Wait, Wait, Don't Date Me! Tuning In and Striking Out with the Listeners of WNYC

The L.O. was in the meantime experiencing a rush such as she had not known since her heady undergrad days. She quickly found that she had perhaps the worst possible personality profile for speed-dating. Unwilling to hurt any prospective dates and eager to ensure a good time, she found herself ending each encounter with a “Darn! The interesting ones go so fast!” or “You never get to talk enough to the people you really like!”

Enthusiasm for the hosts ranged from the oddly zealous (“I’ll go anywhere WNYC tells me to!”) to the mild (“I’ve never even pledged! Not once!”). Unfortunately, voices tired as comfort grew, so that by the hour’s end, encounters consisted of hoarse shouting matches from which only strangled phrases like “Leonard Lopate,” “C train” and “Pan-Asian” could be gleaned. Nevertheless, the L.O. was assured by several gentlemen that they would be choosing “yes” when the time came to contact prospective partners.

The G.O. began thinking that his dates were not going well. The art historian accused him of “sitting like a journalist,” as if he were interviewing her rather than dating her. He was asking his dates too much about WNYC and not enough about themselves. He was hearing a lot about how Ira Glass is still great even if This American Life “has become way too much about money.” Plus, the G.O. was balding, and there was an unsightly growth on his forehead he really should have removed.

He never intended to see any of these women again (“it’s complicated”), but the G.O. still liked winning. The thought of the man ahead of him–always late in breaking off each four-minute romance and thus cutting into the G.O.’s time with each lass–racking up more second dates the next morning galled the G.O. So he resolved to revert to the only technique that had ever worked for him in real life: “He just,” an ex-girlfriend once said, “hits on you a lot.”

So the G.O. started paying compliments. That maroon dress made the U.N. staffer look “angelic”; had she ever met Ban Ki Moon? (“No.”) The education nonprofit founder had “beautiful eyes”; what did she think of Geoffrey Canada? (“A saint! I love him!”) Or Diane Ravitch? (“Her argument is full of holes. She’s old and cranky.”) Red hair and a blue dress are an irresistible combination, he told the woman whose favorite voice on WNYC belonged to “the lady from the BBC News who sounds like Emma Thompson,” Claire Bolderson. The pretty girl from Amherst, who told him, “You’re not going to believe this, but my favorite is Jonathan Schwartz,” he tried to amuse by launching into an impression of the DJ that he’d been working on for years.

At last the dating ended, and he repaired straight to the bar; his martini had run out around date five.

(In the morning, the G.O. checked YES for all 20 second dates. He received only one match–from the journalist turned banker who had guessed he was writing about the night and promised to help.)

The L.O. began scanning the crowd wildly for the G.O., who in this parallel universe represented a safe haven.

“Has anyone ever told you … that you’re sexy?” said a gentleman who seemed to be pushing the age limit (47) by a few years.

She ran into one of her four-minute dates. In a fit of honesty, she admitted to him that she was not at present single, and asked if she could set him up with a friend.

“That’s bullshit,” he said. “Honestly, I expected more from a WNYC listener.”

clorentzen@observer.com