A smoother than a slip-n-slide road trip would be dull. Thank goodness sometimes Megan and I get lost and drive twenty miles in the wrong direction despite GPS, smartphones and even ye olde fashioned map (at which point we know we’ll be drinking a milkshake and reading from Garrison Keillor’s Poems for Tough Times later in the day). And sometimes, our scheduled date cancels.
Flaking dates are pretty standard in online-datingland. Polite people cancel early so I don’t have to be stood up in public. Uncouth dates simply pull a no-show leaving me wondering why I got a table instead of just hanging out at the bar, where at least bartenders are paid to chat. My planned North Dakota date fell in uber-duber polite territory: he texted at seven in the morning to cancel.
Activate online-dating hyperdrive!
With Megan at Huckleberry Fit’s helm, I whipped out my computer and started aggressively dating. First, I emailed every male I could find in North Dakota proper, plus a guy from South Dakota who might be willing to cross the border. Rarely am I concerned about the population of the Dakotas, but darn it if six hundred thousand people has ever seemed as excessively small as when you’re trying to find a guy to hang out with you. After two dating websites, I moved onto Craigslist.*
The priority for the day, besides dating, had been seeing Theodore Roosevelt State Park. Campers back in Yellowstone told us it was worth a look, and there’s little Megs and I like more than a good state park. Which meant we were heading to Medora. And which also meant there would be rangers. And rangers’ stations. So yes, I began cold calling the state park posts to see if they knew anyone who might want to hang out.
A very nice girl, Amanda, answered at one post, and after laughing when I explained my dilemma, said she’d ask her neighbor and send me a text message. A ranger at another post told me that after eight years, this was the first time he got a question he wasn’t sure he could help with. I asked him if he wanted to go on a date, and he suggested instead I go hang out at a local bar. Nice thought, but that was a last-resort option. Eventually, we were out of options, so I stopped typing and started tapping my toes anxiously until we rolled into Medora.
To regroup, we stopped in the local bookstore, and probably out of desperation for outside stimuli, began chatting with the shopkeeper. He asked where we were from and what we were up to, and we explained the project, and yes, our current dilemma. Then Megan asked, “Do you know any single guys in town?”
Regretfully, the shopkeeper didn’t. But that didn’t deter him from getting his wife on the case. A quick call later and she was in our presence, brainstorming local lads. The first boy whose number she secured was the next door neighbor’s son. In my trying not to pressure him to go out with me I said, “Don’t worry about it if you have a girlfriend…or a boyfriend.” The shopkeeper’s wife overheard me and immediately said, “Well, let’s find someone else.” Once I was off the phone (the call didn’t last much longer), Megan informed me many people in North Dakota don’t take too kindly to the suggestion that they might be gay. In trying not to insult the poor guy by putting him in the straight person box, I managed to insult him by insinuating he could like whoever he wanted. Whoops! The middle of the country is peculiar territory.
Their daughter wandered in to show us her “crazy human trick” that was to be demonstrated in front of America on David Letterman’s show the next week (she can whistle through her lower eye lid) and suggested the son of the bike shop proprietors. One phone call, no homosexual implications, and forty minutes later I was on a date with James.
Post-date, Megan and I were shaking James’s hand and thanking him for meeting with us. His response? “Well, when the mayor tells you to get your ass to the bar, you go.” Yep, turns out the bookstore owner (the same one who insisted we try on his buffalo skin coat, which was heavy and warm and vaguely Russian feeling) was also the town’s mayor.
*This resulted in a two responses. An email that asked me if I wanted to get “coffee” and a text message that read, “Hey Sexy Lady! U want meet? Hot!”