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Alice Kahn

Desperately Seeking SWW From a Chance Encounter

June 08, 1988|Alice Kahn

What would happen if overcommitted, professional SWM actually found attractive, intelligent, spunky woman for serious but spontaneous relationship?

A hundred times a day in a hundred cities, a man and a woman lock eyes for a second and this question comes up. Then, they walk on, faces in a crowd, and the feeling passes.

But what happened to--let's call him--Jeff is that the feeling didn't go away. He was in San Francisco on business, and there she was. "It was my frame of mind at the time," he recalled. "And you know how it is when you're traveling--you do things you wouldn't do in your hometown."

It wasn't so much what Jeff did that bothered him. It's what he didn't do.

A week after a chance encounter with a woman on a San Francisco street corner, he sat in his office in Boston and decided to place the following ad in the San Francisco Chronicle: "Woman frantically searching for taxi, corner Market & Kearney, 5:45 p.m. We spoke too briefly. . . ."

This desperately-seeking-frantically-searching ad was buried among a series of thank-yous to St. Jude and a request from a researcher for interviews with survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Not the usual Singles Bars Anonymous, where the discreet seek and meet.

When I phoned Jeff to ask about the ad, he said he had never done anything like that before. "I saw this woman walking down the street looking for something," he said. "And I said to myself: This woman is perfect." The all-too-briefly-spoken words that ignited this flame of long-distance longing were:

He: What are you looking for?

She: A cab.

"If I'd been quicker on my feet, I'd have spoken more to her before I crossed the street," said Jeff. "But the East Coast is not as friendly as the West Coast. I've lived in big cities all my life, and walking back across the street seemed like it would be too threatening to her. I began regretting it immediately."

Oddly enough, Jeff could not recall what the perfect woman looked like or what she was wearing.

"What struck me is not something I can answer. She was poised and well dressed--conservatively dressed, like a businesswoman--and she had a look of self-reliance. She was perky, cute, spunky--spunky is the key word here."

He described the experience as a "sub-cerebral reaction." In another age, poets would have said that Jeff had been hit with one of Cupid's arrows. But your totally modern dude has learned to subconsciously extract the dart and ignore the bleeding.

"Had I been quicker, I could have saved money," Jeff said. The ad ran for a week and cost $47. Six days went by without a single response. Then, on the seventh day, she stopped resting.

Shortly before your inquiring reporter called him, one woman responded to Jeff's ad. He's not sure if this one is The One, but she was on that corner around that time, and she was looking for a cab. She's going to send Jeff her picture.

Jeff said he's not a terribly impulsive person, but the incident reminded him of something his father once told him before he knew that fathers know best.

"My dad said that timing is the most important thing in life," Jeff said. "I argued with my dad about absolutely everything, but he was right."

At 40, Jeff is still a bachelor, although he's not committed to staying that way. If the woman in the photo isn't the one, they'll probably have a drink sometime anyway. She's a stewardess and flies east regularly.

And . . . if she is the lady whose brief glance pierced his heart, what will he do?

"Then," he said, "I'll be on the next plane to San Francisco."

All of this brings me to my question. If you were the handsome young man in the black coat on the Uptown IRT in New York in the spring of 1965, and you sat across from a spunky young college girl who was me and mouthed the words, "I love you," why did you get off at 72nd Street?

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