They say New York is a place where you can meet the love of your life walking down the street. “They” are not lying. If you look at the “Missed Connections” section of Craigslist, multitudes of couples appear to emerge as a result of the L train commute. A friend of mine met her husband rollerblading by the Thompson street deli. I myself once met a guy while standing in line at Jamba Juice: he bought me a wheat grass shot and I thought he was my future husband – that is, until we went on a few dates and I discovered that he was a Persian Jew who couldn’t eat shellfish, let alone marry a shiksa.
One friend of mine, whom we will call Kate (think Kate Beckinsale in Serendipity) had never had a romance blossom from a chance encounter. Despite having spent twelve years in New York City, no handsome stranger had ever swept her off her feet in the midst of a mundane Tuesday, a fact that she would bitterly mention while manifesting her disdain for the modern dating culture. “I’ve never even had my Katherine Heigl romcom moment, and now I have to use an application to date?” It was clear that she was pining for a serendipitous twist of fate, which made it even more exciting when she called me a few weeks ago to inform me that she had met a cute guy at her local supermarket.
“He came up to me in the fruit isle! While I was in my workout clothes! Can you believe it?” Apparently, Kate had been enjoying some post-Pilates food shopping while rocking out to Drake at her local Westside Market, when somebody had grabbed her by the arm. She was about to use all her Pilates strength for self-defense purposes, when she realized that a tall, moderately cute guy was standing in front of her, smiling.
“Miss, are you single? I was wondering if you could talk for a minute.”
Kate didn’t know whether to be freaked out or flattered; a true romantic at heart, she decided to go with the latter. They chatted for a few minutes as the guy, who we will call JC (for John Cusack, obviously) explained that he had initially noticed her while passing by the supermarket window. Apparently, the vision of her picking out apples had been so mesmerizing that he had asked his friend to wait outside while he went into the store to test out fate. While he wasn’t her usual type, she was enamored enough by the bold gesture to give him her number, agreeing to go out for a drink that week. After all, how nice would it be to tell her children the fateful story of daddy falling in love with mommy’s delicate apple-picking skills through a window on 14th and 7th?
A couple of days later, JC texted her to invite her to Raines Law Room, an under-the-radar lounge in Chelsea that requires a reservation just to get past the door. He claimed to have made one, but, when Kate arrived, she saw him standing outside, looking perplexed. It turned out that they were hosting a private party that evening. “Don’t worry, I Yelped another spot,” JC told her, making him the first person she knew to use Yelp in his own city. He led her to a random speakeasy that boasted about two patrons and a very-bored looking hostess, who told them to go ahead and pick a table. Kate selected a booth and sat on one side, expecting her date to sit on the other. Instead, he plopped down next to her, the way people normally sit at a Parisian brasserie – except that, instead of Boulevard Saint-Germain, they were staring at the opposing couch.
What made matters even more uncomfortable was that JC was experiencing some sort of nervous tick that was causing him to tap his foot under the table. Was he anxious? Nervous? Kate ordered a white wine, her date ordered a whiskey on the rocks. She was hoping that the stiff drink would somewhat calm his nerves and help him relax, but the shaking progressively got worse. She tried asking questions, making small talk, but the fact that he was hijacking her personal space while twitching uncontrollably made it very difficult to have a normal conversation. In the midst of all this awkwardness, he asked her if she would mind taking a selfie with him.“You’re very pretty. I want to make sure to remember this.” At that point, Kate began realizing that the scene was panning out less romcom and more CSI episode about the creepy, socially awkward serial killer. In an effort to bring some humor into the conversation, she jokingly asked him how often he approaches girls in the grocery isles of supermarkets.
“A couple of times. It’s kind of my thing.” was his response.
“What do you mean? You’ve done this before?” Kate felt her serendipity bubble slowly deflating.
“Yeah, girls love it. Honestly, it never fails.”
So much for a story to tell the kids. As if this wasn’t enough, he then proceeded to recount all the individual scenarios in which he had effectively maneuvered girls into giving him their numbers by cornering them in public places. Apparently, supermarkets around dinnertime were particularly effective for catching “single chicks shopping for dinner for one”. To ensure that they were in fact single, he usually followed them around for a minutes to “peep the shopping carts”, aiming for girls stocking up on small portions of healthy foods, mixed in with a few guilty snacks. “If there’s Skinny Girl popcorn or a pint of ice cream in the cart, you’re definitely in business!” As he explained all of this, his excitement grew and his eyes lit up, a scene all too evocative of Hannibal Lector detailing the intricate murder plots of each his victims. Except, this Hannibal was on the loose and had her cornered in a red leather booth.
Her hopes of fate replaced by pure fear, Kate thanked him for all this useful information and told him it was time for her to retire to her single girl abode and drown her sorrows in Skinny Girl popcorn. Despite her protests, he insisted on walking her home, choosing a strange route that led them to 7th Avenue and back to the supermarket where he had first unveiled his Master Plan on her. At that corner, JC stopped and grabbed her hand. “Look, this is where I first saw you,” he whispered, leaning in to kiss her. Shocked, Kate backtracked, almost bashing her head through the window of their sacred meeting spot. She then quickened her pace and had him to drop her off by a different apartment building – you know, just in case he was also in the habit of “bumping into” his victims next to their homes.
The bad news? Kate no longer believes in serendipity. The good news? She has been far more excited about those pragmatic (and pre-screened) dating apps!