A Picture is Worth a Thousand "Like"s
I knew it! I bloody well knew it!
Okay, I feel somewhat ashamed of myself for doing it, but in the end it was worth it. I had to Google this guy. Find out if he was for real. Never have I met someone who fits the conventional millennial stereotypes as much as him; self-absorbed, prattling on about beard oil or skinny jeans (or something like that), and completely, utterly obsessed with his phone.
He seemed alright on Tinder. A few vain shots of himself in front of a mirror and one pretty cringey topless photo ("arm day at the gym!"), but aside from that he was fine. I swiped right, he swiped right, we matched.
His chat was fine at first. Except for that vomit-inducing opening line:
‘Congratulations! You’ve matched with Dave. Message him now to unlock expert banter, hilarious one-liners and great coffee recommendations.’
On reflection, I should have ignored him. I should have unmatched. That opening line was almost definitely copied from a Buzzfeed post about the worst Tinder openers. But I was intrigued. What kind of one-liners does a guy like Dave have? Did he actually have any?
‘Ooh, alright, let’s hear one of your jokes,’ I responded.
He didn’t reply for two hours. In that time I imagine he was furiously searching the internet or scouring the latest Netflix stand-up specials for the best one-liner he could find. The best he could come up with was:
‘What do you call cheese that’s not your cheese? Nacho cheese!’
Ugh. I actually nearly did unmatch then. Everyone has heard that joke at least a billion times, and the only people who laugh at it are children who don't quite get it but just think it's really funny to shout "Nacho Cheese!!". Did Dave send that one to all his matches? How many of them instantly disappeared? Why hadn’t he learned his lesson? And as my thumb hovered over that “unmatch” button I saw those three little dots appear, indicating that another message was incoming.
Intrigued yet again, I stopped my thumb in its tracks and awaited the message. Maybe that was my problem – intrigue. It was my downfall. I was interested in Dave just as a mouse is interested by that piece of cheese (Nacho Ch- no!!) on that strange little rectangle thing… and then snap! But that snap isn’t even the sound of the trap closing. It’s much worse than that. But more on that in a little bit…
Oh, come on! This better be worth the wait.
‘Sorry...’ he eventually replied. ‘I didn’t mean to get Jalapeño face with that joke!’
That’s when the little angel and the little devil appeared on each of my shoulders and began to debate.
ANGEL (sympathetically): Just unmatch. It would be the kind thing to do. Dave is clearly unfunny, possibly lonely, desperate for attention. Let someone else take him out for a date.
DEVIL (grinning childishly and drooling a little): No, no! Take this wild train ride to the next stop! We’ve got to see more of this guy!
ANGEL (with disapproving look at the devil): Now don’t you be so unkind, you devil, you! The poor guy is trying too hard. Maybe he’s been hurt in the past. Maybe he’s not over a recent ex. Cut him some slack! Let’s just leave him alone.
DEVIL (grin fading): Okay, yes. You’re right, angel. Let’s leave him be.
ANGEL (looking surprised and relieved): Really?
DEVIL (unable to contain laughter): No, you idiot! Keep the conversation going! It’ll make a great story if nothing else!!
Unfortunately for Dave (and me) the devil won on this occasion. I had to find out more about this guy. So I took another step towards that dreadful mousetrap. And I sent the worst possible reply to Dave:
To which he replied:
He didn’t get it. When you’re a teenager you use lol all the time when something’s funny. It was a cooler and more fun way than saying oh, what you just said there really tickled my funny bone and I found it rather amusing. Thank you ever so much for bringing such humour into my day. But when you reach a certain age you start to just say haha or better yet, just leave laughter out of your messages completely. lol becomes irony. It’s the equivalent of a real-life eye-roll. A gentle signal to the other person that what they just said wasn’t very funny at all but that perhaps we could move past it and on to a better conversation.
But to Dave, it was simply an ego-stroke.
ANGEL (concerned): Oh no, what have you done? He thinks that you think he’s hilarious!
DEVIL (gleefully): And isn’t THAT hilarious!?
ANGEL (pacing on shoulder): And he DOESN’T think that you think that he thinks he’s funny but he’s really not – he thinks that you think that he thinks that you think you might like him!
DEVIL (grin widening and then suddenly halting): Yeah!… Wait, what?
Now that Dave was sure I thought he was the world’s best comedian, his confidence soared and he soon asked me out for coffee.
