I used to wonder what was more excruciating? - Being on a bad date or witnessing one. I got my answer late Sunday afternoon, as I sat on a bench in Central Park trying to read a book. There were maybe five other available benches, but the couple in question decided to sit on mine. The woman parked her oversized ass less than a foot from me, and her date sat to her left. I was initially annoyed to have my space invaded like that, but when I started to realize they were on a first date, I took the opportunity to observe. Never before had I been this close to someone else's dating disaster. It was like getting floor seats to a Knick game - but better. I was sitting on the damn bench - literally. You'd think someone who's been on so many bad dates would be indifferent. But there's something special about watching it happen in front of you like a movie that's so bad it's good. I actually wanted to throw popcorn at these two.
It all started with the guy awkwardly suggesting that they sit. She said "sure" with the enthusiasm of someone who was asked if they'd like to get a free rectal exam. Then there was a good two minutes of complete silence. It was long and uncomfortable. I imagined what I might say to get a conversation going with this chick, if I were on the date with her. Maybe I'd comment on the nice flowers nearby, at which numerous amateur photographers were snapping their digital cameras.
"Beautiful flowers, huh,?" is what I might have said.
"Yes. Those flowers are quite beautiful. They're Epidendrum Orchids," she might respond.
"No kidding? Are you some sort of horticulturist?," I'd ask.
Smiling, she'd respond modestly, "Well, I dabble a bit. Do you like flowers?"
"Sure," I'd say enthusiastically. And a conversation might have been sparked.
Or perhaps I'd offer to buy her a $9 bottle of water from one of the park vendors.
"Can I get you something to drink?," I'd ask, pointing to the guy selling food and beverages from a cart at a 7,000% markup.
"Water would be great," she might respond.
"One water coming up," I'd say.
"That's so sweet. Thank you," she'd reply. And maybe she'd warm up to me when I came back with her drink.
But while I was having my gay imaginary conversations with this woman, she and her date were staring blankly ahead into the field in front of us. No one was saying a word. They were two monks awkwardly maintaining their vows of silence. Then suddenly, he spoke.
"It's so nice out today."
Weather talk?, I thought. It's probably the lowest form of date communication, but at least it's something.
"Yeah, it was kind of cloudy this morning, but it got nice when the sun came out," she responded.
Not exactly dialogue David Mamet would write, but they were talking. Now it was his turn again to speak. But he choked. I could tell he wanted to say something, but didn't know what to say. I wanted to help him. I began mentally sending him things to say. I was his telepathic Cyrano de Bergerac.
"Tell her it's supposed to be really nice the rest of the week, and you're planning on taking a day off to go hiking, or something," I sent him through our extrasensory connection. "Maybe she likes to hike, and you can talk about that....Or tell her how much you can't wait for summer to start so you can go to your home in the Hamptons on the weekends. Who cares if you're lying at this point? You're dying, dude. Say SOMETHING!"
But he couldn't hear me. The Vulcan mind meld thing wasn't happening. And I sat there pretending to read my book, as these two said nothing for an additional six minutes. I timed it on my cell phone.
Finally, the poor bastard said, "You wanna grab something to eat?," and I thought there may be hope.
"Nah. That's okay," she replied, and then continued in a whiny, nasally tone: "I'm gonna go home and make some pasta and Matzah Meal."
I felt so bad for the guy. To be blown off for pasta and matzah meal by Fran Drescher's big assed sister. And by someone who should probably take it easy on the pasta and matzah meal to begin with.
"Well, nice meeting you. I'm parked that way," he said, pointing.
"Take care," she responded.
And we all went our separate ways. Her to her food, him to his car, and me to Subway - where they sell neither pasta nor matzah meal.