Speed dating was this new craze that was supposed to help you pre-screen dating candidates. After a bunch of five minute conversations, you could decide if anyone you’d spoken to was “date worthy.” If nothing else, the Valentine’s Day Tribal speed dating program seemed like a fun way to meet people.The campus synagogue had been filled with over 200 singles. Circular groupings of chairs had been spread out across the room. Which section you sat in was based on some pre-screening form. Despite all the time I’d put into my answers, my form had been lost and I was randomly assigned. The women were seated on the inside of the circle and every five minutes, the men would rotate clockwise.
As the logistics of the program were explained, I faced my first speed date – Uhura, the cancer survivor whose heart I’d broken. No random pairing in that room could’ve been less likely to work out.
Sometimes I mused that the choo-choo-choose you disaster was somehow related to my breakup with The Axis of Evil. Perhaps when Uhura roomed with The Axis of Evil, she had passed on the karma from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and that’s what caused The Axis to run out on flowers.
This was the first time I’d seen Uhura since high school. Unfortunately, she’d only made it through one semester with The Axis because her cancer had come out of remission. Did being back on campus mean she’d fought it off again? Given how open she was about her experience in high school, I was sure she’d be willing to discuss her health. Besides, this speed date was my chance to apologize for my lack of tact in high school and forever put that incident to rest.
As soon as speed dating commenced, Uhura sighed. Fighting back a sneer, she’d asked, “So, how are you, Debacle?”
I couldn’t blame Uhura for not wanting to be on a speed date with me. Back in driver’s ed, I should’ve followed up Uhura’s note with an in person explanation instead of sending her that crappy reply explaining that the joke was on me. Still, why was she this angry? It’s not like that flower incident was my fault… but Uhura didn’t know that. She probably thought I was a party to the prank! It made sense. When Ms. Hoover had questioned me about it the following day, I’d claimed not to know the identities of the perpetrators. At the time, I’d thought naming names would drag out that stressful ordeal. However, I could see how Uhura might’ve thought that I was protecting my co-conspirators. She must hate me – and deservedly so.
“Not bad, how about you?” I’d replied, tapping my foot on the carpet. How could I break through this awkwardness and give her a substantive apology?
“Uh … That’s good.” We had looked at each other in silence for a few seconds before I’d continued with, “So, what are you majoring in?”
Five minutes can be an eternity.
As I’d rotated about the circle, Storm was by far my favorite speed date. It was embarrassing how quickly I’d recognized her. While we’d never met, I had looked at her Tribe Date profile last fall. It was shocking how much I remembered – she was from the State of Peaches, liked country music and had just transferred to The University of Great Lakes. With answers to all the basic getting to know you questions under my belt, I avoided going through the standard rigmarole. Instead we spent our time discussing southern colloquialisms.
“So, can you just always drop in a y’all in place of you all?” I’d asked. “Or are there specific situations that call for a y’all?”
She’d laughed. “You can always use it.”
“So instead of you all right, can you say y’all right?”
While it would have been difficult to stretch the y’all material more than five minutes, I liked the way Storm smiled and maintained eye contact with me the whole time. To top it off, I walked her home that night. It’s a shame that our coffee date hadn’t worked out. So it goes…
My second best speed date was with Blossom. She was only a sophomore – but from what little I could tell she seemed like a nice Tribal girl. I remembered little from our conversation, except that she seemed to get excited when I mentioned that I liked to run. While it never crossed my mind to pursue her afterwards, she seemed sushi worthy.
The worst five minutes of the night were spent with a 35 year old woman who’d driven over an hour to go to a college Tribal speed dating event. The first thing she’d said to me was, “Well, we’re all here for the same reason.”
She had 13 years on me. Easy there Mrs. Robinson!
One nice side effect of speed dating was that I’d been temporarily relieved from my usual inhibitions around women. During a break, without even thinking about it, I’d walked up to an attractive blonde who was standing by herself. “How’s speed dating treating you?” I’d asked.
Before I knew it, we were joking around, comparing notes on some of our worst speed dates of the evening. Her least favorite had been with a dude in his forties who had followed up his hello with a dinner invitation for the following night.
While I still hadn’t discovered this girl’s name, based on the vibe, I knew I’d be seeing her again.
“Speed dating needs color commentary,” I’d said to her. “Someone ought to be watching over the conversations and let people know how they’re doing. ‘You over there, that’s nice. Way to incorporate your family.’ ‘Hey, you, she doesn’t want to hear about your bowling technique. You’re the worst speed dater I’ve ever seen!’”
The mystery girl had laughed.
Before my intriguing lady friend had a chance to put in her two cents, Uhura had snapped, “That’s awful! Debacle, you’re just a sweet as you were in high school.”
How long had Uhura been standing beside us?
The anonymous girl had taken one look at Uhura’s glare, shook her head and disappeared into the crowd.
Uhura had given me a nod, and walked off.
No incident in high school had troubled me like Uhura’s tears after driver’s ed. Seven years later, Uhura had avenged the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. While I’d lost my chance with the intriguing blonde, I no longer had to carry the burden of guilt.
While I’d wanted to catch up to Uhura and give her a high five, it was best to let her have her moment.