The Tinder Chronicles, Chapter One: The Worst First Date of All Time
One year ago this Monday, I went on the worst first date of all time. What follows is a 100% true accounting of the events of that fateful night in rough draft, stream of consciousness form, which is the only appropriate way to describe that night:
I’d been using Tinder for about 4 months at the time, and had finally started to settle into something of a rhythm. I’d put several methods of breaking the ice to spark a conversation to the test, ranging from the normal, (“Hey, how are you?”) to the nerdy (“What’s your favorite book?”) to the downright strange (“You must be my appendix, because I don’t really understand you, but I have this weird feeling in the pit of my stomach that really makes me want to take you out.1). I wish I could tell you what I used to open with Megan, friends, I really and truly do, but I didn’t start making notes about such things until much later in my Tinder adventure. Regardless, whatever it was worked, and a rolling conversation that took place intermittently over a two week span began. Eventually, I was able to finagle a phone number out of her, and things progressed at a bit more rapid of a pace from that point.
Meanwhile, I had begun my investigation. Using advanced detective techniques2 I was able to discern the full name of the young lady and cull what little information I could from the public parts of her Facebook profile (You can call that weird if you want, but I think it’s more weird to walk into a date with nothing but a first name. To each their own I suppose). This being my first potential real-life Tinder date (I’d previously been cancelled on by Holly, who would months later move to Las Vegas to begin her career as a pornographic actress), I was eager to vet the subject before proceeding forward. I asked a mutual friend (we had three) about the young lady, and was able to confirm that she was every bit the cute, fun and outgoing lady I believed I’d met — er, so to speak. A date is set for Saturday at
It’s awkward at first, which is on me. She’s all smiles, outgoing and pressing the conversation froward. I haven’t been on a date with someone I didn’t already know pretty well….ever. She tells me that she’s already “a little tipsy” because she had a couple of drinks with her co-workers after their shift ended — she’s a waitress at an area pub. Perfect. I drink like a fish, you can keep up. She also let’s me know that she’s got to up bright and early tomorrow morning — she has a brunch shift starting at 7 am. I offer my condolences.
As we sit at the table fumbling through the small talk we haven’t already covered prior to meeting, sipping our beers (she keeps poking fun at me for taking tiny child sips. I’m nervous, I’m sorry) and waiting for our tour to begin, she strikes up a conversation with what in the aftermath I interpreted as a pair of gay men. We are invited to join them, and do so for a time, chatting amiably. Later, after they have left for their tour, she again briefly strikes up conversation with another adjacent group joining us on our tour, this time an out of town bachelor party. It’s begun.
The tour proceeds, and she’s among the most vocal of the group, but not to the point of being disruptive. Good. I’m criminally shy, I need someone to push me to be more outgoing. We drink our allotted four 6-oz. pours, plus a couple extra on the house from some friends who are working behind the bar tonight. “Atta boys” are offered and gladly accepted. The world is watching tonight, Travis, and they’re rooting for you. Don’t let them down. The tour ends and we remain chatting with our new bachelor party friends.
A moment of concern: She tells the party that she’s actually just 19 years old, and in town visiting from West Virginia. I have no worries, as my previous investigation confirmed that she was a 25-year-old from the central part of southern Wisconsin. The bachelor party isn’t particularly moved to believe her tale either, and nothing comes of the yarn, which is spun then dropped in a five minute span. It’s an odd moment, notable only in retrospect as a shadow of what’s to come.
The brewery is closing and it’s time to leave. One member of the bachelor party says they’re searching for a nearby strip club, and asks if I have a recommendation for one that is especially seedy. I tell them I’ve never been to Art’s Performing Center, but it’s very close by and I’ve heard tales of it’s filthiness. They jokingly invite us to join them, and Megan jokingly accepts. In a blur, the issue escalates in a flurry of challenges and laughter. Taxis are summoned for half the group, the other half are committed to the back seat of my car, and the matter is settled. We’re going to
Art’s Performing Center
It is at this point that many of you are most likely thinking, “Well, gee Travis, you didn’t have to go to this strip club on your first date. You could and should have said, ‘Well, if you’re going to head to this strip club, Megan, then I’m out, have a nice night.’ Why did you go?” The answer is very simple: had I left that night at this point, when I should have, you’d not get to read what follows. I did it for you, America. Because I love you.
Before entering, I tried to imagine what this hole-in-the-wall strip club tucked in between a pizza place and a college bar might look like on the inside, and had come up with something roughly equivalent to the bar Nancy Callahan was performing in at the beginning of Sin City, with Jessica Alba replaced with someone several orders of magnitude less attractive on the stage, and the whole thing shrunk down to about 1/3rd it’s size. This proved fairly accurate, with the added element of a pervasive blue that infested every inch of the place.
Megan got set right to work, setting up the bachelor’s father with a lap dance while the rest of the party paid for a lap dance for the groom. She darted around from performer, to me, to the dad, back to me, to the groom, back to me, etc. She kissed me each time she came back and asked me if I was having fun, to which I very honestly replied that I was. She seemed at home in the club. She chatted with performers on stage about their pets.
