It started out well. Sunny Friday evening, trendy coffee spot in Vancouver’s über trendy Yaletown, even an open patio table with prominent No Smoking signs. I ordered my iced coffee and checked a few emails while waiting for Vijay.
The incessant barks of someone’s frantic dog provided the only annoyance. Okay, my dog. I decided to rescue my disgruntled pooch from the nearby car and let the neighborhood have some peace. He circled a couple of times before parking himself by my chair. Nap time after a hectic day of doggy daycare (and the aforementioned five minutes of abandonment).
Vijay arrived, we shook hands and he sat down for a good chat. Well, one is always hopeful it will be a good chat.
I led things off, asking about his work and, more specifically, his commute. Figured we had something in common as I travel five hours each day for work and he flies to Saskatchewan each week for his job. He shared the facts, nothing else. No “Which one of us is crazier?”, no “I do it because Saskatoon is on the cutting edge in the computer tech industry”, no “There’s nothing better than the prairie sky.”
Next topic, please. Family. All in Ohio. My relatives are in Texas. Wow. Connection. American states! Not particularly close to one another. Not linked in any obvious way.
And there, at ten minutes into the conversation, came the first awkward moment of silence. I reached down to pat my dog. Vijay forced a smile and said he was allergic to most pets. (Rest assured, he said. “I took my allergy meds before coming over.”) My overly friendly dog didn’t so much as sniff Vijay’s way. His senses are truly extraordinary, able to detect early a Person We’ll Never See Again .
Somehow I got us on track for more chatter about...gosh, I can’t recall and, trust me, it wouldn’t make for gripping blog reading. At some point, I began to pat the dog more, grateful for his company. Maybe his sensory prowess extends to ESP. Maybe is auto tantrum had been a thoughtful act. Maybe he knew this would be a dud of a date. Maybe he just knows how to play the odds. (Things to do this afternoon: Google Vegas. “Hotels casinos that allow pets”.)
Once again, a parking meter enforced the Bad Date Mercy Rule. Call it a night after forty-five minutes of polite, forgettable probes, pats and pauses. As a formality, I told Vijay that the dog and I head for the ferry terminal or fit in a dog walk. Vijay opted for the walk. I did my best to muster up my Faint Hope clause. Maybe the movement would spark something on what we’d both noted several times was “a beautiful night”.
Nope. We waited in silence at a stoplight. It was another sign. Red means stop. The DON’T WALK made things even clearer.
We moved on.
I spoke a few more times, saying “Excuse me” to passersby as my dog spotted the next tree on our route. Vijay and I even shared a little more conversation. The search for something in common proved fruitless.
In the end, I took the lead—even over my alpha-minded pooch—and we stopped at an off-leash dog park. No need to try to entertain. I let the dog free, laughed at his own clumsy first encounters with a teensy Speed Demon, a gangly, timid mutt and a scruffy, bouncy schnauzer. Ever the wiser one, my dog gave up after ten minutes, spending the final moments of his excursion circling me and chewing on grass. I may be hopelessly challenged when it comes to human interaction, but there’s no mistaking the bond between the dog and me. Cat ladies, I judge you not!
The dog park was closer to Vijay’s condo than where I’d parked. I suggested that the dog and I could make it back on our own, but Vijay stuck with his good manners and escorted us back, bookending our time with another handshake, colder, more formal than the first.
From the passenger seat of the car, my dog barked at a homeless man who leaned toward the window. Sometimes I want an instant stop to the yapping, but I welcomed the din as I pulled away. My dog was just happy to be back in a known environment, protective when faced with a stranger, already looking forward to the next phase of our driving adventures. At the first red light, he hopped up and licked my ear. Love, relief, maybe just a desire to get that grassy residue off his tongue. Whatever the purpose, it was clearer than anything that happened on the latest dud of a date.