Over the years I've been on countless first dates, the vast majority of which were with guys I met through the nightmare that is online dating. It's often assumed that because of this I must have lots of good "awkward first date" stories to share, but honestly, I really don't...unless you consider, "we met, had a perfectly benign evening out, but didn't really hit it off that much, so we never got together again," to be riveting material, in which case you would find my dating history to be positively spellbinding.
But there are a few "good" stories that stand out from the rest, like my date with Typhoid Mary.
Typhoid and I exchanged a series of online communications that made me feel reasonably sure that he wasn't a psychopath, so we agreed to meet up for dinner. The day before the date he texted me that he was sick and would need to reschedule. It being winter in New York, this didn't seem out of the realm of possibility, but he kept apologizing and describing his symptoms to me, as if to assure me he really was ill and not just blowing me off. I was perfectly happy to reschedule for the following week without having to know the color of his mucus, but props for being honest, I guess.
When date night finally rolled around the next week, I met Typhoid at the restaurant where he was waiting with a single red rose and an obvious fever, both of which made me want to pull the plug on the date right then and there. The rose because who brings a single red rose to a first date with a person they've never actually met before? It's too familiar and romantic to do to a stranger, and after just one hour spent with me would have made it clear I'm not the type of woman who is wooed with flowers. The fever because ew gross, you're still sick, so why are you out in public infecting the rest of us?
But not being a completely insensitive person, I accepted the rose politely and prepared myself to get the dinner over with as quickly as possible, preferably in an open setting where we wouldn't be forced to share the same air. As luck would have it, the restaurant (which he chose) was one of those tiny, intimate, dimly-lit joints where elbow room is a foreign concept.
As soon as we sat down I could see that he was pale, congested, and clammier than my sports bra after a kickboxing class. He also had a hacking cough that he was at least directing into his fist. (A fist that he then utilized utensils with that handled food, so it was a small comfort.)
"Sorry. I'm still getting over whatever I had last week."
If this was the "getting over" stage, I didn't want to know what the "having it" stage looked like.
"If you're still not feeling well, this can totally wait until you're better," I said.
"No, no I'm OK. My throat's just a bit scratchy, still," he insisted, as he mopped his fever sweat from his brow with a napkin in a way you usually only see fat Italian men do in the movies.
We ordered dinner and had a pleasant enough conversation during the meal, in between his sniffling and coughing fits. When the waitress came by at the end to check on us, I was eagerly ready to get the check, call it a night, and go back outside to take the first deep breaths I've had in an hour. But Typhoid had other plans.
"Do you want to split something for dessert? The pumpkin cheesecake here is really good."
Did I want to split dessert? Did I want to put cheesecake that he would be double-dipping into with his disease-ridden fork into my mouth? No, no I did not. Not anymore than I wanted to lick the pole on the subway I was so desperate to get on and ride home.
"Uh, no, thanks. I'm pretty full from dinner."
"Oh, OK. Then do you mind if I get a slice?"
I guess I could have said that yes, I minded, but if this man died that night from whatever he was carrying, I wasn't going to be the horrible witch that denied him his final wish of pumpkin cheesecake. So I sat through his coffee and dessert, while he coughed, sniffled, and sweated through the whole thing.
Once outside and breathing in the "fresh" New York City air, I had to keep myself from literally sprinting to the subway. I tried for the fast sidewalk good-bye outside of the restaurant, but then he asked what train I needed to get home.
"Oh great! I'm on the same line, but heading downtown. I can walk with you to the stop."
Midway to the subway stop—me hustling along, him taking his time—Typhoid suddenly stopped walking and began scanning the ground.
"Did you lose something?"
"Yeah. My contact lens fell out."
Now, I do not now, nor have I ever, worn contact lenses, but I can say with a fair amount of certainty that if your contact lens falls onto a NYC sidewalk, you do not want it back. Count it as one of your many losses in life and keep walking, trying to focus out of your one good eye.
"Will you help me look for it?"
Will I help you, person who brought the plague to dinner, look for your fallen contact lens so that you can do what with it exactly? Pick it up off the sidewalk and put it back in your eye? Put it in your pocket? Clean it off in your mouth? Why won't you just let me go home so I can take a Silkwood shower and burn these clothes?!
After a half-hearted search for the rogue lens, Typhoid finally accepted that it was gone and we continued on to the subway.
Luckily, the downtown and uptown trains were running on different tracks at this station, so once through the turnstile I was about to end my evening with an infectious disease.
"Well, it was nice to finally meet you. Oh, and thanks for...this..." I said, waving the rose that I had been awkwardly carrying the entire time (and would toss in the trash on my way home; go ahead and think I'm mean). "I hope you feel better soon." And don't schedule anymore dates until you do, fool...
I turned my head to the side and leaned only my upper body in for that uncomfortable one-armed good-bye hug you give to people you either don't really know, don't really like, or who could infect you with something. Typhoid, still not realizing the full gravity of his Patient Zero status, went in for the full hug, with the "come from underneath" head swoop in an attempt for a kiss. Luckily, I am a "don't kiss me" ninja, and counterattacked with the "twist the head" move that inevitably results with a peck on the cheek. Then I booked it down the stairs to my train platform, never having felt so excited to get on the subway in my life.
And to answer your question, no, we did not go out a second time. In fact, I'm not even 100% sure if he survived that winter.