After a brief Tinder Text exchange on a recent Saturday afternoon, George, the attorney from Marina Del Rey, messaged me asking if he might have my phone number. I Tinder Texted him back and asked for his last name, informing him that I don’t speak to anyone until after I’ve checked them out on Mugshots.com and the Megan’s Law sex offender website. I’ve found this caveat to be an exceptionally efficient tool for weeding out the very unkempt garden of Tinder.
The next morning on a bike ride, my phone buzzed with a new Tinder Text. George not only sent me his last name, but he also provided his phone number and address – a lovely beachfront condo I’d passed only a few moments before. Seeing as the last guy who’d texted me was “between gigs and crashing on his sister’s couch,” George looked so promising I pulled my bike over to do some cursory background reconnaissance next to the snack shack at Fisherman’s Wharf.
While Spokeo and Intellius both confirmed that George was actually 57 and not the 50 he claimed to be on Tinder, he was not on the sex offender registry nor did he have any other glaring criminal history. None of his friends on Facebook appeared to be in the sex trade and his photos showed that he’d recently been in Monte Carlo racing cars. He was wearing sunglasses in every single photograph, day or night, but what the hell; maybe he’s light sensitive or has glaucoma. Nobody’s perfect, I thought studying the sun damage on my hands.
I leaned up against a railing and watched a festive Latino wedding party dance up the gangplank and onto a Hornblower Yachts Cruise Ship. No time like the present, I thought, punching *67 and George’s number into my phone. I’d messaged him that I would be calling from a blocked number – another of the universal precautions I take allowing for total anonymity and a breezy hang-up if he turns out to be a total creeper like the accountant in Culver City who told me he wanted to tie me up and spank me before he even said hello.
George answered on the second ring with a firm, but pleasant “This is George.” When I joked, telling him that I’d contacted the local bar association and they confirmed he was a member in good standing, he paused for a second, then laughed a little. When I asked if he’d ever been married or had kids he said “no.” When I said, “That’s sort of a red flag.” He replied with “Well, you’re divorced, I could take that as a red flag.”
“Touché, George,” I said as the Hornblower Yacht sounded it’s signature foghorn while pulling away from the dock.
“Where the hell are you?” he asked, sounding alarmed.
“Sybil Brand. Break time’s over in the prison yard,” I laughed.
“Are you serious?”
“Oye vay. I’m kidding, George, I’m at Fisherman’s Wharf.”
“Well that’s good. Are you Jewish? You said oye vay. I’m Jewish.”
“No, I’m Irish, but I have a penchant for Jewish men.”
“Would you like to have dinner with me tonight?”
“For a first date I generally only meet for coffee or a drink, George.”
“Well, we’re having a nice conversation on the phone, I think we could manage to make it through a meal together,” he said.
I paused, thinking of my beloved George Costanza from Seinfeld and his Do The Opposite Theory. “Sure, George, let’s do the opposite,” I said. I mean, he sounded a little stiff, but at least he’s polite and appears to have all his teeth and a job.
“I’ve never heard of ‘The Opposite,’ I was thinking of trying Superba Snack Bar on Rose. I heard they have healthy choices.”
“The ‘Opposite’ is a Seinfeld reference, not a restaurant, but Superba sounds great,” I said, thinking of the groovy, foodie hot spot only a few blocks from my place in Venice. Ricky, the last Tinder guy I spoke with suggested we meet at the Gyro Pit, a fast food joint with what he described as “an awesome all-you-can-slather-on-condiment bar that’s free with purchase.” Needless to say, I was pleased with George’s choice of an eatery where the employees aren’t in brown polyester and paper hats.
“Good. I’ll call for a reservation. Do you feel comfortable giving me your number now that we’ve spoken?” George asked.
Seeing as I was on this ‘opposite’ roll I gave him my number, hoping for the best.
“I’ll text you with the time. I’m going to take a nap now. I’ll see you tonight,” he said hanging up. It’s only 11 AM, maybe he had a rough night, I thought watching a little boy inhale an ice cream cone. George texted me 2 minutes later that he would see me at Superba at 7:00 PM. Well, that was quick and very gentlemanly, I thought as I pedaled home.
Later, I donned a pretty sundress and hopped on my bike for the brief ride over to Superba. My phone rang as I approached the restaurant. “I’m running 7-10 minutes late,” George said sounding very harried.
“No worries, I’ll ride my bike up to the beach, turn around and meet you back here in 7-10,” I said turning west on Rose Avenue.
