by Ken Carpenter



There are few more horrifying terms in the world than “blind date”.  Strong bachelors turn pale at the thought, for their fate is no longer in their hands but in the control of at least one and often two or more other people.  One they know, or think they do, and the other could very well be Charles Manson’s cranky twin sister.  The only guarantee is that you are one of two pawns in a game somebody else made up the rules for, a comforting thought is it not?

            For some reason there are people out there who insist on trying to change and improve other people’s lives, even if the process leaves the recipient with two bloody stumps.  They can’t help it any more than they can help eavesdropping on a juicy conversation in the grocery store checkout line.  A bachelor with no social life is like the nectar of the gods to them, and whether the miserable bum likes it or not he is going to get a healthy dose of fine tuning crammed down his throat.  Sometimes it even works, but for every buttinsky who sincerely wants to help because they care there is another one who just does it because their nose is as long as the old arm of the law. 

            As might be expected, this is all leading up to somewhere we are all better off not going, but will anyway.  My savior was an ex-girlfriend who dumped me for a guy ten years younger and 150 pounds heavier, most of it in his rear end.  Yes, it was a low blow, and no, I am not the least bit bitter.  He can’t help it if he gets mistaken for a dumpster now and then.

            Anyway, she still calls once in a while to check up on me and I talk to her just like I have good sense.  To prove how much sense I have, I let her give me the phone number of an old family friend she had not seen in over 15 years.  This lady had called her mother (CLUE) out of the blue, and happened to mention a willingness to remedy her dateless life of the past few years.  I was told she was a bit older than me and quite fun, and despite major misgivings I called and arranged to meet for Mexican food in a small town out of state, near where she lives.

            The drive down did not serve to calm me, and the butterflies in my stomach soon turned to drunken fruit bats.  That is the power of a blind date, the ability to transform a man about to turn fifty into a fretful kid.  Five minutes from my destination the bats affected my brain and I stopped and bought a single rose, perhaps thinking it would distract her from my sweaty brow. 

            I entered the restaurant, short stemmed rose in hand, and nervously inquired if they had any single women wanting a man.  I think I could have worded it better, for the Hispanic hostess arched her rapier eyebrows and gave me a heavily accented “Certainly not, sir”.

            Appalled, I soon managed to explain myself and discover that I was the first to arrive.  A bevy of waiters led me to a corner booth, and my first thought was a rodent like fear that there was no rear exit.  With a sigh I sat back in the corner, placing the by now traitorous looking rose next to me, out of sight.

            Several tables were filled within minutes, but no ladies by themselves.  Then I looked over to see the perpetually smirking waiters escorting a lone woman past the scattered tables, but I did not take a second look because she could have passed for my Aunt Bertha.  Or, more accurately, two of my Aunt Berthas.

            With rising alarm I realized they were not seating her, but I shook it off.  It could not be, that only happens in bad sitcoms.  Yet they drew closer, and when the waiter’s smirks broadened into smiles, reality set in like day old cement.  The only thing my brain was capable of registering at the moment was “Good Lord, lime green polyester pants!”, but I imagine they matched admirably with the sudden green of my gills, so who was I to complain.

            Our croaking introductions were a blur as I fought to regain control, and I recognized a flash of confusion on her face as well.  I really hoped my grin wasn’t as sickly as it felt, because I was suddenly determined to play this as straight as possible in hopes of salvaging a shred of dignity.  Silly me. 

            Then I dropped my hand on the vinyl next to my leg and felt the prickly hide of that cursed rose, and I suddenly felt a little queasy.  For an instant I had the selfish thought of just leaving it there out of the way, but one look at the pack of waiters across the room convinced me.  They had seen it, and they would surely squeal on me.

            I picked it up, mumbled something lame, and handed it across the table to her.  She rewarded me with a genuine smile and I was suddenly glad I had it to give, and a little less convinced that I would die of mortification before the night was over.  An instant later I had my doubts.

            I sensed a presence approaching our table and looked up into the amused brown eyes of my original hostess,  who came to a halt with a full bowl of mortification sauce balanced in her hands.  With a voice any drill sergeant would be proud to own she bellowed out “Oh, a rose, how romantic!”.  At that point the whole place became dead quiet and I realized every tortilla chip gobbling neck present was craning to get a good look at the romantic couple.  My pasty cheeks suddenly matched the gray of my date’s hair, and I smiled my best gigolo smile and tried to ignore our audience.  At that point I would have sold my soul for the powers of invisibility, but unfortunately at that moment my soul was basically worthless so I was foiled again.

            My date, who actually seemed to enjoy the attention we were drawing, proved to be sweet, funny, and intelligent.  Neither one of us acknowledged the fact that this meeting was one that never should have happened, and I managed to finish my tasty meal without strangling any of the smirkers around us.  We did not see each other again. 

            Will I go on another blind date?  I suppose I will, since I seem to be stuck with a morbid fascination for the ridiculous. 

But I might not let any ex-girlfriends set it up.