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Toronto
Canada

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Nick Pateras | A Second Date

A SECOND DATE

The narrative below recalls the time I went on a second date with a girl whose last name I didn’t know, resulting in a 26-hour visit to Trinidad & Tobago and front-page coverage in the Toronto Star.

     Though we are generally a species of routine, the prolonged captivity of an adventurous spirit often leads to unexpected outcomes. Such was my state of mind as I met Maya for dinner on a tired Friday night one April. It was a second date: we had first crossed paths at an alumni event for a marketing competition we’d partaken in during our undergrads, and immediately both noticed an intriguing common energy. Our initial get-together, a week later, comprised solely of the innocent banalities that typically fill the air space when strangers attempt to become less unfamiliar with one another. We chose to ignore the early absence of any emotional chemistry and arranged to meet again, as young people with free time are wont to do.

                                     The smiling faces of impulsivity

     The quaint French restaurant we picked for dinner had enough about its eccentric décor to invigorate our tongues but it wasn’t necessary as conversation easily slipped into a natural rhythm. It was evident from the start that Maya and I were both harbouring a sense of restlessness, caused by a conflation of independent factors such as work and the long winter. As appetizers became entrées and our tones grew ever more impassioned, Maya teasingly mentioned a long-standing desire to simply drive to an airport and catch the next outbound flight. I shot her an impish look.

     “Don’t tempt me,” I chuckled. “I promise you, I’m not going to be the one to back down.”

     “Neither am I,” she retorted defiantly. I whipped out my phone to check that we could get to Pearson with enough time, as it was already well past nine o’clock. Our food lay forgotten.

     “If we do this,” I said, “we’re going to make it count. An international flight or nothing.” Maya agreed, and as the webpage listing Pearson’s departures schedule loaded in my hand we glanced over the list of flights and realized the idea was feasible, but we’d have to leave immediately. The only thing that could stop us was our own obligation to sensible behaviour, a commitment I’ve often betrayed quite happily.

     We looked up at each other and froze – was it happening? This was spontaneity bordering on madness. Surely one of us would blink. It wasn’t going to be me. I made a call.

     “We’re doing this.”

     “OKAY!” she shrieked back, her eyes bulging with both exhilaration and trepidation.

     At that moment, the waiter presented himself to ask if we were ready for the dessert menu.

     “No dessert my friend, we need the bill as soon as possible. We’re off to the airport!”

"Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it." - Joshua Foer

     The next hour resembled a frenetic blur of hysteria as we literally ran to where I’d parked my car and raced back to my place. My roommate’s confused questions went unanswered as I burst in with a female stranger behind me and frantically threw a winter jacket, heavy sweatpants, a T-shirt and shorts into a small travel bag, in preparation for any destination. Maya was left to introduce herself, laughing at my roommate’s perceptible judgement that we were both crazy.

     Snatching my passport, we shot out the door and off to Maya’s, my entire turnaround clocking under five minutes. She was equally speedy, and soon we were roaring up the highway, the speedometer mirroring our urgency. As we weaved in and out of the Friday night traffic, we tried to calm ourselves and inject some rationality into our voices. We both agreed we had to be back at work on Monday morning, but were willing to spend a “reasonable amount” to realize this wild fantasy. I was insistent on a flight beyond North America, though I could feel Maya’s enthusiasm for that particular criterion waning.

     “What about Montreal? Or, oh! We could go to Edmonton, to visit my family!”

     “Um, no.”

     I was fully cognizant that Maya was at least as serious about her spontaneity as I was, and that having come this far, turning back at the airport would be an insult to her self-identity, just as it would have mine. As the highway turn-off split into two, I didn’t even ask her opinion on which terminal might be most propitious. It was well past 10 now, so we only had time to visit one. I swung the car into a parking spot at Terminal 3. More international airlines. Maya made no objection.

     We sprinted inside and between deep huffs read from the departure board that there were three remaining long-haul flights for the evening: Rome, London and Port of Spain. Rome it was. Boarding had already started. We dashed to the Alitalia desk at the far end of the terminal, but the amused clerks informed us they couldn’t sell any tickets this close to departure time. We ran back across the terminal, to the British Airways desk near the entrance. Yes, there were tickets left for the London red eye. Yes, we could get a return for Sunday. But we had to fly first-class on the way out, so tickets would be close to $7,000. How much?! Maya and I looked at each other – no debate needed, that was ridiculous. That left Port of Spain or traipsing home in defeat.

     The girls at the WestJet counter squealed with excitement when we told them we were on a second date and “just needed to get on that plane.” Within minutes we were clutching our freshly printed tickets and rushing through security. We made it to the departure lounge with five minutes to spare. I sat down and gathered my thoughts, realizing I had a close friend at work who was from Trinidad. I gave him a call.

     “Okay Nick, you’re actually nuts. Who the hell is this girl! You don’t want to go to Port of Spain, it’s dangerous. Can you change your flight? No, I’m not kidding. Look, if you have to go, don’t even leave the airport – get on a plane to Tobago, it’s smaller and beautiful but also a lot safer. Trust me.”

                   Atop Tobago's Argyle Waterfalls

     I assured him I would heed his advice and hung up unconcerned. I’d been to ostensibly ‘dangerous’ countries before and felt comfortable with my own judgment. Maya, who had overheard the conversation, was less certain. I knew she was fully committed at this point so I laughed off her visible uneasiness and asked to see her passport so as to learn my travel partner’s surname.

     We landed in Port of Spain at 5am local time and the adrenaline rush, which had shared our choice to sleep during the flight, was ringing away again to remind us we were out of our element. The day came and went like a dream: we were fortunate to catch a flight to Tobago within an hour, rented a car and went about touring the island at our leisure. With just a cartoon image for a map, we wandered the golden beaches, discovered waterfalls deep inside the tropical rainforest, and danced the night away to live music at the island’s annual jazz festival, which had serendipitously just begun and featured none other than Bob Legend himself.

     I still hadn’t internalized the circumstances’ surreal nature by the time we returned to the airport, having stayed up all night enjoying the jazz and conversing. We had been on the ground for less than 26 hours and were already flying home, groggy but gratified. Though unconventional, the trip was a success: Maya had crossed an item off her bucket list, and I got my fix for a spontaneous thrill. It had been, by all accounts, a reasonably memorable date.

***

 

               The Toronto Star caught wind of our escapade and decided to run it on the  front page of the Sunday edition. Their article can be found here.

 
 
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