‘Do you listen to podcasts?’ Beatrice says.
‘I heard one the other day I think you’d really like.’
She goes on to recite the story of a woman who crossed the Atlantic (one-way ticket) to declare her love for the guy who had just dumped her over web chat.
On arrival at the airport a customs agent asks her:
‘How long are you going to be in the country?’
Standard question. Except it’s not – to her this is the million dollar question.
She starts sobbing then pours out the whole story to this complete stranger.
‘Is that crazy?’ she winds up.
The customs agent looks her in the eye and says: ‘You gotta do what you gotta do for love.’
I’d already made the decision. Facebook told me he was going so I was going. I had blisters on the soles of my feet from a recent holiday, I was exhausted and I had a first date with someone quite promising – also from Tinder – lined up for later in the day. But I was going.
‘There’s a faulty lift at Hampstead station,’ a voice comes over the speakers. ‘Passengers for the Christmas Fair, we recommend leaving the train here.’
There’s a collective groan from inside the carriage. Strained looking parents move to lift prams onto the platform.
Outside I start walking. My blisters have other ideas. I catch a bus. It’s on diversion. We file off, join the crowds moving snail-pace up the hill. I wonder how many other people have no idea what they’re doing here.
My Tinder date knows I’m in Hampstead. ‘I have to put in a brief appearance’, is how I phrased it, ‘after which I’m all yours (should you want me).’
‘Straight to the point,’ he sends back.
But for the next hour I’m alone, lost in a sea of faces, scanning fruitlessly for a spark of recognition.
It comes – a guy I met at a party recently and liked.
‘Who here is single?’ I say to the hostess.
She scans the room. ‘No one, sorry.’
We speak briefly before going our separate ways.
The tube station comes into view. I loiter outside. It’ll be dark in an hour or so and the plan for the date was a wander. I glance again at my phone. Nothing. Eventually I text him. ‘Shall we fix on a time and place?’
‘Are you in Hampstead?’
‘Yes, but escaping as fast as humanly possible. It’s ridiculously crowded.’
‘Cramming two dates into one day huh?’
I feel a twinge of guilt. He couldn’t know why I’m here.
He goes on: ‘Where do you fancy meeting?’ Then: ‘If it ain’t good timing we could rearrange to sometime in the week.’
Guilt gives way to irritation. I keep walking, past the tube station, onto the next one, as we propose various meeting places. When, again, he suggests rescheduling, I go with it.
Later that evening, we’re chatting on WhatsApp. He asks how long I’ve been on Tinder. I tell him.
‘Good God,’ he says. ‘Has it brought you any joy?’
‘Lead to anything substantial?’
I hesitate. ‘Not really.’
Listen to the full podcast here.