Coffee, I thought then. Yeah, alright. I could do one coffee. I suggested the new place on Hill Street.
Message from Dave: ‘Oh good God no! They over-roast the coffee beans there. It tastes like they got a horse with halitosis to chew them instead of grinding them.
I replied (after Googling halitosis): ‘Alright, where would you suggest?’
He said: ‘How about I act like a proper gentleman and take you out for a meal instead?’
The intrigue within me lifted ever more. Dave was going to take me out for a meal for a first date? Well, alright then!
I replied: ‘How nice of you. Where do you want to go? Pizza Hut? Nando’s? Or maybe just the classic McDonald’s?’
He’s really taking a long time to reply to that… what’s he saying?
His eventual reply was: ‘You’ve got to be joking.’
I started typing my reply.
‘Of course I’m fucking joking! That’s what humour is! It was supposed to be a light little playful comment that would be disregarded. Like a cute but possibly dangerous dog waiting outside Tesco for its owner; you smile at it but you walk past it and move on with your day. Jokes aren’t just puns that you find on the internet and recycle in your messages pretending you came up with them. Sometimes – actually, almost always – they’re just funny little remarks that aren’t supposed to be taken seriously. Little throwaway remarks that make the conversation that bit lighter and friendlier. I don’t expect you to take us to McDonald’s (although the new McFlurry is banging), you were supposed to just have a little snigger at my comment and then tell me what you really have in mind. Good God man, why do I have to explain this to you!!??’
That was what I typed before deciding I had gotten it out of my system, deleting it, and then sending my actual reply of:
Dave decided on some fancy restaurant I’ve never heard of and can’t be bothered to remember the name of. It had some pretentious long name like Il miglior ristorante d'Italia. All I knew was it served things like stone cold soup and a kid’s portion of pasta and tried to pass it off as fancy food with a heavy price tag.
At least by offering to take me here, Dave would be paying.
He was already at the table by the time I arrived. On time, good start. If I hadn’t spotted him my phone would have already pointed out that ‘I seee yooouuu!’ and I would have found him anyway.
In my mind, a guy like Dave had three options when greeting his new date.
1. The normal greeting. He’d stand up and politely smile before offering a small, friendly, let’s have a good little chat and see if we’re a match hug.
2. The awkward greeting. He’d be nervous. He might stand or he might not. He possibly wouldn’t be sure whether to go for the hug or not. His voice might shake a little. But he’d eventually settle down and relax a little.
3. The Dave greeting. Alright, so maybe in my mind I’d already decided exactly what kind of guy Dave was. Maybe I did fully expect the man to stand, make a show of himself, do the awkward French cheek-kiss thing that’s acceptable in France but weird everywhere else (and yet people keep doing it), snap his fingers and shout “waiter!” and then order some fancy bottle of wine without asking me if I like wine.
I wasn’t prepared for the mystery option. Option four. He barely looked up from his phone. He stayed sitting down, his eyes flicking away from the screen for less than a second to see me arrive and then said to me, and I quote:
‘Hi. Take a seat.’
What the hell was this, a job interview? Should I have shaken his hand? Should I have brought along my CV? Take a seat?? Well, I was going to but now I don’t want to!
I sat down.
He stayed on his phone. His thumbs were relentlessly tapping out a message as his blank face remained fixed on the screen. All the while, I sat there staring at the man and wondering how on earth to break the awkward silence.
So, seen any good Facebook posts recently?
Is that phone where you’ve been getting all of your genius jokes from?
I heard a theory once that humans will eventually evolve to have an extra thumb because of all the time spent writing messages on our phones. I don’t think we as a species are that addicted, do you?
Eventually, I went with:
‘I hope you’re not still messaging other matches on Tinder.’
He gazed up at me, the light from his device illuminating his face in a white glow. And I saw it there in his eyes. Exactly what I thought I would see. Precisely the thing that would be in the eyes of a guy like Dave. He didn’t understand I was joking.
‘What?’ he said.
Two hours, was all I could think to myself. It took this guy two hours to respond to my request for a joke. And it wasn't as if he wasn't on his phone and didn't see my message. He really did take two whole hours to find one that he vaguely understood...
Before I could go into some they’re not as funny when you have to explain them rant, we were thankfully interrupted by the waiter.
‘Good evening, may I take an order for drinks?’
‘What wine would you recommend?’ Dave asked and… oh my God his phone is out of his hands and on the table!
