tour of the conference center. I probably could have provided the tour myself after a while, though that would have required a good deal more talking, which I wasn’t very good at.
After the tour I asked her if she’d like to go see a laser show at Hansen Planetarium. I hadn’t seen one in years, and I thought a date would be a good excuse to go. “No,” she replied, “I have lots of homework to do.”
So I took her home. I walked her to the door, and after an awkward moment at the step, I turned and headed back for the car. Thus ended my first single date. I guess it could have been worse. I could have fallen off the roof of the conference center or choked to death on a piece of chicken.
Driving home, I stopped at a service station and chucked the air freshener, riding the rest of the way with both windows down.
I took comfort in something someone once told me, and which I found to be very true in my own experience. It is simply this: all first dates go badly. The first time you go on a date with a girl, with very few exceptions, the date will not go well. Supposing that a first date is a forecast to the potential of the relationship is like saying 7th grade is a forecast of your academic future. Just imagine if that were the case. We’d probably have Olympic spit-wad flings, and the Nobel peace prize would probably go to the one who had shut the largest number of annoying kids in their lockers. Likewise, if everyone assumed that a bad first date meant there was no chance for the relationship, most people would never get married.
That was the last I ever saw of Dalina. A couple days later, Dad came to me saying that he was confused. “Greg said Dalina told him my car freshener was too strong. I don’t know what she’s talking about. I don’t have a car freshener.”