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Monday, June 14, 2010

WNE #5: Speed Dating in Battle Ground

Posted by Stefan Kamph on Mon, Jun 14, 2010 at 1:14 PM

Okay, Blogtown. I went speed dating, just like you said to. And I have to use some words to describe it, words that you won’t like hearing. Brace yourself.

Speed dating was pleasant. I had some nice conversations. I really expanded my boundaries. Ha! Who wishes they had voted for the Masturbate-a-thon now?

NOT PICTURED: Me, yer momma.
  • NOT PICTURED: Me, yer momma.
Like your average citizen, I find potentially romantic first encounters to be somewhat nerve-wracking. And if one blind date gives you the shivers, think how terrible it must feel to have multiple blind dates all lined up like the entrees at a Panda Express (except without the sneeze-guard)! Add that to the fact that this event was held at a place called Java Jitters (!!!) in a town (Battle Ground) that I knew nothing about, save some unfavorable press from non-experts.

But the odd venue worked to my advantage. I drove up I-5 on a beautiful sunny afternoon without feeling very nervous at all. The fact that I didn’t know anyone up there took off a lot of the pressure. As for the actual event, it would combine casual conversation with strangers (which I enjoy) and seeking a mate (which I am genetically programmed to do). Easy as pie, right?

I parked in a gravel lot behind Java Jitters, which is located in an old clapboard cottage at the center of town. I had a moment of doubt when I saw a few gussied-up 50-somethings striding up the handicap ramp. This, I guess, is what I was expecting.

At the door I met Ruby, a suntanned Australian dame who offered me a drink and encouraged me to “mingle and converse” while we waited for other guests to arrive. I headed to the back porch, where around eight people were sipping iced tea and enjoying the dappled sunshine under a 100-year-old oak tree. I have to thank the weather gods for making my Worst Night Ever into a Warm, Pleasant Afternoon.

This was Ruby’s first time hosting speed dating, and she was a little discombobulated but that only made it easier to break from the format and converse with different people. Which ended up being necessary, because not so many people showed up. Ruby separated us singles into two age groups: below 40 (orange sticker) and over 40 (green sticker). The over-40s had about five women and three men. The under-40s, including your humble servant? Two women, and two men. We'd make the rounds, stopping to converse at small tables throughout the café. Ruby told us to write each others' names on a card, and indicate whether we were interested in further communication.

So I only officially “speed dated” two women. They were both very nice: one was a barista who lives on a farm and wants to be a chef; another was a preschool teacher, and we discussed my recent education-reporting beat. However, I did not request a followup from either one. Ladies, if you’re reading this: I enjoyed meeting you. Sorry for the unexpected publicity. I wish you well.

(Yes, I did tell them I was a reporter. No, I did not tell them that I was there for a newspaper-related assignment. I said I lived in Portland, and was in Battle Ground researching a story. I thought that was a good middle ground between “I am a writer here to publicly make fun of you” and an outright lie.)

To be honest, I wish there had been more people there. Once I had committed myself to the idea of speed dating, I wanted to make the most of it. On Saturday afternoon I trimmed my beard, ironed a clean shirt to wear, put on a moderate amount of cologne. I was ready to find love—or at least a casual Battle Ground skirmish, if you will—because what better way to stick it to you, the sinister Blogtown puppetmasters, than through resounding speed-dating success?

But, as I said, it was very pleasant. One of the male guests left a $20 bill at the coffee bar, so everybody’s drinks were free. Ruby’s friend Jenny, a talented middle-aged musician, improvised a dobro version of “Margaritaville” while some café regulars made up the percussion section. I talked with a woman around 70, a couple gregarious men, the barista who had dragged her friend to the event. I petted a small Maltese dog. And again, the beautiful weather: if Pierre-Auguste Renoir had lived in exurban Washington, he would have painted a scene very much like this.

Driving home, I thought about what a shame it was that more people hadn’t showed up. Ruby went out on a limb planning speed dating for the first time, and everyone there was eager to make the most of it. All across the country, people are avoiding speed dating events like this one because they think it would be too awkward or too silly or too crass. How great it would be, I thought, if everybody who wants to meet new people could show up with an open mind to a friendly place like Java Jitters on a lovely afternoon.

So yeah, suck it. I would have hated seeing Christian Kane.

This week: We try to make our virtually imperturbable managing editor, Marjorie Skinner, have a thoroughly unpleasant time! Voting starts tomorrow—stay tuned!

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