After many years of dating, I’ve perfected the first date like an actor that has practiced a role many times and is now very good at it and can do the entire play without thinking about the lines.
Here’s how it goes: we meet at a bar near my apartment, The Charles. That’s the name of the bar, not my apartment (my apartment doesn’t have a name, just a number).
“Hey, how are you?” I ask casually.
“Good! How are you?”
“Great. What are you drinking?” I ask, even more casually.
She looks at the beers on tap. There is also a list of beers on a blackboard behind the bar, as well as a second blackboard with nightly specials, which is on the wall opposite the bar. You have to look at multiple walls to know all of the beers they serve. This, in my opinion, is not good ‘usability,’ which is a term that describes how easy it is to use a website.
I never actually say ‘usability’ on the date because it’s esoteric and first dates are about establishing rapport. Second and third dates are for diving deeper into our personal interests and shared idiosyncrasies. Fourth dates are for an intense examination of my thoughts on usability.
“I’ll have a beer” she says the bartender.
“Just whiskey for me, on the rocks please.” I don’t drink beer but not for the usual ethical reasons. “Should we grab a seat?” I ask.
“Yeah, sure” she says. Things are going well already.
We sit at a table. I let her sit with her back facing the wall. “Most women prefer to sit in a position that allows them to see the rest of the bar.”
“Oh, yeah, I guess that’s true. I never thought about it.”
“It’s smart because that’s how Wild Bill Hickok died.”
“Wild Bill Hickok, the famous gunslinger?” I ask, confirming that we’re on the same page.
“Oh, right. Yeah.”
“He had a personal rule that he only broke once. Whenever he played cards or sat in a bar, he would always sit with his back to the wall. That way, if someone came into the bar to exact revenge on him, he would be able to see them and draw his gun before they could shoot him. He only broke this rule once, can you guess what happened?”
“Did he get shot?”
“Exactly. That was the first and last time he sat that way. Because a man came into the bar and shot him in the back and he died. Of course, if someone comes in with a gun and shoots me, I won’t be able to protect you!” I say, humorously. Jokes are an excellent way to establish rapport.
“Hah, right,” she laughs nervously. She’s nervous because it’s our first date and those always make women nervous. There’s a lot of weirdos out there.
At this point, we start to learn a little bit about each other. Inevitably at some point she will mention something that she heard about on the news. “Out of curiosity, where did you hear that?” I ask.
“Oh, on NPR I think. I listen to NPR when I get ready for work in the morning.”
“Do you listen to NPR a lot?”
“Yes, in fact, I get most of my news from NPR.” This sentence happens almost like clockwork. I know she’s going to say it before we even get to the bar and I’m prepared, because this is where I set myself apart from every other guy that she’s been on a first date with.
It’s important to show that there’s something uniquely interesting and special about you. I call this the ‘hook.’ It’s a fishing term and it’s the key to having a great first date.
“It’s not biased?” I ask, casually stroking my chin.
“No, they give both sides of every story. And they cover a wide range of topics that you wouldn’t get from other mainstream media sources.”
Time to shine, as stageplay actors say. At this point I deliver my speech:
“Well that may just be your ideology speaking. I mean, NPR is biased, in the way that all news sources are biased by their very nature. The fact is that it’s impossible to hear all sides of an issue evenly. It’s not like on Marketplace [a popular evening financial news show hosted by Kai Ryssdal] they interview a communist that thinks markets are evil to begin with and that we should move towards a state-controlled economy, like that of the Soviet Union.
“Or take the healthcare thing. They don’t ask a libertarian to come on and comment on whether or not a market-based solution would be preferable. And therein lies the bias—they’re framing the issue in a very narrow way, as if the two sides (usually Democrats and Republicans) are majorly opposed.
“By framing the issue as a choice between those two seemingly opposed positions, they A) give you the false impression that there are large differences between the two parties and B) they virtually guarantee that you will think of the issue along that narrow band of difference.
“In way, the bias of NPR is actually more nefarious than that of say MSNBC or FOX News, because at least there you know what you’re getting—they wear their allegiances on their sleeves—but with NPR it’s not so clear.”
(at this point, I stand up and lean forward with my hands on the table for dramatic effect)
“They don’t even let you consider an alternative, thereby making radical change not only impossible but literally unthinkable!”
I pause for three seconds (it must be exactly three seconds), look into her eyes intently, and say “kiss me, baby.” She will stare at me. She will not kiss me. She will place money on the table and she will thank me and she will walk out of the bar.
And that’s when I know she’s hooked.
In the quiet spaces of the day, I like to think of them getting their news from multiple sources, questioning media bias, and waking up to a whole new reality. They’ve embarked on the long and difficult journey of liberation from the narrow thinking that has been imposed upon them by the corporate media establishment.
I’m sad for them too. This new way of life is time-consuming and leaves little time for dating.