Dating

February 2010—The Time I Got Left in Chicago (a.k.a. My First Date)

The first date I ever went on came a few months after my parents gifted me an eHarmony subscription.

Now, my friends will tell you I’m a fairly picky person when it comes to dating. I’m an ambitious person with strong faith values who’s looking for someone with these similar ideals. Good conversation, humor, and intellect also rank pretty high up there. Not an extensive list, but it surprisingly (and perhaps unfortunately) cuts out a lot of dating prospects.

Back when I was a bright-eyed 23-year old, however, I had a much longer list of specific “needs” that included a well-paying job, a college education, height (around 6 feet), consistent church goer, and a nice car.

I know, I know, I was the worst. Apparently I had high expectations for myself.

Now, Finn met these criteria: he was a lawyer, a Christian, intelligent, and we were able to have good conversations.

And eHarmony said we were compatible, so of course it’s a match, right?

So, I did the smart thing: messaged back and forth online with him for a couple weeks before talking on the phone for a couple more. Once I felt that he wasn’t a serial killer, I agreed to a date.

I was living in the Chicago suburbs at the time, about an hour’s train ride from downtown. So, after I got off work, I took the train into the city to meet Finn for dinner where grabbed a bite to eat a local Mongolian grill chain before heading to Bucktown (the Chicago hipster mecca) to watch the band a friend of his from law school was in.

And that’s where things went downhill.

First off, this wasn’t the type of music venue where you hang out with a drink and chat with music in the background. Oh, no, no, no, this was a concert: a room packed with standing people, loud music, and dim lights. I basically spent the night smiling awkwardly at Finn because attempting to yell in order to converse had basically failed. So, I drank my beer, shouted a few random things at my date, and attempted to have a good time.

Now, since I had taken the train into Chicago, I knew I needed to make the last one of the night at 12:30am or be stuck in Chicago until the next one left 5 hours later. So, around midnight, I look at Finn and tell him I need to go. He walks me out and hails me a cab. I thank him for the night and get into the cab, thinking he’ll accompany me back to the train station.

This was not the case.

Instead, he closes the door, turns, and walks away.

Alright… so not the type of guy to make sure I get to the train safely. Awesome.

After watching Finn’s retreating form, I turn to the cab driver and tell him my destination, only to be informed that he only takes cash as his credit machine is broken.

All I have is $10 and a credit card.

Which is a problem because I’m pretty sure my taxi ride will be more than $10.

So, I get out of the cab, look around for my date (who’s gone, naturally), and try to figure out my next plan of action while trying to not have a mini-breakdown because I have no idea where I am and I’m not sure I’m gonna make it home in time.

Now, this is pre-smartphone and the wonders of Google Maps, so all I know is that I’m standing somewhere in Chicago with no idea how far away the train station is or any clue where to find an ATM to get cash for a cab ride. What I do I know is that if I take the time to find one, I won’t make the train home.

Fantastic.

So, as I stand there a little bewildered, a guy approaches me and asks if I’m taking the cab. I say “no” and inform him the cab driver doesn’t take credit. The guy looks at me for a beat and asks, “Hey, weren’t you here with someone?”

“Yeah, I was on a date,” I answer.

His eyes narrow. “Where’s your date then?”

I shrug. “No idea, he put me in this cab, closed the door, and just left. I need to get to the train station before the last train leaves but the driver doesn’t take credit. I guess I’ll hail a another cab?”

By the point, the woman he’s with has joined the conversation and they’re both not amused by Finn’s apparent lack of human decency. The guy opens the door to the same cab I’ve just exited and says, “Get in. We’ll pay for your ride to the station.”

So this couple, whose names I never got (and who wouldn’t take any money for spotting my ride) did the thing my date was supposed to do: make sure I got home safely.

And because of them I made my train.

The next day, I called Finn and left a voicemail, explaining that I wasn’t interested in seeing him again and was upset with the fact that he just left me and nearly stranded me in Chicago as I didn’t have enough cash to get back to the station. I thanked him for taking me out and wished him “good luck” on his search.

A few minutes later I got a call back.

Which I ignored.

A voicemail pops up on my screen.

I take a deep breath, prepare myself, and hit “play” to listen to it.

And his reasoning for leaving me in an unfamiliar place?

I never said “thank you.”

Seriously? The reason you left someone unfamiliar with Chicago in a slightly sketchy part of the city was because they didn’t say “thank you”?

Are you for real?

It’s not because I insulted some strong held belief, or offended his law school friend, or was even just downright rude. No, no, no, it’s because I never thanked him for dinner or the drinks he bought me.

I’m sorry, anyone who knows me well will tell you I’m conditioned to say “thank you” almost unconsciously. So either he wasn’t paying attention or he was grasping at an excuse for his terrible behavior.

Either way, suffice to say dating for me did not start out on a positive note. However, the eternal optimist tried to see the silver lining, telling myself, “Everyone has bad dates! You just got yours out of the way at the beginning. It can only get better from here!” I shrugged it off, chalked it up to experience, and looked forward to my next date.

Little did I know, this was just the opening act to the adventures of my dating life.

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