Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I got stood up. He did, too.

People have different standards as to what is comfortable to do as a party of one. I’ll eat dinner at a fine restaurant on my own as long as I bring a book along. I’ll go solo to see a movie at a matinee or on a weeknight but not on a Friday or Saturday night. I don’t think twice about sitting in a café by myself. Nothing uncomfortable about that.

Except when I’m actually supposed to be with someone. Being stood up changes everything. The environment shifts from perfectly natural to utterly pathetic.

I showed up at the Bridgehead Café in downtown Ottawa ten minutes before the time I’d agreed to meet Luc. It’s always good to do a quick check in the restroom mirror. First impressions are crucial. I ordered my coffee and selected a prime table, a two-seater that seemed to have a bit of distance from other patrons, allowing more privacy during our conversation. It was also a perfect spot for glimpsing people as they entered the café.

I sipped slowly as I sat and waited. I occupied the time reading a section of an abandoned newspaper and then switched to jotting down some ideas in my writing notebook. As coolly as I could, I glanced up as people filed in and out. Lots of women, some guys clearly shorter than Luc’s stated 6’0” frame and some men far older than 27. Luc? No. Not yet.

I didn’t have a watch or a cell phone with me, but I knew a good chunk of time had ticked by. Hope faded and then completely extinguished. I tried to bargain with myself, wondering if my sense of time was out of whack. Maybe my nervousness made my internal clock race ahead of real time. Alternately, I tried to account for Luc’s delay. Maybe there’d been an accident. Nothing severe, but just enough to detain him. A minor flood in his kitchen perhaps.

Slow sipping switched to gulping. I needed to get out of there. I’d like to think the barristas had plenty to distract them, but somehow it felt like they knew I’d been stood up. Maybe they saw this kind of thing once a day. And today’s sad sack is…moi. It’s hard to stave off that feeling of despair after so much anticipation. Coffee time was a bust.

I got up and took one last glimpse around the café. I knew I hadn’t overlooked a possible Luc sighting, but I scanned the room just in case. I headed for the exit. I can’t remember when a cup of coffee tasted as bitter.

I got on the freeway in rush hour traffic and began the crawl home. And then it hit me. I’d gone to the Bridgehead on Elgin. It was the one I was familiar with. Hadn’t his message referred to the one on Bank Street? Oh, my god! I wasn’t the stood-up-ee. I was the stood-up-or. All the feeling of rejection I’d felt was brought on by my error. And over on Bank Street at the same time, Luc had been feeling the same kind of isolation!

Seventy minutes after our agreed upon meeting time, I desperately tried to swing over to Bank and locate another Bridgehead coffeehouse. Being Ottawa, the next freeway exits were closed due to construction. When I finally was able to get off, I tried racing back to the downtown area. Problem is street racing is impossible in the heavy traffic of late afternoon. Red lights, more construction and one way streets caused further delay as my stomach knotted and I felt more and more like a heel. Eventually—more than ninety minutes late—I found the Bridgehead on Bank. I knew Luc would be gone, but I tried to park to go in to see for myself. Problem is there is no street parking (or stopping) anywhere in the area between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m.

I had no choice but to turn back home feeling completely distraught. It was a struggle to keep any composure when all I wanted to do was berate myself over missing a rare opportunity. Yeah, I know the age difference could have been a big issue, but I never even allowed the chance for it to be up for discussion. Physical attraction, chemistry, common interests, sense of humor, intelligence,…none of it had an opportunity to be explored.

I completely blew it.

I drove considerably faster than the speed limit once I got out of the Ottawa metro area. I needed to get to the small town library ASAP to get on the Internet and send off an apology message to Luc. As I well knew, it sucks to feel like you’ve been blown off, to wonder if your coffee date took a peek in the window and kept on walking, to think that a rerun of “Judge Judy” might have suddenly become more interesting than a meeting with a guy from an online dating site. My apology was profuse and sincere. I mentioned hoping for a second chance to erase a terrible first impression. Of course, I’m well aware that first impressions usually stick. And I have only myself to blame.

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