“Your bike? The beach?” he cried out as though I’d said I was going to rob a liquor store so I could score some heroin before our date.
“Um, yes, I’m on my bike, you’re running late, so what’s the problem?” I asked feeling the handful of almonds I’d eaten before I left home sloshing around in the acid now pouring into my stomach.
“It’s just very strange. I’ll be there soon,” he said hanging up.
“Dear baby Jesus, please deliver me,” I said aborting my ride to the beach and locking my trusty old Schwinn to a tree. I wiped my clammy hands down the front of my dress and sat on a bench in front of the restaurant chalking up his outburst to nerves.
“Give him a chance,” my little voice inside said.
When he saw me, he gave me a quick wave. He looked so uncomfortable I gave him a big smile and a slight hug trying to break the ice. His body went even more rigid at my touch and then he took off his sunglasses, revealing the darkest, deadest, coldest, angriest eyes I’ve ever seen. While phone George had sounded a little uptight, in-person George looked so full of rage I thought he might spontaneously combust.
God help me, I thought as the pretty hostess seated us at a tiny table in the very crowded, communal al fresco dining area.
“There are no backs on these chairs,” he said looking at the low stools while grinding his teeth.
“Oh, do you have a bad back?” I asked, trying to be chipper sitting across from him.
“No, I’m very fit,” George said scowling as the hipster artist/actor/writer/waiter approached.
“Hey, I’m Todd. Drinks for you two?”
“I’ll have the rose,” I said clutching my hands in silent prayer longing for an earthquake or some gang activity that might clear the restaurant.
“Just water for me,” George said. Todd nodded and walked to the bar.
“My father always said never trust a man who doesn’t drink,” I laughed taking a large sip of my wine after Todd promptly delivered it. I wracked my brain wondering which of my friends would be willing to call in a bomb threat for me.
“I had a girlfriend who drank herself to death,” George said glaring at my lovely glass of rose like it was a pile of cocaine.
I wanted to say well, with your personality could you blame the poor girl? But instead I bit my tongue and said “Sorry.”
Todd sauntered back to the table. “Any decisions?”
George proceeded to grill him for at least six minutes on the fat and calorie content of every single item. “This is a decadent menu,” George spit. “I generally only eat fish and vegetables.” Todd gave me a WTF look as I dabbed at the sweat gathering on my forehead. I looked around longing for a window to jump out of to end it all but we were on street level.
“Listen, I don’t know what to tell you, man, but I’ve got other tables to tend to,” Todd said looking like he wanted to grab George by the throat.
“Bring us the Chilean sea bass, the brussel sprouts and the Dover Scallops, all prepared without butter. And no bread, we don’t want any bread,” George said looking at our neighbor’s delicious focaccia like it was a pile of dog poop.
“Got it,” Todd said rushing away.
“Wow, George, you’re so disciplined. You don’t drink, and you barely eat. Would you even eat a cookie if I offered you one?” I asked eyeing my dinner fork and fantasizing about stabbing it into his forehead.
“Perhaps if it was from a fine gluten and butter-free bakery,” he said.
“Well, everybody’s got something. What’s your thing? You race cars. So you’ve got a need for speed, right?” I asked taking another sip of wine.
“Why don’t you lower your voice, these people can hear you,” he seethed, his beady, black eyes meeting mine. I glanced at the oblivious hipster diners on either side of us deep in their own lively hipster conversations.
I chased the bile rising in my throat with the last of my wine. Oh my God, he shushed me. That’s it.
“George, nobody gives a rat’s ass about this conversation. Most of all me,” I said pushing away from the table and heading towards the door.
“Todd, what do I owe you for the wine? I’m outta here,” I said watching his fingers dance across a computer touch screen.
“Jesus, what took you so long? The wine’s on me and I just canceled the order. That dude’s a freak,” Todd said as we both watched George skulk out the door and into his fancy Porsche on the corner. “Was that some sort of a set up? Where the hell did you find him?” Todd asked.
“On the tragic, Tinder Trail,” I said swiping George’s number in my ever-growing blocked callers file.
“Well, I’d stay off that trail,” Todd said giving my shoulder a squeeze.
“Funny, that’s what my mother says. Thanks for the drink Todd, you’re a sweetheart,” I said and wandered out the door taking a deep breath of the night air. Georgie Porgie, I doubt you’ve kissed many girls but you’ve surely made some cry.