Speaking of asking people out via anonymous note, today I’ll tell the tale of the time that I was on the receiving end of such a solicitation.
Last spring I spent the semester studying in London, but unlike many people who choose to move to a foreign country for half of the year, I was a pretty big geek about my experience. I specifically selected a program where I could take an intensive, full course load of English classes, and I lived in the library. Of course I traveled, did a ton of sightseeing, made friends, and drank gallons of tea, too, but my coursework was my main focus for most of the time I was there. During my exam period, I became particularly fond of a certain spot on one of the upper floors of a library in my neighborhood and spent hours there each day.
I developed a routine: write for a few hours in the morning, take a quick lunch break, write for a few hours in the afternoon, go home for dinner. It wasn’t very exciting. Until the day that I returned from my mediocre sandwich, banana, and cup of tea to find a folded piece of paper waiting for me atop my tall stack of books. I unfolded it. In the very center of the page written in a blue spidery cursive script was a phone number and the words “Mystery number if you fancy it.”
Hmm. I immediately narrowed down the possibilities for who the sender could be: the guy who was studying across the room from me or the guy who worked at the library shelving the books. They were the only other two people who had seen me that day. I guessed that it was probably the second option: I saw him daily and always scowled at him for playing loud music on his iPod—but maybe he had thought I was staring at him expectantly? Who knows. He’d caught my eye because of his wardrobe, which combined formal cardigans and loafers with skinny cuffed pants and bright t-shirts. He wasn’t my type at all. So, naturally, I had to give him a chance. That night, we had a text exchange:
Me: It was nice to get your note today. I think I know who you are, but I’m not sure. Do I get a clue?
Him: Sure! Well, um, er—[yes, he actually wrote this] my hair most needs a comb of everybody on the History floor. But now that I think of it, I guess anyone could have picked up my note. Clue please!
Me: I’m the one who always sits crammed in the corner doing more staring into space than actual work. Does that sound right?
Him: Ha ha, no mistaking you! [Creepy!] Well, seeing as this was all just an elaborate preamble to asking you out, do you want to get a drink or something sometime?
Me: That sounds great, but I’m actually going to be traveling for the next week or so. I can let you know when I get back if that’s okay?
Him: I suppose, but only if you promise to come back with five travelling [the Brits use an extra “l”] stories. Name is [censored] by the way. I guess I sort of forgot that that bit comes first…
Me: My name is [censored]. Looking forward to meeting you!
Him: Damn, your name is far cooler than mine. Laters then!
A few weeks later we made a plan to meet up at this excellent cocktail bar in Covent Garden. When he invited me I was flattered and excited (uh, he used the words “elaborate preamble” in a text to an English major—I was totally sold), but by the time the actual date rolled around I started feeling nervous. I didn’t know anything about this guy, who I was meeting in a city I’d only been living in for a few months. We were meeting in a well-lit, public place. But still!
That’s when I decided to call in some friends for back-up. He didn’t know anything about me either, and he definitely didn’t know my friends. They could show up to the same bar, make sure he didn’t kill me and stuff me in a sack, and provide their opinions on how the date went. It was a genius-like plan, if I do say so myself.
And it went off flawlessly. We all got ready together—which cut down on nerves for me—and walked most of the way there together, too. A few blocks away they turned a corner and I continued on alone. I saw my mystery man—my friends had dubbed him The Librarian—and we awkwardly introduced ourselves in person and went inside. We sat down with our drinks and started talking, and about ten minutes later my friends came in. They played the part of random-people-who-definitely-didn’t-know-me perfectly, sitting a good distance away and taking only discreet glances at us. They didn’t gesture or make faces, but sat there enjoying their beverages without acting suspicious in the least.
Meanwhile, over at my table, the conversation was dragging. The Librarian told me that he’d been to Utah before, and I asked if he’d gone skiing. He hadn’t. Had I?
“I’m a terrible skier. I’m very clumsy.”
“Right, yeah, so you’re kind of clumsy?”
“Yeah, I am.”
You get my drift. After about an hour of zero-chemistry conversation had gone by, he asked if I wanted to leave and check out a different bar in Soho. I made an excuse about needing to stop by a friend’s house, and we exited the bar together.
“I’m heading this way,” he said, pointing North. “Which way are you going?”
“That way,” I said, pointing in the opposite direction.
He gave me a quick kiss on the cheek and said that he’d see me soon, back at the library. We parted, I walked around the corner, counted very slowly to ten, and walked right back into the bar to join my friends. We began debriefing immediately.
“I could barely see what he looked like underneath all that hair!” said one of my friends. True, he did have a curly mop and a rather unattractive mustache.
“Yeah, and I could tell from your body language that you weren’t into him,” said the other.
After an unsuccessful evening, the only thing left to do was buy another round and then go bar hopping. And just like that, a lackluster date turned into an awesome girls night. If only every encounter could end that way!