When my friend Sarah arrived at the restaurant, she didn’t see a man sitting alone in the waiting area. Sarah and Bill, who she’d exchanged emails with via an online dating site, arranged to meet in the lobby of her favorite restaurant. She stood there looking around anxiously in the black evening dress she’d finally chosen from twelve others. A hostess with a pile of menus made her way around a potted palm plant sitting on the floor next to a podium.
Sarah walked up to her and said, “Excuse me. I’m looking a friend I’m supposed to meet here; his name is Bill.” The hostess abruptly stopped sorting her menus and stared at Sarah. “You’re the one here to meet Bill?,” she asked. “Yes,” Sarah replied nervously. She studied the hostess’ face trying to read her reaction. Was it jealousy, surprise, pity? Before Sarah could figure it out the hostess turned and said, “This way.”
Sarah went over Bill’s online description in her mind: “..A creative, single guy in search of the best life has to offer.” He also wrote that he worked as an ad copywriter in a local agency. Sarah followed the hostess through a corridor lined with decorative wine bottles and fake fruit. Finally, the waitress pointed to a corner of a dining room, “There he is.” Sarah peered across the room to see a man with sandy blonde hair raising a spoonful of soup to his lips only to have it dribble down his chin. “Good luck,” the hostess said.
Sarah moved toward the table and held out her hand, “Hello, I’m Sarah. Are you Bill?” The man slowly looked up and said, “Don’t they believe in seasoning their soups around here, Sarah?” She looked at him a moment, managed a fake laugh and said, “I guess they’re cutting back on costs. Only half a pinch of salt.” He grunted and she sat down opposite him. “Sorry I’m late, I was waiting in the lobby,” she said, “I thought we agreed to meet there.” “I was hungry so I told that hostess girl to direct you here,” Bill replied, “So far my impression of this place isn’t stellar. If I were assigned to write an ad for them, I’d be at a loss.” Sarah unfolded her napkin as the waitress came up and asked her if she’d like a beverage. “This soup is terrible,” Bill said, awkwardly handing the waitress his half-filled bowl, “Feel free to share that with the chef for me.” Sarah smiled apologetically to the waitress and asked for a diet soda.
When the waitress was gone, Sarah said, “So you write ad copy?” “Yeah, just ’til something better comes along,” Bill said, “I have higher ambitions than the agency I work for. They’re a bunch of close-minded fools.” “Oh, I see,” Sarah mumbled. “..Did you tell me you work in the accounting department of a company?,” Bill asked, glancing up at her with his watery green eyes that would’ve been attractive if he wasn’t always squinting. “Yes,” Sarah sat up making an effort to smile, “I like working with numbers. I’ll impress you greatly by saying I was president of the math club in high school all four years.” She laughed and he issued another grunt. “Hated high school,” Bill grumbled, “Couldn’t wait to get out. Bunch of…” “Close-minded fools?,” Sarah finished his sentence. He looked up at her, his squint beginning to relax. “Yeah,” he said, “Did we go to the same school?” She laughed and looked at her watch and thought- “Just fifty two more polite minutes to go.”