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Fast Chicks
by C.J. Michaels
Issue 16
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I went to a speed-dating event in Washington DC on Monday.

Yes, I know, maybe that little admission makes me sound like a loser, but is it any worse than trawling the bars trying to pick up a half drunk twenty-something out on the town with her friends?

Besides, as I’m no longer twenty-something myself, or thirty-something and, sadly, a little too close to not being forty-something, where would I go? Know of any old fogies’ singles pubs? Places without a dress code, just a requirement to have no knowledge of modern music whatsoever and an out-dated sense of fashion?

At least I don’t have to sit alone at the bar, pretending my reason for being in the pub is to have a quiet drink or bite to eat or watch the TV - or spin some other tale concocted to cover the fact that I’m out on the razzle. Not that I generally have any form of success in the standard face-to-face pick-up drama, which is why an organized event seems so attractive.

Anyway, I digress.

Cupid is but one company who organize such sessions, although they call them pre-dating, as if the word 'speed' has lost favor. I suppose it has. Speed-dating puts me in mind of a cocky back-street Londoner with a barrow-boy accent and cloth cap, hands thrust deep in pockets, rasping, "Yeah mate - did 6 chicks last night."

The concept is pretty simple but, for those who’ve never heard of it, this is how it works. A small and supposedly equal number of men and women within a prescribed age group meet each other, one on one, on a loosely-defined 'date', where they have around eight short sessions to discover whether they are attracted to each other.

A bell rings after six minutes and the men move to the next table in line and the scenario repeats with fresh partners. A day or two and a little web-magic later, the participants log into an internet site to see which of their partners is interested in meeting again on a real date. Or not.

Monday was the first such event that I have attended where I fitted the age category correctly. That is, I did not lie about it. Well, not on purpose. The website somehow got confused (no, I didn’t deliberately confuse it) and labeled me five years younger so, despite not needing to massage the facts for once, technology lied on my behalf. Computers - love 'em or hate 'em, you just can't control 'em.

The age range was high – 42-55 for both genders - and, as I had feared, most people looked like pension-book holders. The blue-rinse brigade, bravely struggling against the rigors of time (yawn).

Alright, so that's unkind, but - so what? We all get old and being polite about it in others won't do me any favors when I'm wrinkled and hairless and smell like wee, living in a home and being wheeled around by a pretty young thing that I'd once have dreamed of semi-clad on the burnished bonnet of a Bentley. I'll have probably lost my memory, anyway.

Two didn't turn up. No-shows. Both women. It's never the men who play hooky at these things, always the women, as if their time is somehow more valuable, their desires and fears more real and their accountability, less. That means that two men in each round would have to sit by themselves in a public place (did I mention that these things are usually held in restaurants and bars?) where onlookers can see and point and whisper about the lonely old losers at the empty table. Twice.

So, the session began and woman number 4 was my first. Never mind the numeric confusion, it made sense at the time. Number 4 looked like she’d recently emerged from prison, but she claimed to be a practicing nurse, so who was I to doubt her? I made a clever wine-spirited quip about how much practice she'd need before doing it for real, but something got lost in the translation from English to American and my great wit was simply ignored. Things got worse from there and the 6-minute slide towards the bell felt like a week.

After that, there was Gloria from Peru, who spoke with an accent and many uncomfortable pauses and I sensed that, once-upon-a-time, she might have been a real stunner. But that was once-upon-a-time. Next to her was Debbie with the confused hair, who’d spent nine years as a navy diver, looked it, sounded like it and gave the impression she was still it.

Then there was Kathy at table number 7. After her, the others simply didn't exist.

Kathy - attractive, blonde, neat, witty and intelligent. Hikes, bikes, dances, drinks, runs a software company and spent a year in London. Didn’t ask her age, of course – couldn’t be so rude – but figured she must be at the young end of the scale, looking for a slightly older man. Like me. That’s what I want – a younger woman looking for a mature man. Perfect.

Six minutes vanished into a puff of desire as I realized we had so much in common, but then I had to leave, helped away by the foot of the next male in line, tapping the leg of the chair. Sod.

Kept looking back at table number 7 during the remainder of my sessions - including the two enforced empty-table periods. Tried to catch her eye, but she was too polite, pretending to be engaged in conversation with whoever occupied the opposite chair. My chair. Aside - it's interesting how much red wine you can drink in two sets of 6 minutes.

Hung around after the event, leaning on the bar until Kathy was free but the FBI agent (yes, there really was one, clean-cut, white-shirted, tie-clad, pistol-packing bastard) who was her final partner wouldn't leave. She returned my glances occasionally, but what did those furtive looks mean? Was she secretly wanting me to rescue her?

Had another glass of wine, changed elbows and waited for him to go. He still kept talking, trapping her. Waited longer. And longer. Had another glass and changed again. Waited some more. Went to the men's room. Came back and he'd gone – but so had she. Coincidence, of course. It's me, she wants, of course. Not him. Just because he's got a loaded weapon.

Ah hah, I thought, with a flash of insight. She left here as an excuse to escape him and has gone to a pub somewhere in the area knowing that, being English, I'll work it out and find her. Clever. Very clever girl. Made for each other.

Walked out into the night. Ah, fresh air, lovely. Found five bars within a short stumble. Went to all. Had more wine in two. No Kathy. Must've had trouble getting away from the FBI and jumped into a taxi. Crossed lines, etc. Obviously, she's raced home to get onto the 'net and express her desire to see me again. I must do the same.

Went to retrieve my car and remembered that they close for the night at 10.00pm sharp. Time now - 10.15pm. This could be very bad. Fortunately it was still open, so I parted with $17 plus $5 late penalty and headed towards the highway. Missed it. Made an illegal u-turn and tried again. Success. Wonder if 7 glasses of wine is over the limit?

Noticed several flashes as I sped along the I395 tunnel under the Capitol Building. Radar speed cameras. Hmmm - wonder who set them off? Got home forty-five minutes later, necessary detour to the loo, then logged on.

Fingers doubled in thickness on keys that'd shrunk. Took ages to get through the password stage. Bloody Microsoft security. Where's the shortcut icon for Cupid? Gone, that's bloody where. Gone, vanished into Bill Gates's cyber netherworld.

So where's Cupid. Ah - www. dot Cupid dot com? Yes - yes - YES. Now what? User ID and password? What? Oh - OK, got it. Cupid comes up. Now what? How do I find out who wants me? Not just any old who, but her. Kathy. I know she does - just a matter of getting to the right page . Can't wait to hear how we missed each other tonight and how she cleverly dumped the FBI.

Found the email with instructions that I'd printed earlier. Ah - go to 'My Cupid'. Check. Go to 'Local Events'. Check. List comes up - yes, yes, yes.... Washington DC pre-dating party, (yes, yes, yes). Click on it.

A small icon of a wink appears. Is it a wink? Looks like a fluttering heart. Mine too. Or is that the wine? Hmmm... Don’t care.

“You have a message,” it says. “Someone you met tonight wants to speak to you.”

Try to open the icon. No, no – silly. Try again. Click on the message. Mouse pointer thing becomes a hand. Click. Click. Too slow. Click-click. Still too slow. Double-click! Yes!! It’s from her…. Slowly, far too slowly, the message appears on the screen.

“It was nice meeting you Mike, but you are under my age range.”

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