The men of the bachelor party are not oblivious to the destruction that has been wrecked upon a previously innocent evening. This conversation happens three times:
Bachelor Party Attendee: Oh, man, Travis (we’re on a first name basis now, it’s fine), I’m so sorry, man. We totally blew up your first date.
Travis: It’s fine, man. <shrugs, laughing>
BPA: You having fun though?
Travis: Absolutely. Definitely not what I expected from the night, but I’m having a blast.
BPA: So, you’re never going to call this girl again, right?
Travis: Absolutely not.
BPA: Let’s go grab another beer.
Rounds are bought, toasts are raised, breasts are bared and a surreal night is nearing a conclusion. The bachelor party is heading out soon, in search of another venue for their tour of Brew Town debauchery.
Megan (to the group): I know a place even dirtier than this place. Much dirtier.
Travis: There’s no way that’s true.
What have I done.
Taxis are summoned, and I’m ushered in.
Taxi driver: Where are you all headed?
To her credit, Megan was absolutely right. The Spotlight was not only most assuredly dirtier than Art’s Performing Center, it just may be the single worst building I’ve ever stepped inside of. Imagine a real life version of Frank Reynolds, but add 30-50 pounds (you know, because Wisconsin), and stick a very sad looking young-ish girl wearing mostly nothing on his lap. There are three of these on one side of the bar. Throw another one of the girls up on the 6×6 stage rung with red rope lights, dancing slowly in front of the blacked-out windows at the front of the bar. The whole place smelled like that beer-water mix at the bottom of the tub a half-barrel sits in the morning after a college house party. Miller Lites cost $2.50. TWO DOLLARS AND FIFTY CENTS AT THE DANG TITTY BAR. The Spotlight is like if Nickleback was a place you could go visit. No one should ever go there.
One-on-ones with members of the bachelor party persist throughout the night. They’ve been drinking for a while now. They’ve grown increasingly malignant.
BPA: Bro, haha I’m sorry we took over your first date.
Travis: Hey, man, it’s all good. <shakes head, laughing> It’s been quite a night.
BPA: Totally bro. Man, Megan is drunk as F*$%! You know you gotta hit that tonight, right? You can’t date this girl, bro, she’s crazy.
Travis: Ha. Um.
BPA: Haha totally man. Hit it and quit it, man. Yeah!
Megan is sitting on one of the chair near the stage alone, swaying slowly. Frank Reynolds is chomping on pretzels at the other side of the bar, while a very sad looking young lady without a shirt on sits on his lap. I’m uncomfortable. I’ve had enough. We linger for what feels like hours, but take a taxi back toward the east side a bit after midnight: the boys are looking to keep drinking somewhere a little closer to where they’ll be staying. As soon as we get in the cab, Megan passes out on my shoulder. Good. I can get her in the car and take her home. As soon as we arrive, she wakes up.
Travis: Okay, Megan, my car’s right over there, I’ll get you home.
Megan: <to the group> Where are we going?!
BPA: Um… well, we’re going to
Duke’s On Water
She’ll have none of this “go home” nonsense, and now my internal decision to stick this night out until the end has expired, and it’s time to reevaluate some things. Shoulder devils and angels are consulted, pros and cons are quickly debated and the decision to carry on is grudgingly made, based largely on the fact that I’m not sure this girl will ever make it home if I leave her now. She slumps onto a stool and almost immediately falls asleep sitting upright — her ability to remain on the stool while unconscious was impressive. Each time she nodded off, I advised her that it might be time to leave. She remained steadfast in her commitment to the party. You have to admire that kind of stamina.
A plan formulated in my mind to finally end the night, and I was able to convince some of the more noble remaining members of the bachelor party to assist me in making a big show of leaving the bar to head to the next venue. Once we’d gotten her outside, they circled back into Duke’s and I bid them all a silent farewell as I loaded the barely conscious young lady into the passenger seat of my Buick LeSabre (I’ve since upgraded my wheels, you guys, don’t write letters). I don’t know where those men are today, but I can assure you they’ll never forget us, and were a reunion possible I would jump at the chance. What a ride we took together.
Scraping the last gooey bits of coherence from the bottom of Megan’s fading consciousness, I was able obtain an address, somewhere back in West Milwaukee. It helped, but after dozens of “You will not believe WTF is happening to me right now” texts I’d sent out over the course of the last few hours, by phone’s battery had run dry, and I would have to make this run without the help of my trusty Google Maps. My urban navigation skills were taxed, but after a few wrong turns (thank almighty god she lived on a numbered street), I was able to locate the premises around 2:30 in the morning. Megan never woke during the drive home.
Half leading, half carrying Megan to the door, she handed me a key ring that would have made any self-respecting janitor proud, but after a half dozen educated guesses, I successfully unlocked the door and marched the shambling corpse to her bed. Leaving her keys on the table next to her bed, I was finally free to go.
I woke up the next morning to a snapchat from Megan, a selfie from work at 7:00 am: “Rough morning.”
I just bet it was.
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1 This worked once. I swear to god. I said this to an adult human person and later on she kissed me on purpose.
2 I searched for her first name through the friends list of one of our mutual friends.