An experiment in speed

In honor of Valentine’s Day, A&E spent a night speed dating

An experiment in speed

Emily Eveland

*Names have been changed for privacy

On Monday evening, I dated 13 people in two hours while my boyfriend stayed home and watched the Olympics. I wasn’t cheating on him; I was just curious — who does this? And why?

Yaacov Deyo, a Rabbi and Harvard grad, invented speed dating in 1998 as a way to help young Jewish singles find their mates. His approach spread like wildfire, and knockoffs soon began popping up across the country.

Speed dating has since been overshadowed by online dating, which not only gives users access to more singles but also makes it easier to screen people.

With speed dating, you’re stuck there. You can’t just swipe left to get rid of the person sitting across the table — you’ve got to endure their company for two to 10 minutes and, with any luck, come up with a way to make conversation.

The fact that I ask people questions for a living didn’t make the experience any easier.

 

The dating game

My friend Pete and I arrived at the restaurant at 6:30 p.m. for check-in.

“Hi, we’re here for speed dating,” I said to the host. He scoffed and pointed to a man lingering near a corner booth, who gave us nametags, checklists and pens and told us to write names in the blank spots, then circle “yes” or “no” after each date.

A dozen tables were set up in the other room. Men were to sit on one side, women on the other. Each date would last five minutes, at which point men would move one table to the left. At the end of the night, we were to hand in our sheet with the yes’s and no’s. If both parties circled yes, we’d receive the person’s contact information within 24 hours.

On the other side of the room, a few of the male daters were eating slices of complimentary flatbread pizza and making awkward conversation, trying to avoid eye contact with the females – most of whom were hiding in the bathroom.

I grabbed a slice out of nervousness, wondering who in their right mind thought pizza was a good choice as red sauce spilled down my chin and onto the floor. It was clear that after a year in a committed relationship, I had lost my game.

At 7 p.m., dating began.

Date 1: James was by far the most average of my 13 dates. He had a crew cut, wore a casual sweater and asked predictable questions about what I do, where I live and my hobbies. I turned it back on him. “What do you do?” I asked.

“I’m a project manager,” he said. “I’m sort of a glorified box sorter.”

 

Date 2: It was Tyler’s second time speed dating. He lived “out in the ‘burbs” and owned a lawn care business.

“What do you do for fun in the winter?” he asked.

“Um, I go to the gym and run around the track.” Stupid, stupid, stupid.

 

Date 3: Josh was slightly terrifying. It wasn’t what he said that freaked me out; it was his facial expression. Had he gotten too much Botox? Or did he invent invisible clothespins and clip his eyebrows to his forehead? I couldn’t stop looking at the white spittle that had collected in the corners of his mouth.

 

Date 4: Sam was short and stocky and said he liked to sing in the shower in his spare time.

“What do you like to sing?” I asked.

“I don’t know, whatever I want.”

When Sam moved on to the next girl, he bumped into her drink, which broke on the table and spilled all over her lap. He grinned stupidly and asked her what she did for a living as she tried to clean up the mess.

 

Date 5: Since we were one male short, I spent date five with Robert, who founded QuikDatz 11 years ago.

“I work full time,” he said. “This is my hobby. It pays for my golf.”

Bob said since QuikDatz began, more than 40 couples have gotten married.

“I didn’t meet my wife [this] way. We met at a Christmas Eve party,” he said.

 

Date 6: Trevor wore a purple button-down shirt with an Ed Hardy-inspired necklace and began by showing me a picture of his nephew on his iPhone. He introduced himself twice, asked me where I lived twice and asked about my job twice.

He pointed to my chest tattoo. “What’s the significance of that?” he said.

 I dodged the question by asking if he had any of his own.

“I don’t. I’m thinking about getting a leopard on my shoulder. I’m a huge big cat family person.”

 

Date 7: Anthony said his job is to design machines that make other machines. I responded blindly, alternately nodding and shaking my head, depending on which part of my neck was less stiff.

 

Date 8: We resumed dating after a 10-minute break, which wasn’t enough to rejuvenate my dying energy level. My eighth date had wide-open eyes like the third and laughed at inopportune moments.

“Oh you’re a writer, hahaha, cool, hahaha.”

If I had told him I was dying from cancer, he probably would have giggled and said, “That’s just great!”

 

Date 9: Date 9 designed Bundt cake pans for a living and stared at me with the intensity of a male soap opera star. Unfortunately for him, I had started hallucinating and spent the date imagining his beret departing from his balding head and floating around the room.

 

Date 10: Finally, a decent conversation. Speed dating works best when questions aren’t stiff and calculated, but free-flowing and situational. We talked about lawlessness in India. I was into it.

 

Date 11: Alex grabbed my cell phone immediately after sitting down.

“What is this? Is this a bomb shelter for an iPhone?” he said, referring to my OtterBox iPhone case.

When I told Alex I was a journalist, he presented me with a hypothetical.

“Let’s say one day you go speed dating, and you met someone really cool that was in a band. Would you happen to have a connection who could do something regarding that band?”

 

Date 12: My voice was gone, my back was stiff and if I had to tell one more person that I lived in Seward and wrote for a newspaper, I was going to flip the table and run screaming from the building.

 

Date 13: My 13th date was my friend Pete. We slouched in our chairs and stared at each other for a few minutes before circling “no” on our respective checklists and moving on.

 

Date 14: While my final date talked about missionary work, I glanced at Pete and found him violently stabbing his checklist with a ballpoint pen.He looked at his date, whom I later found out was a funeral director, and said, “Have you ever done it on top of a corpse?”

It was time to go home.