I met Lisa, my date for the afternoon, in front of H.A. Winston, a fashionable restaurant/pub in the Tysons Corner shopping center.
For her, it was date number 15 or 16 since joining the Georgetown Connection. For me, it was an experiment. I had asked Joan Hendrickson, owner of the service, several days earlier if she would set me up with someone.
Inside, we settled on a window table, and studied our menus. Both of us ordered beer.
"I like beer," she said, as the waiter set them down.
After a moment, I began to tell her about myself, my interests and professional background, my tastes in music and film. Her eye contact was inscrutable.
When I said I enjoyed reading, she seemed disappointed.
"I guess I don't like reading much," she said, looking at her beer. "Although I did read Winds of War recently. Did you ever read that?"
I told her I hadn't.
It was a very hot afternoon, and for a while we watched some teen-agers walk barefoot across the parking lot.
I told her I was a journalist, and this seemed to interest her. She asked if I had ever met Woodward and Bernstein.
Again, I disappointed her.
As the conversation chugged along, and the beer disappeared from our glasses, we eventually came upon something we had in common: Both of us, it turned out, were very poor tennis players (although I had not played in years, and she had a match later in the afternoon).
"My sport, I guess, is running," I said hopefully.
She shook her head. "I'm not good at doing things by myself," she said. "Reading, running. I like team sports, things I can have other people doing with me. Dancing."
We looked at each other.
Lisa (not her real name) was a tall, hefty, very friendly brunette, a couple years older than I. She worked in Fairfax, as a computer programmer, and was studying for an advanced business degree at George Washington University.
She had joined the dating service, she said, because her heavy schedule was keeping her from meeting people. Although she approached each date hopefully, in some cases a rapport never developed, no matter how hard she tried.
"In a way, I guess it's kind of sad using a dating service," she conceded. "But before I joined, I would sometimes go for several months without a date.
"Believe me," she said, leaning toward me, grabbing a salt shaker. "It's hard getting yourself up for this each time. Even with the videotapes, it's basically a blind date you're going on. Although I enjoy it, it's also work."
As she continued to talk about the dating-service business, a man at an adjacent table craned his neck to get a good look at us.
Eventually, she said, she would like to meet the man she will marry through the dating service. But that's down the road.
"Most of the people I go out with, I don't go out with again," she admitted. "But there's no way of telling. One day you might get lucky, you might meet the perfect person."
She looked at her watch. It was getting late, and she had to play tennis.
"I wish you good luck," she told me, and I thanked her.
The waiter brought the bill. Lisa did not protest strongly when I offered to pay it.
"I still believe the man ought to pay," she said, as we stood in the parking lot. "I don't think it's such a bad system. Women have an enormous number of expenses."
She slipped on her sunglasses, so I could no longer see her eyes, and grinned.
We assured each other it was nice we had met, walked to our cars and drove home.