On the lunch menu: a bad date

November 19, 2007|By KEVIN COWHERD

I hear the radio commercial all the time, the one for It's Just Lunch, the dating service for "busy professional singles" who'd like to meet that special someone, but only if it can be arranged between noon and 1, the restaurant isn't too far away and the other person doesn't mind seeing a laptop come out when there's a lull in the conversation.

Look, there's no shortage of ways for singles to meet these days.

They meet in bars, at work and on the Internet. They meet through dating services such as eHarmony, where you answer a 436-item "Relationship Questionnaire" that's supposed to be some sort of Lovers Rorschach Test, and they match you according to "29 dimensions of compatibility."

There are even speed-dating services like 8minuteDating, where you have eight one-on-one "dates" that last eight minutes each in a hotel ballroom packed with other singles.

Eight minutes. I've had conversations with muggers that lasted longer.

But It's Just Lunch always struck me as a particularly bad idea.

Two busy, stressed-out professionals meeting for a first date in the middle of a workday?

Isn't that a recipe for disaster?

OK, let's imagine how that might play out.

First of all, you have to assume one or both will be running late, owing to their ridiculously busy schedules.

So they arrive at the restaurant even more stressed, because they only have an hour or whatever for lunch and they each just spent 20 minutes fighting traffic and trying to find a parking space.

OK, so now the two meet for the first time. And what ensues is the usual uncomfortable small talk that comes with any first date.

Except remember, these are busy, professional singles.

So pretty soon she's hunched over the table checking her BlackBerry for messages. And he's pulling out his iPhone and checking in with the office.

Adding to the stress: The place is crowded. And the waiter takes forever to wait on them.

So now they're both hungry and cranky and thinking about all the work that's waiting for them back at the office.

Plus they're worried about their cars being towed, seeing as how neither one could find a parking space and they both parked illegally in some alley.

Now, does this seem like a romantic setting to you?

Does this seem like a scenario in which sparks might fly?

No, I don't think so.

By the time the meal ends and one of them calls for the check, they'll both be ready to scream.

These two are more likely to have a nervous breakdown than connect as a couple.

And here's the thing: As stressed as our two busy professionals are, they can't even have a drink to relax.

Because they have to go back to work after the hour or 90 minutes is up.

And God forbid you have any alcohol on your breath in the workplace these days.

No, the only thing you can have on your breath these days at work is Dannon Light or something like that.

OK, so imagine the two busy professionals quickly figure out there's absolutely no chemistry between them.

They chat for a few minutes and realize the date is a complete bust. No one's finding a soul mate here.

That's just going to ratchet up their stress levels even more, isn't it?

Because now both will be thinking: I have all that work back at the office, and I'm sitting here with this loser, watching him (or her) slurp that disgusting cheddar-cheese-and-broccoli soup.

By the time the meal ends and one of them calls for the check, they'll both be ready to scream.

These are Type A people, after all. They can't handle sitting around and making small talk to a stranger of the opposite sex if it's not going to lead to something big, like a wedding in Aspen and a honeymoon in Europe.

I see by the It's Just Lunch Web site that the company asks for feedback from its clients after every date.

"From your comments and overall impression of the person, we'll fine-tune your next match so that we can be even more precise in the future," it says.

But if the first date is a disaster, I'm guessing there probably won't be a "next match."

Maybe the company should change it's name to It's Just Breakfast and tighten the time frame, so people don't get as stressed out.

Busy professional singles meet for a coffee and a bagel.

Fifteen minutes, tops.

Then it's on to work and another grueling 12-hour day in Busy Professional Singles Hell.

But if you find a soul mate reaching for the Equal packets, it'll all be worth it.


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