Carbon Dating

I let my friend Andrea drag me to a singles mixer. Bad idea.

The Marriott ballroom, decorated in early bordello, was filled with men in dark suits who sported enough ear hair to knit sweaters for the entire US Olympic ski team. It looked like a convention of retired undertakers. I whispered to Andrea, “When I said I wanted to start dating again, I didn’t mean carbon dating.”

“Now, here’s the rules,” she said. “Don’t give out your phone number, get theirs—these days it’s not just safe sex, it’s safe phone sex—and don’t talk to Harold. Well, gotta go. My ovaries are rumbling like a Harley.”

“Wait,” I said, but she sped off.

Then a man in a tweed suit that looked perfect for making sock monkeys, looked me over like I was a used car—reading my odometer, checking me for dents. “You’re awfully pale,” he said. “Can’t you take shots for that?”

“Help,” I muttered, and it arrived in the form of a longhaired, white-robed, stunt-double for Jesus, who must have wandered in from the New Age seminar next door. “This is so cool,” he said, staring at his palm. “I can see through my hand.”

I left him, still staring, and bumped into a normal looking man.

“Hello,” he said, “I’m Leonard. I’m an inventor. My latest is anti-pregnancy panties. They’re imbedded with contraceptives.”

I snorted. “I can see your ad campaign—Do the Dance, Wears the pants.”

“You weren’t listening. They’re not pants, they’re pant-tees,” he huffed off.

Then, another man approached, taking giant steps like counting off dueling paces. He fixed me with a Charles Manson stare and blurted, “I’m bi-polar. Want a date?”

Unsure if he meant the pleasure of my company or the small dried fruit, my face froze in a sort of don’t-hurt-me grin.

He then said, “The blood’s leaving my brain so I have to go.” He executed a military about face and paced off. After this mixer I’m sure he planned on kicking off a tri-state killing spree.

I felt a tap on my hip and turned to find a diminutive man who made the word short seem too tall. His most prominent feature was his toupee, which he’d apparently purchased at the same store frequented by William Shatner. To say he was unattractive demeaned the unattractive. The word troll came to mind. “I’d like to play connect the dots with your freckles.” He grinned. “I’m Harold. The sex thimble.”

I was about to run when a Prince Charming arrived.

“There you are.” The Prince grabbed my elbow. “There’s someone I’d like you to meet.” He guided me away from the troll.

Releasing me, he said, “I’m Chris. Divorced two years. I’m in the waste management business.”

“So,” I said. “You’re used to being dumped on.”

I thought my comment was amusing. He didn’t.

“Would you excuse me?” he said.

I watched him slip back into the mix and follow Harold, who had trapped another woman. Were they working together? Watching them was like a show on the Nature Channel. I could almost hear the voice over: “Notice the symbiotic relationship between the shark and the sucker fish.”

Which reminded me, I should have stayed home and watched TV.