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Sunday, April 22, 2007

7:30 P.M. | Sake Club | Woodley Park

Russ: I sent [Date Lab] an e-mail saying, I assume you're going to tell her I'm in a wheelchair? I was able-bodied before my car accident, right after high school, and I know that if you're expecting someone able-bodied, and they're not, it's a shock. They said, We're not. They wanted her meeting me for the first time [with no preconceived notions], which I get and thought was wonderful. But I was definitely nervous.

Stacia: When I arrived at the restaurant, the maitre d' said, "We'll take you to your table." As we approached, Russ didn't stand up, and I could see that he was sitting in a wheelchair. I was like, Oh, I wasn't expecting this.

Russ: She was attractive, with a real smiler's smile. I thought, Sweet, that's the first hoop. She had eye contact with me from the moment she entered the room. I tried to think of something clever to say, to put her at ease, and said, "Pardon me for not standing" -- probably the stupidest, cheesiest wheelchair line there is. I thought, Way to go, Russ. Way to knock her off her feet.

Stacia: I made the bad move later of saying, "I'll bet you didn't have trouble getting parking." How stupid is that? But the first few minutes sort of blurred together -- I didn't want to seem disappointed and didn't want to hurt his feelings. As far as looks, I'm drawn to people who are more striking, so I don't think that normally I'd have been drawn to him, wheelchair or no. I shook his hand, and we started talking. He was relaxed but apologetic. He said he'd wished The Post had told me he was in a wheelchair.

Russ: She was checking out the chair and asking me questions about it. But it wasn't like she was interviewing me. We didn't look at the menus for a long time. That's always a good sign.

Stacia: His disability isn't the entire focus of his life, and we didn't make that the focus of our conversation. We discovered that we like the same type of music, we both like to travel. He didn't think it was dorky that I watch Rachael Ray, and own her pots and pans. And we worship our nieces and nephews. I don't often meet guys that are like, I love my nephews.

Russ: The waiter came up to take our picture and goes, "Look at each other intimately." I thought: Are you kidding? I can't bring out my A-game already. We just started laughing.

Stacia: There was chemistry as far as getting along. He has a great personality. The only bad thing he said all night was that my students must have crushes on me. I hate it when a guy says that. I laughed it off, like I normally do.

Russ: She said she'd never been to a hockey game. I have season tickets, so I hinted that I'd like to take her. Her reaction was, I'd like that. We left at about 10:30 p.m. I'd have loved to extend the date, but I knew she had to get up early. I'd rate the date a 5 out of 5.

Stacia: I gave him my phone number. I'd probably rate the date a 4. The food was great; he was great. It was one of the more fun dates I've been on in a while. I don't know [if there is romantic potential], but I don't see why we wouldn't go out again.

Interviews by Christina Breda Antoniades

Update: After the dinner, Stacia spent a few days "really mad" at Date Lab. "I felt like I was set up," she says. "I'd look like a jerk, and he'd just be 'the handicapped guy.' I also didn't think it was fair to him -- what if I had turned out to be a mean, tactless person?" But after some e-mailing, her temper cooled. Russ and Stacia saw a Caps game two weeks later.

DATE LAB IS LOOKING FOR singles. Go to washingtonpost.com/datelab for details.


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