Mr. New Jersey should get a do-over. I blew into town on Sunday night and we tentatively set up a date for the next night. He didn't get a chance to plan anything and I only had a couple of hours to squeeze in a date. We chatted on the phone and planned to meet at a Cuban restaurant. I’d never eaten Cuban food before, so that sounded adventurous to me.
I’m amazed at how, despite faithfully using my GPS, I still take wrong turns and get lost. I’m going to blame it on poor visibility. It was raining like crazy as I drove to meet Mr. New Jersey. He was waiting for me on the corner and held out his umbrella for me as I got out of my car.
“The sign on the door says they’re closed on Monday nights,” he said. Whoops. We walked down the street to an Irish pub.
The waitress greeted us as if we were an annoyance to her. We were the only people in the entire room when she seated us at a booth. She brought us some water and then ignored us for a good fifteen minutes. For real. I then remembered where I was.
“Is this what eating out is like in New Jersey?” I asked. “I mean, are people here really as rude as you hear?”
“Yeah,” he replied.
I asked about his work -- always a good topic to start with. But as he began describing his job, I was lost, as usual. I had that golf date with Mr. Delaware, but I really know nothing about golf other than what I learned in that hour. Mr. New Jersey’s career was all about golf. My eyes glazed over.
The waitress finally came back to take our order. We talked some about church, which was a topic I could contribute to in the conversation. We searched for leprechauns on our place mats. It said there were three hiding, but we could only find two. It was driving me crazy. I waved over a bus boy.
“Is there really a third leprechaun or are they just keeping you busy while you wait for your food?” I asked. He looked at me funny, then hurried away. Huh.
It was another ten minutes or so before the waitress came around again.
“I asked the bus boy if there are really three leprechauns on here and he ran away like I was a crazy woman,” I said.
“Who?” she asked.
“The bus boy,” I said.
“Huh,” she grunted and walked away.
“So are there three leprechauns or not?” I yelled after her. She ignored me.
Mr. New Jersey was able to find the third leprechaun, without help from the ever-so-helpful employees, while I was in the bathroom. As we left, the waitress was sitting at the hostess stand, reading a magazine.
“Thanks,” I said, walking out the door.
“Yep,” she replied, eyes never leaving the magazine.
“Shouldn’t that have been the other way around?” I asked Mr. New Jersey. “I mean, shouldn’t she have thanked us for coming in instead of us thanking her for . . . well, poor service and ignoring us?"
“That’s just kind of how it is here,” he said. He walked me to my car, keeping me dry under his umbrella the whole way. At least he had good manners.
I drove away just an hour and a half after meeting him in the same spot. I felt bad that Mr. New Jersey didn’t get a lot of my time, but I wasn’t sure how to fix that. The next day I had to head for New York.
My friend Nina called her friend Kristin on Long Island to see if she could help me find a date there. She emailed me that I had a spot on her couch and a date with one of her friends. Excellent.
“I need to warn you that he’s picking you up in a town car,” she said when I got to her house. “Not because he wants to impress you, but because he got picked up for drinking and driving, so he doesn’t really have another option right now.”
He called a few minutes before he was set to arrive and said the place he rents from was out of town cars and he’d be picking me up in something else. When the doorbell rang, we opened it to see Mr. New York . . . and behind him, a white stretch limo.
At first I wasn’t so sure this was going to work. Kristin said he was a good guy, but I was a little worried. His stories were peppered with comments like “I was so hammered” and “I was so hung over.” I’m not opposed to having a drink once in while, but I’ve only got one story about being completely drunk, and that was an accident. (Long story short: two martinis and a box of Dots in a short amount of time on an empty stomach . . . not pretty) It didn't seem like we had much in common.
We had dinner at a nice seafood restaurant along the waterfront and as we talked, I felt more comfortable. He was a decent guy. He was well known in the area for his work and he’d built up a good business. And he had lots of great stories.
We strolled over to a little ice cream shop and he said he hoped his sister would have her baby soon so he’d stop craving weird foods. I must have looked at him funny.
“She’s my twin,” he explained. “I went into a deli one day and ordered olive loaf and munster on rye. The guy twisted up his face and said, ‘Are you pregnant or something?’ I said no, then dialed up my sister and asked her if she was. She was all crazy, like, ‘How did you know? I just found out this morning!’ I’ve been craving weird stuff ever since. But she’s due next week.”
I offered to pay but he wouldn’t let me. He said that’s not the way it works. I felt kind of bad, because we were driving around in a limo and dinner had been really expensive. He talked about hoping on planes and flying places on a moments notice, though, so I figured he must make good money.
We drove to a bar that had a live band playing and went in and listened to the music for a while. He knew a guy that was already there and we sat with him and his girlfriend. They got talking about how nothing was going on and we should drive into the city. As in New York City. I checked the time. Midnight.
“I’m not going to New York City tonight,” I informed him. He shrugged. We danced instead. He was a good dancer, and he didn’t try anything, which I appreciated. When the band ended, we walked up the street to another bar. I was trying hard to stay awake. His job kept him out til the wee hours of the morning, but I wasn't used to it. Plus I’d been up ‘til nearly two the two previous nights in New York City; I was wiped out. We had our best conversations at the last bar, though.
As the night wore on, he got more serious and reflective, and I could see a depth in him that I hadn’t guessed was there when he first walked in the door. I ended up thinking he was a good guy, and I really hoped for good things for him. I hugged him good-night and he kissed me on the cheek. He’d been the perfect gentleman.