They say geography is destiny, so let us turn our eyes to a neighborhood south of Dupont Circle where the networking stiffs of lower Northwest roam during lunch hour and sometimes dinnertime. There's the Palm, with its musk of old money and new deals, and Teddy and the Bully Bar, with its "power lunch menu." A phone's throw away sits I Ricchi, an Italian restaurant ensconced in the ground floor of an office building. That's where we sent Jim Pagels and Shannon Wilson to see if they could strike a deal with fate.
Jim had networked his way into Date Lab, chatting up my editor at our live event in February. He had filled out an application a few months earlier, describing his dream date as “Elizabeth Holmes but without all the felony fraud” charges. Later, he followed up with my editor to remind her that they’d spoken and reiterate his desire to be matched.
Respecting the hustle, we set him up with Shannon, a 31-year-old North Carolina native. She said her most-D.C.-like quality is that she’s “sort of judgmental” and has “a cynical exterior but deep down would really like to make a difference in the world.” Her least-D.C.-like quality? “I hate networking.”
The restaurant struck Shannon as “a bit on the stuffier side,” but she liked the looks of Jim, who had studied the Date Lab archives to figure out if he should wear a blazer or not. (He had decided yes to the blazer, and wore it over a gingham shirt.) Shannon thought he looked dressed for work but seemed “cute and not too awkward.”
Jim liked the look of Shannon, too: “a very cute, girl-next-door brunette who looked intellectual and smart — as much as you can glean from first glance.” They sat and ordered cocktails. The date began.
Or was it a date? Around these parts the line between a date and a job interview can be a fine one. Shannon found Jim’s questions to be both personal and not — “a lot of, ‘Where did you grow up, where did you go to school, where have you worked before?’ ” she said later. “I felt like at times I was walking through my résumé.” She remembers pausing in the middle of an answer, only to have Jim quickly fill the space by asking another question. It made her wonder how deep their conversation would get.
About that résumé: Shannon works at a media organization, on the marketing side. She likes her job but doesn’t usually talk about it much on dates. Still, she does describe herself as “pretty ambitious” (maybe not Elizabeth Holmes-level ambitious, but nobody’s perfect), and Jim, who likes a career-oriented woman, picked up on that. “It seems that she wants to work her way up in the media world,” he said.
Jim, who does economic research, told Shannon he was thinking about going back to school for his doctorate — maybe in the D.C. area, but also maybe in the Northeast, or the Midwest, or California. Shannon took note of that. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to try to build something with someone who was liable to up and leave the city. “At this point,” she said afterward, “I’m looking for someone who is more settled.”
It wasn’t all career talk. Jim geeks out on board games, and he was blown away by the revelation that Shannon owns his favorite one, Castles of Mad King Ludwig, in which players compete to build the most outrageous medieval palaces. “I was like, ‘What?’ ” he says. “Nobody even has heard of these games, let alone owns them.” And yet Shannon’s reaction to this news struck him as muted. “She didn’t seem equally excited,” Jim told me, “as if she said she owns Scrabble or something.”
Alas, Shannon had decided that while Jim seemed smart and interesting, he came off as a little too serious. “I really enjoy dates where there’s a lot of banter, there’s some flirtiness, a little more air in it,” she told me. This felt more like a business dinner. By the time Mad King Ludwig came up, it was clear to her that they wouldn’t be building any castles together.
Jim asked Shannon if she wanted to go to a bar nearby for another drink. She declined, but suggested they exchange numbers. “I wouldn’t be opposed to grabbing coffee to see if outside of that situation he was a little less serious,” she told me, “but I was at the point where I was kind of tired of this.”
Shannon’s Uber driver took forever to find her, then drove right by without stopping. Jim gave chase — chivalrously, but to no avail. Shannon made her peace with destiny and walked home.
Jim: 4 [out of 5].
Some texting, but no more dates.
Steve Kolowich is a Post Style editor.