The waiter recommended a red wine which Dave asked to sample before making a scene of slushing the liquid around in his mouth, dabbing at his lips with a napkin (or serviette as he liked to call it) and declaring that we’d take the bottle.
Oh, really Dave? We’ll take the bottle? You haven’t even offered me a taste. Or asked if I drink red wine. Or wine in general. Or alcohol in general. You’ve probably decided that you’re the world’s best wine expert and that if I don’t like it I’m just wrong.
‘Have you had a chance to look at the menu?’
‘We’ll both have the fettuccine Alfredo,’ Dave announced. Then turning to me, he said: ‘trust me, you’ll love it.’
Who in the blue hell is this guy!? Oh, I’ll love it, will I? And you! Waiter man! Why are you just standing there with your little notepad giving this guy a nod and the consent to just order for his date?
DEVIL (with a wink): Yes! That’s it! Just let it all happen. That’s entertainment!
ANGEL (disapprovingly): I disapprove.
DEVIL (rolling his eyes): You would.
And then the bloody phone was back out! I could barely believe my eyes. I was about to crack some joke about how he must have been addicted to the thing when I remembered he didn’t understand jokes that weren’t found neatly wrapped with a paper hat next to a novelty plastic comb inside a Christmas cracker.
Eventually he asked me what I do for a living.
‘I work with the council,’ I began to say. ‘I’m a…’
‘Oh really?’ he interrupted. ‘Have you been there long? I’ve been in my job for five years. I work in marketing. It was a start-up company run by…’
Holy shit. He just completely cut me off. He was no more interested in hearing about my job than he’s been about…
‘ …our fiscal year was disappointing then but we made up for it last year when…’
…Is he still talking? Jeez Louise! When is this pasta coming? Might shut him up if he’s shoving food down his mouth…
‘…the data in our spreadsheets didn’t actually reflect what we saw in our projections when we submitted our records for inspection…’
‘ …the boss wants to promote me but he has to wait until we’ve got the staffing issue in admin sorted out…’
…shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut…’
‘Here we are,’ the waiter announced. ‘Two fettuccine Alfredos.’
I could have kissed that waiter. He’d have more chance than Dave, anyway.
To be fair, Dave got one thing right. The pasta was delicious. Not that he’d know. He spent at least – and I kid you not – two actual, whole minutes getting just the right angle for a picture on his phone.
Snap. It was then I realised I'd been caught in the intrigue mousetrap.
And then he spent about five further minutes posting it on whatever social media account he was using. He ate possibly three mouthfuls before seemingly deciding he’d had enough.
When the waiter asked if we’d like dessert, I was ready.
‘Nothing for me thanks, I’m stuffed.’
But Dave did order a dessert. Perhaps he saw it as the icing on the cake, so to speak. The final straw. The last discorded note of a song which had overstayed its welcome long ago. As he sat and ate it in front of his date he continued to stare into his phone and talk about himself. But this wasn’t even the worst part of the night. The worst part arrived alongside the bill, and when it came I was suddenly convinced that Dave was some YouTuber who uploaded prank videos. It was the only explanation.
‘Do you want to just split it fifty-fifty, yeah?’
It was the most costly first date of my life. And I’m not even talking about money. What I paid in cash was nothing compared to what I paid in pride.
But anyway, back to the present. Here I am now in front of my computer after Googling the guy. I found his Instagram page and I had to scroll through a whole page of photos before I even arrived at the pasta photo. The date was only last night, and yet since then he’s uploaded multiple boring photos of sunrises, random cats on the street, and several egotistical shots of himself. When I found the pasta photo, I saw that it had sixty-eight likes, and counting.
The comments section was an array of intellectual thoughts on the dish. My favourite probably being:
‘nw thts wat i call a lingweene dish right they’re. looks gr8.’
Underneath this, a comment from Dave:
‘yeah m8, its the best pasta in the city, hands down.’
No mention anywhere that he was on a date. No. The photo of his meal that he pretended to like was much more important.
ANGEL (kindly): Well, I’m not going to say I told you so. Why don’t you just send him a polite message to say thanks for the date but you just… didn’t feel a spark?
Alright. Alright. Deep sigh. Here’s my phone. Pick it up. Open up Tinder. Go to matches and… wait…
He unmatched me!?
HE unmatched ME!?
DEVIL (unkindly, spitting out cold pieces of leftover fettuccine Alfredo): PWAAAHHHH HA HA HA HA HA HAAAAAA!!!