by Steve Clem on April 10, 2012

Maybe the first clue SHOULD have been that Andrea wanted to go on a road trip for our first “date.”

But call me crazy. Or bored. Or stupid.

She literally wanted to have me pick her up on our first meeting, and we’d drive off on an unplanned road trip and get a cheap hotel room along the way. Um, no. I may be a guy, but I also like having all of my limbs intact.

I decided to meet her halfway between our homes in Red Wing, MN, anyway. I wasn’t sure what to think. She seemed ok in our text messages. Either way, I figured it would be a good way to kill a Saturday afternoon/evening.

As usual, somehow I got lost on the drive to Red Wing. I called to tell her I got detoured by a shiny object. As she answered the phone, for a split second, I thought she was a man.

Andrea: “Hello?” Me: “Um, yeah, is your mom there?” The Patty and Selma Simpson voice was enough to tell me she likely smokes a few packs of Pall Malls a day.

I told her I had accidentally passed the casino we planned to meet at, and was instead heading into the actual town of Red Wing. With a hint of disappointment, she told me that was fine, we could just meet in town instead of the casino. I guess in her mind, nothing says “awesome first date” like nickel slots and bad buffets.

We ended up meeting in the parking lot of the Starbucks right on the main drag of town. As she pulled in, in hindsight, she really should have been driving a Delorean.

As we got out of our cars to greet each other, the first thing I noticed was her hair. Outside of the occasional trip to Wisconsin, I hadn’t seen hair like this since 1989.

And then I noticed her skin. She was wrinkled, and not like a typical 43-year-old woman. It was as if she had spent at least 13 of the last 20 years in a tanning booth, and another six of those years in a hot kettle of water.

Once again, I had been bit by the “I refuse to put current pictures on my dating profile” bug. It’s a nasty critter, because you never see it coming. Mostly because the majority of people on dating sites realize that putting up a picture that looks nothing like you will only get you first dates.

I presumed, since Andrea didn’t drink “anymore,” that we’d just head into Starbucks and grab a cup of coffee. “Let’s go for a drive. Hop in,” Andrea said to me as she looked me up and down in the same way I look at a slab of bacon.

For some reason, I still felt safe. Maybe we could drive up on the bluffs and check out a good spot to watch the bald eagles along the Mississippi river. But apparently Andrea had a different idea in mind.

“You ever had Mr. Pizza?”

“No. Is that a chain?”

“Nope. It’s awesome. My daughter and I love it. We drive an hour for it all the time.”

“OK, so is it in Red Wing?”

At this point she’s already driven out of the city limits of Red Wing. “No, it’s in Rochester.” To give a quick geography lesson, think of the Pythagorean theory. The quickest point between two lines. Rochester was essentially the LEAST quick point between our two lines.

As we headed off to have Mr. Pizza pizza, apparently, Andrea’s cell phone chimed. “Ohhhhhh, Jani’s talking to me!”

“Is that your daughter texting you?”

“No, silly, my phone is named Jani. For Jani Lane.” My blank stare must have clued her in that I was lost. “Jani Lane. Former lead singer of Warrant. He died last August. I’m just now starting to get my life back into shape from that.”

Um. I knew who Warrant was. I didn’t know Jani. And I’m not even going to comment on the fact that she had been lost for the last seven months over the death of Jani Lane, or the fact that she named her iPhone after him.

“I only listen to 80’s music. I used to listen to country music too, but it makes me get too depressed. So I went back to only 80’s music. Nothing else. Except Radio Disney when my daughter is with me. All that stupid pop music!”

Now I was really wishing we were in that damn Delorean, so I could set the date for 3 hours from now and be back at my car in Red Wing. But alas, I was stuck in the car, going to have Mr. Pizza. So I just tried to change the subject.

She looked at Jani again, chiming away, and giggled. “My Facebook update from last night is still getting so many ‘likes.’ I’m pretty funny on Facebook,” she said.

