A Date That Will Live in Infamy

By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, July 30, 2006

The e-mail that arrived the other day told the story of a guy who did something really cheesy to a woman he'd met through an online dating service. Here are the first names of all the people to whom this document had been forwarded before it reached me. I am leaving no names out:

Amanda, Lauren, Tabitha, Megan, Nicole, Rachell, Valerie, Sharon, Natasha, Natalie, Lori, Danielle, Bethany, Brooke, Denise, Elizabeth, Kristen, Gina, Leah, Margee, Michelle,

Ashley, Sara, Rochelle, Lianne, Marisa, Renee, Abbie.

In short, this is the story of a guy who will never, ever, ever get a date again.

You may have heard about this; it's been on the Web. But this is probably the only authoritative account of it you will read, because, to my knowledge, I am the only person to have actually found the guy and spoken to him. I got to him early, before he disconnected his number, destroyed his phone, sold his house, changed his name, burned off his fingerprints, went into the witness protection program, etc. He sure ain't talking now.

His name is Darren. Hers is Joanne. Darren is the CEO of a small company. Joanne is a secretary. The two met on at a restaurant in New York City on June 4. Joanne had offered to pay half the check, but Darren gallantly declined. Later, however, when he could not reach Joanne and concluded she was not going to go out with him again, Darren decided she owed him for her half of the meal. He left a message on her answering machine. The audio was uploaded into the e-mail.

". . . You ate the food, you drank the wine. Do the right thing. The next time you go dating, be careful, don't lead guys on, which is what you did to me. Fifty dollars -- please put it in the mail, and we're done and you never have to hear from me again. Otherwise I am just gonna keep on top of this, and I don't think you want me to keep on top of this."

Darren apparently felt the price of the meal entitled him to a second date and whatever attendant benefits that might imply. Pretty petty and cheap, no? You are thinking "George Costanza," yes? Well, that is because you didn't actually hear his voice on that tape, as I did. If you had heard his voice, you would be thinking "Gilbert Gottfried."

Joanne responded to his message by e-mail. Understandably, her tone was a little arch:

"There is not a quid pro quo for eating and drinking on a date. If this is how you think it works, perhaps you should consult a professional who could take care of all of your needs . . ."

Darren kept calling and leaving messages, exhibiting all the savoir-faire of Bruno the Disagreeable Loan Shark.

"You can only hide so much behind e-mails. I'm going to reach out to your employer and issue a summons and call you down to court. So, it's your call. My next call is going to be to your employer . . ."

Darren apparently never followed through on that threat; what he did do, however, was telephone the restaurant where the couple had eaten. I know because I talked to the restaurant manager, whose name is Carol. She confirmed that Darren had called her, given her Joanne's phone number and said Joanne would be delighted to handle her half of the check. When Carol called Joanne, Joanne burst out laughing and explained the situation. "I told her that if this guy became serial in nature," Carol said, "she should use me as a witness." (You will notice the continuing theme of women helping women here.)

Now comes the part of the story you have all been waiting for. I couldn't find Joanne, but I did find Darren, and called him. Instantly, he tried to clear the matter right up by informing me that he knows many important people at The Washington Post who would be extremely displeased to know that I was making him uncomfortable, if I got his drift. Did I want to "ruin those relationships?" He named three Post writers for whom he said he was something of a Deep Throat, a claim that was both fascinating and false. I checked. Two of the three had never heard of him. The third barely knew who he was.

When I called back and told him that, he said he had no time to discuss this matter further, because he was on vacation and also because his father was very sick.

And that was that. Darren's phone appears to have been unplugged. As, I suspect, has Darren.

Gene Weingarten's e-mail address is weingarten@washpost.com.

Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon.

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