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The Mating Game

Hackie

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By the normal standards of a Friday night, the downtown scene was subdued on March 16. It seemed to me that folks were holding back in anticipation of the following night’s blowout. March 17 was shaping up as the perfect storm this year — St. Patrick’s Day was falling on a Saturday, and the meteorologists were calling for springlike, if not summery, weather. As it turned out, my expectations were fulfilled and then some: The next day I would work for 13 straight hours with nary a break in the action. God, I love the Irish! But St. Patrick’s Day eve, as I said, was on the mellow side.

That night a petite, dark-haired woman hailed my taxi from the Sweetwaters’ corner. “Can you take me to the Winooski Falls apartments?” she inquired through my open passenger window.

Residents living in the still-expanding housing complex just east of the Winooski circle refer to their neighborhood by a variety of names, but “Winooski Falls” — Winooski Falls Way being the main thoroughfare through the development — seems to have emerged as the consensus.

“That’s pretty much what I do for a living,” I replied, remembering that I really need to purchase that rim-shot app. My customer settled into the backseat and off we drove.

“I only had two drinks,” the woman said, “but I just didn’t want to drive home. I’m such a lightweight.”

This happens a lot, customers feeling they somehow need to justify taking a cab. Personally, I believe cab taking is a wonderful thing, and folks should take more of them — no explanation required.

“Hey, you’re being responsible,” I said, affirming her decision making. “Plus, you know this town — the cops are all over the DUI thing. Anyway, didja have an enjoyable evening out tonight?”

In the rearview mirror, I watched my customer chuckle and shake her head. She was a pretty woman, with fine features and a seemingly easy smile. “Oh, my,” she replied. “I’m 42 years old, a divorcée and dating through Match.com. The whole thing is hilarious, if it wasn’t so tragic.”

“Wait a second,” I said. “I thought plenty of people date online these days — nothing lame about that. But I gather you’re not finding suitable guys?”

“Ah, where to begin? I seem to attract 20-year-olds and 60-year-olds who are all too eager to hook up, imagine that. Guys my own age all seem to want mommies. It’s gotten so bad, I’ve taken to writing stories about my dates and emailing them to my friends and family. I really should write a book!”

“That’s crazy,” I said. “Girl, you are a hottie. I don’t know what’s wrong with men these days. I mean, they should be lining up.”

“Thanks for that. Well, one thing is, I don’t cook.”

“Don’t cook?” I asked, incredulously. “Seriously — that comes up on first dates? Guys actually ask, ‘Tell me, do you cook?’ Man, things have sure changed, or maybe I should say they’ve reverted back to an earlier time. That seems like a dating conversation circa 1937. Don’t tell me — you’re also lousy at mending clothes?”

The woman laughed and said, “I think it all has to do with nurturing. That’s what the cooking represents. Men want a nurturer.”

We motored through the University of Vermont district. It was a warm night, and couples were out strolling hand in hand. Gosh, I thought, love is easier for the young. Then I flashed on my own salad days and realized that’s an illusion. Hookups might be easier to come by in the springtime of life, but actual love? That’s a challenge at any age.

As we passed the hospital, I asked, “Being that I’m not on your email list, could you share with me some of your stories of dating disaster?”

“Sure, why not?” she replied. “Well, of course, there’s the twentysomethings looking for a quick lay. Oh, then this 92-year-old guy got in touch with me before he realized how old I was, and wrote back to apologize — he was ‘looking for an older gal.’ Then this one guy starts out the date — over dinner, no less — by pulling out and sniffing Afrin nasal spray. And how about the man looking for someone to help him get out of debt? Oh, yeah — there’s a keeper. Shall I continue?”

Laughing, I said, “No, that’s quite sufficient — you’ve painted a vivid picture. I had no idea how hard it was for a single woman these days. On behalf of men everywhere, please accept my apologies.”

We reached the Winooski Falls development, and my customer guided me to her apartment entrance. To me, it seems like a great location, if you want to live in a city and appreciate the proximity to the river. Winooski has the feel of an up-and-coming town — teeming with immigrants, good restaurants and creative people. And I’ve always taken comfort in the sound and sight of the Winooski River — especially in the spring when, swollen with snowmelt, it billows and thunders.

As my customer counted out the fare in the backseat, I said, “I really wish you the best of luck finding the right man. You just have to have some patience, I guess, because — like I said — you seem like a real catch.”

The woman raised her head, a wistful look on her face. “Honestly,” she said, “at this point, I would just settle for some good, safe sex.”

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