Recently single, and horrified at the thought of slogging it out at endless parties, bars, restaurants, book clubs, Internet sites and dog parks, I thought I'd kill 25 birds with one stone and go speed dating.
We've all heard of it, this modern-day matchmaking for busy people. The appeal is that it's a sort of cut-to-the-chase dating, an easy way to meet a lot of people in a very short period of time with virtually no commitment.
A San Francisco friend recommended "HurryDate," a speed-dating outfit that already boasts one "HurryDate engagement." The Web site promises the experience will be "quick, painless and really fun." I wasn't sure about the painless or fun part, but quick seemed like a sure thing.
If you don't know the fundamentals, here's the setup: About 25 men and 25 women have three-minute dates over about an hour and a half. Of course, they're not really dates. They're slightly longer than introductions. The only thing you have in common is that you're single, between the ages of 25 and 35 and have invested $35 in the idea that you might meet someone worth talking to again.
As HurryDate doyenne Rebekah Dvoren explained before we began, "It's just about saying you want to meet someone again. Not move in with them, not have their children."
We met at the Westwood Brewing Company, a casual Westside bar where HurryDate operates several Wednesdays each month. I was a little worried we'd be right in the middle of the bar, on display for the regulars to ogle. Luckily, this was not the case. HurryDaters are tucked away in their own private room on the second floor. There's not even a sign, just a discreet maitre d' who points you toward the staircase. The first thing I noticed was the quality of the women. Without exception, each one was high on the food chain in terms of attractiveness, fashion sense and, if it's possible to judge by looks alone, intelligence. I almost wanted to speed-date the girls to meet some new friends. But no. I was there for the men.
The men, at first glance, were not quite of the same caliber as the women. But as everyone knows, women are far more forgiving of those sorts of things. I've certainly never set looks above a winning personality, so I headed straight for the sign-in table, ready to date. You're given a nametag, a score card and an ID number. Rebekah explains that at the end of each three-minute date, she'll blow a whistle, then it's time to move on to the next person. Actually, the men do all of the moving, while the women sit in the same place. Yes, it's old-fashioned, but I didn't hear any women complain.
After each brief encounter, you circle "yes" or "no" next to your date's number on the scorecard to indicate whether you'd like to meet them again. If two people circle "yes" for each other, they'll get an e-mail with the other person's e-mail address. It's that simple.
At 7:30 sharp, the first whistle blows. Within the first minute, it's a manic whir of intense chat, earnest glances, heads nodding in apparent interest. The more organized HurryDaters scribble notes feverishly on the bottom of their scorecards.
It takes a few attempts to get used to this new way of meeting people, but by about the fourth or fifth date, it seemed completely normal to have a conveyor belt of men pass in front of you, one every three minutes.
Finding new and exciting topics of conversation for 25 different suitors can be a strain, though, so HurryDate provides a cheat sheet. Questions like "Do you believe in ghosts?" and "Can you roll your tongue?" are suggested, although my favorite was "Have you ever stolen anything?" If they say they haven't, they're either lying or thunderously dull.
Just like with longer dates, a sense of humor is key. After circling "no" to the first 12 men, I realized I wasn't being a good sport. Rebekah's words came back to me: "You don't have to move in with them, just want to see them again." So in the end, I said "yes" to about eight men. I didn't experience mind-bending passion with anyone, but there were a few guys I wouldn't mind meeting for a drink.
By the end we were all exhausted but filled with a collective sense of accomplishment. We'd been proactive with this whole dating thing. We'd done something about it.
Three days later, my e-mail arrived, and one of the matches was someone I'd had a good laugh with. He may not be my soul mate, but I think we could become great friends. As the saying goes, nothing ventured, nothing gained. In this case, nothing regretted. Nothing at all.
Tuesday, 7 p.m., the Westwood Brewing Company, 1097 Glendon Ave. (Westwood Village)
Wednesday, 7 p.m., Gallagher's Pub & Grill, 300 Pacific Coast Highway, Suite 113, Huntington Beach
Cost: $35 fee, reservations required