Don’t park there.

Some girls care about a guy’s car, but recent experiences have led me to a new, admittedly ridiculous, basis on which to judge a date– his parking style.

This concept first occurred to me when a guy picked me up to go out to dinner. He was a surgeon, and he drove an Audi, so I probably should have realized that he was rich. But it didn’t really hit me until we got to the restaurant and he parked his car with a valet! Without even looking for a street spot! On a weeknight! My mind was blown. I thought only celebrities lived so lavishly. (The glamour was diminished a little bit when we tried to get the car back after dinner and had to hang around in the garage because the valet had locked himself out of the office containing all the keys.)

Not surprisingly, Dr. Valet turned out to be too fancy to be compatible with me, so some time later I found myself giving directions to my house to yet another date. I offered up some parking advice (eg., finding an empty spot on the alley that glitters with past visitors’ window fragments is not actually lucky) and he appeared at my door remarkably quickly. “You found a spot?” I asked. “Oh yeah,” he said. “I parked in a lot for some cafe or something.”

Now you out-of-towners may not know this, but Philadelphians will park anywhere: hanging off the corner, on the sidewalk, on the median (no, seriously, that’s standard procedure in parts of the city). But we do not park illegally on private property. Why not? Because the parking authority will ticket you, but private tow truck drivers will do much scarier things, like extortion, gunfire and arson. (To quote Dave Barry: I am not making this up.)

How to explain all this to an innocent guy just in from the suburbs, where “no parking” signs are more like a friendly nudge than a death threat? It was beyond me. So I just talked fast, ordered no dessert, and generally tried to wrap up our date before his car disappeared.

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Say something, anyway.

I don’t think anyone will ever top the weirdest man I ever speed dated, but I recently met another guy who may go down in infamy– as the WORST speed dater in the world.

To begin with, even though our date occurred in the middle of the event, he couldn’t figure out where to go. After everyone else had switched partners, he was still wandering aimlessly around the room, as if I, the only girl sitting by myself in a room full of couples, was invisible. Finally, he sat down, skooched his chair away from me and whispered, “How old are you?”

Maybe 31 was the wrong answer (although since he was 30, it seemed reasonable) and that’s why he spent the rest of the date staring at the paper in his lap. At first, I thought he was glancing at the suggested questions provided by the organizers. But as the silence grew longer, to the point where it could swallow our entire date, I concluded that there wasn’t any question coming.

So I got things started. Sticking to the old standbys, I asked what he likes to do for fun. “Not much,” he said. “If I have free time, I sit in front of my computer.”

And then he went back to staring at his lap. But having collected that juicy tidbit, I pressed on for more. “Do you like to go out to eat?” I asked, inspired by my last date, who had explained that being macrobiotic (“Sort of like vegan, but no one outside of LA understands,” he said) limited his restaurant options.

“No, I don’t like to eat in public places,” he said.

“Oh, so, do you cook?” I asked.

“No, I don’t cook,” he said. Mysterious, no? Maybe one of those raw food advocates? I eventually pried out of him that while he’s sitting in front of the computer, his mom is downstairs cooking dinner.

At last, our date was over. I took advantage of the hike he took around the room before sitting down with the girl right next to me to wish her “Good luck with that.” She looked perplexed, but four minutes later, she nodded knowingly.

Some things you really should say.

While my adventures in dating have caused me to meet a lot of very weird guys, I don’t often get to check out my competition. So I enjoyed this report from the other side:

A guy met a girl online and they agreed to go out dinner, at a restaurant where some of his friends work. They ate, they chatted and things seemed to be going well, so he asked her if she wanted to go to a bar after dinner. “Sure,” she said, “but I’m not drinking.”

“Oh, are you…in a program?” he asked.

“No,” she said. “I’m four months pregnant.”

He was surprised, but not as much as he was the next time he saw his friends from the restaurant. Turns out he was the only one who hadn’t noticed her bump. They were all eager to know where he’d been hiding his baby mama all this time.

A dating stay-cation

One of fun parts of travel is uncovering the little differences: the variety of cheeses in France or smoked fish in Iceland. But the more places you see, the fewer surprises remain– I’ll never again experience my first taste of Icelandic fish from a tube. (Or a second. Blech. Some surprises are not good.)

But recently, I got to vicariously experience my home as a totally new place by dating a foreigner. He came from the far, far away land of… a suburb 25 miles outside of Philly.

Our date began at the most normal restaurant I could find in my neighborhood (since his first suggestion had been Olive Garden, I figured we should avoid the Ethopian dive bar), where he marveled at the strange food on the menu. The next stop was an independent coffee shop. The kind with a glass case of homemade pastries, a chalkboard listing every imaginable kind of coffee and some mismatched tables and chairs. Perhaps you’re familiar with the model? He wasn’t. “I’ve never seen anything like this before!” he exclaimed.

After our coffee, we stepped outside. “Who’d have thought I’d be walking down the street in Philadelphia some night?” he marveled. Um, anyone who heard that you lived immediately outside the city, I thought. (In reality, I kept quiet, since I usually try to reserve my SDG attitude for later dates.)

His gaze turned to the sky. “I don’t know if you can imagine this,” he said. “But out where I live, you can see so many more stars. It’s beautiful.”

It was too much. I had to point out that since I had actually spent most of my life living farther out in the country than he does, I am well aware of the quantity of stars.

We had just arrived at my house, so our date ended on that awkward note. He went off to search for a girl who can better share his sense of wonder, while I went inside to draft cynical blog posts and add “dislikes Olive Garden” to my list of must-haves.

You know it’s going badly.

I had already noticed a mismatch between the men and women at this speed dating event (girls in suits, guys without jobs). But my suspicions were confirmed when one really drunk girl yelled to her friend between dates, “I don’t mean to be a snob, but…” And then she trailed off, the end of the sentence already obvious to the other women in the room.