“Oh, yeah, I get a lot of laughter out of Facebook, too. I generally try to just laugh and make other people laugh when I’m on there,” I replied. Maybe we did have some common ground! Keep that chin up, Clemmy!

“Yeah, sometimes I catch a lot of shit for posting things about Jani,” she replied. “But usually I am just there to get laughs, too. There were only a few people who got really mad at me for obsessing with Jani’s death. But I finally had enough and unfriended them last week.”

I’ve never been happier to arrive at a pizza place I’d never heard of in my life. All I had to do was make it through the dinner, survive the 300 mile drive back to my car, then I was free of my date with Nina Blackwood (Google it).

Dinner was filled with awkward silence. At this point, I’m pretty sure she knew I wasn’t interested in a second date, but I didn’t want to be rude. I’d be more than happy to talk about something that didn’t rhyme with Lani Jane.

And then it happened. My prayers were answered, which I’m not sure of how that happened given my past. At this point, I’d expect God to tell me “Dude, you’re on your own for agreeing to dates with these women.”

Jani chimed again, and it was Andrea’s daughter, telling her she was going to be dropped off back at her house early, in just two hours.

My geometry class with Claire Dirks kicked back in, and I realized that this meant we’d have to leave within five minutes for her to get home to her daughter in time.

“So maybe you should come over to my place and we can watch a movie or something?” At this point, I actually wondered for a few seconds about whether or not anyone would make a movie about the life of Jani Lane, because if so, I’m pretty sure that would be what I was going to be watching if she kidnapped me back to her place.

My improv skills kicked in, and I quickly came up with my exit plan. “You know, I’m slightly allergic to tomato-based foods. That sauces was pretty rich. I’m really afraid I made a mistake eating this pizza.”

Andrea looked like I just told her I had cancer. “OH NO! OH WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME? OH I CAN’T BELIEVE I MADE YOU EAT THAT!” As the entire restaurant looked our way as she started to freak out, I leaned in and whispered to her. “No, it’s OK. I just know that in the next hour or so, I’m going to be near a toilet.”

“WHAT, ARE YOU GOING TO PUKE?” Now the entire wait staff and kitchen staff were leaning out from various catacombs listening in.

I leaned in again, and whispered, “No, but I will likely have issues from the other end. I’m sorry. I should probably get back to my car and head home.”

“OH NO! I AM SO SORRY I GAVE YOU THE SHITS!” I decided to avoid anymore stares from the rest of the people in the place by getting up and quickly walking to the bathroom.

When I came out, she was waiting by the door. “I paid the tab, since I made you eat this stuff. I’m so sorry I GAVE YOU THE SHITS!”

“Thanks. We should probably go. My tummy is rumbling.”

The drive back to Red Wing was silent. Other than her asking me every five minutes, “Do you need me to pull over so you can take care of business?”

As she dropped me off at my car, I told her I’d let her know when I got home, and told her thanks for meeting me in Red Wing. And driving me to Rochester. And making me remember things I had forgotten from the 80s.

On the drive home, the grin on my face would make you think I got laid. No, sir. I was happy to be free. I looked forward to getting home, cracking a few beers, and watching some bad TV until I fell asleep.

This night could not possibly get worse, right? It has to get better!

As I was a few minutes away from home, I got a text from a woman who had wanted to meet me the night before, but we both got sidetracked and weren’t able to meet.


I texted her back and said “Nope, I’m just getting home actually.”


Looking to wash the proverbial taste of Marlboro Reds, Mr. Pizza and Hair Bands from my palate, I texted back “Definitely.”

This night certainly had to get better now.


Steve Clem is a divorced dad, a recovering Republican, and a Prisoner in the Tundra. He is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being part of the largest Hokey Pokey of all time. He was the founding editor of the Iowa City weekly ICON. 

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Yoder April 12, 2012 at 3:29 am

Genius. Absolutely genius.


Steve Clem May 2, 2012 at 1:23 am

Thanks, Yoder. 🙂


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