Andie Basto signed up for Date Lab two weeks after her boyfriend dumped her on her birthday. "It was fairly serious. He'd asked my parents for my hand and everything," the 25-year-old says. A caregiver and comedian who co-hosts a monthly show at the Drafthouse Comedy theater in Washington, Andie is a fan of true crime, mixed-martial arts and funny men who tell good stories.
Enter James Martinez, crime-fighting 26-year-old and aspiring comedian.
A detective on Prince George’s County police force, James ended an eight-year relationship with his high school sweetheart last spring. (It was serious. They’d been engaged.) He devoted the next six months to himself: logging extra hours at work, spending time at the beach and writing in a journal. He wants to turn his writing into a comedy set. He selected a local open-mic night for his debut but has yet to make it happen. “I was honestly kind of depressed for a while,” he says. “I kind of had to force myself to get out there and really be open to new experiences.” His little sister pushed him to try Date Lab.
We sent them to Calico, a pub near Mount Vernon Square. Andie arrived feeling lucky: “That’s the same breed as my cat. I’m not superstitious, but I think it’s cute when I see like signs like that.” She broke the ice with a joke about Date Lab’s bar-tab budget: “I was like, ‘The drinks here are about 10 bucks, so we could have, like, 10? And maybe an appetizer?” He started with a beer; she ordered lavender lemonade.
James’s first impression: “She’s pretty. And as soon as we started talking, I knew she had some humor to her.” Andie’s first impression: “Really cute.”
Right away, they realized they shared Bolivian heritage: Andie’s parents emigrated from La Paz, while James’s father is Bolivian. Andie told James about her comedy show, prompting him to confess his dream of trying stand-up. When he mentioned the open-mic night he’d once targeted for his debut — Georgetown’s now-defunct Chinese Disco — Andie marveled that he was familiar with it. She used to perform there, too. “I admire that she’s out there doing that,” James said. His admiration grew when she told him about her day job: “She said she takes care of elderly people for a living, and I thought, it takes a certain kind of person to do that.” He took this as a sign of good character.
“The conversation was really good,” Andie reported. “We were just really excited to figure out what we had in common.” Another thing they had in common was appetite. After reviewing the menu, they agreed to split three dishes evenly: macaroni and cheese, tomato pie and a steak sandwich. “And then he told me that he was a detective, and I was like, ‘Oh. That’s awesome.’ ” Confessing that she was a true-crime fan, Andie demanded stories — and James delivered. “He was telling me about these homicide cases and missing persons,” she said. He described how his department worked and how he got into the field. (His father, a corrections officer, sparked an interest in law enforcement.) He impressed her with his passion: “He was super excited about his work. And, I mean, it sounds super rewarding. He catches the bad guys!”
Yet another thing they had in common: tequila. Before they meet, daters know only a name, a time and a location. Andie knew that James had trouble scheduling the date because of work. She worried that he’d be “some stuffy, works-at-the-Capitol lobbyist.” But when the conversation turned to tequila, she was delighted to discover he was the opposite. “He was like, ‘Oh, tequila’s like water for me.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, yeah?’ ” They ordered shots. “He just downed it,” she said. “He didn’t even make a face. And I’m out here like, Whoo! Oh my God!”
Andie told me: “I’ll just say it: He’s a catch.” But when the date ended, James didn’t ask for her number, just her Instagram handle. Maybe he was planning to message her?
He didn’t. And now Andie is losing interest: “I appreciate someone who would make plans right away.” She needs momentum to fall in love.
Turns out James felt momentum — but not in the direction of love. “I’m not ready, really, to [date] seriously, and I think this experience kind of helped me realize that,” he said. “I could tell she was putting herself out there, and I could tell that I was still not ready to connect like that.” Romance, like comedy, is all about the timing.
Andie: 4 [out of 5].
No further contact.
Maureen O’Connor is a writer in New York.