A parka-clad man hugging himself to keep warm greets me with enthusiasm at the entrance to Glen Echo Park's old bumper car pavilion.
"Oh good," he says, as I take off my mitten and hand him a $10 bill. "We need more women."
Ever since my divorce four years ago, I've donned a flare skirt, kissed my daughters goodbye and driven to Glen Echo's Saturday night swing dances. Traveling solo always reminds me that I'm in charge of my own good times.
The dances are usually held inside the 1933 Spanish Ballroom, but with the building under renovation, tonight's crowd is bundled against the cold in an enclosed, unheated corner of the former amusement park.
I tap the shoulder of a man who grew up Lindy Hopping in Yonkers and say, "Hey, Yonkers, wanna dance?" He knows I grew up jitterbugging in Philadelphia and answers, "Sure, Philly."
We jive to the Blue Sky 5's rendition of "A Tisket, A Tasket." The band's singer, in her fur-collared coat, looks as though she is performing on a brisk morning at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Thirty-five years ago, I bumped cars right here on a balmy spring evening with a blue-eyed law student who looked like Paul Newman. Tonight a guy wearing a knitted cap pulled down to his eyebrows bounds up and offers his hand. As we dance, he shouts a string of instructions: "Double time!" "Starburst!" "Hip-hugger!" "Texas Tommy!" I can only guess what any of it means; throughout the entire number, I remain a beat behind.
By now, my feet have lost all sensation. A man with skin the color of chestnuts and an oversize beret that flops stylishly to one side leads me onto the battered floor for one last dance. But first, he opens a small plastic case and removes two cylindrical plugs, which he works into his ears.
My skirt swishes as he swivels me this way and that. Then my swinging Saturday night comes to an end, and I return to my car alone, perhaps more relieved than disappointed that I haven't met Mr. Right.
-- Susan Fishman Orlins