Mr. Goodlaff and I call it "The Lunch" (you must use an ominous voice and air quotes when talking about it) because words beyond "the" and "lunch" are massively unnecessary. Sure, we have lunch every day, but this lunch was really the be-all, end-all in the entire history of lunches because it was the most excruciating lunch I've had to sit through. "Awkward" doesn't even begin to describe the hour and a half that Mr. Goodlaff, Houdini, Tally, and I spent at Lefty's Grill on that fateful Wednesday.
When we left off, Mr. Goodlaff and I had agreed to meet for a lunch date on Friday, I had warned him of the impending set-up at lunch that day, and I was happily floating about three feet off my chair, waiting for 12:30 to roll around.
12:30 finally came, and Tally and I were off! We parked and walked to Lefty's, only to *gasp* run into Mr. Goodlaff and Houdini who were already seated directly across from each other at a table for four. I sat next to Houdini, across from Tally, and kitty-corner from Mr. Goodlaff, who, right that second looked like a prisoner on death row about to get his last meal before facing the firing squad. Shoulders hunched, eyes cast down, and with the expression of a man contemplating mutiny, Mr. Goodlaff sat there, probably trying to figure out how to use his butter knife to a satisfying effect on his table mates.
There was not a lot of talking. I wasn't talking because Mr. Goodlaff wasn't talking (sparking the "oh-my-God-he-totally-hates-me-and-now-we-will-never-go-out-on-Friday" freakout), and though Tally and Houdini both made valiant efforts to spur the conversation forward, there was no way to get the lunch headed to a happy place (I would say back to a happy place, but that would imply that it was in a happy place at one point, which simply is not true). I spent the entire lunch trying to gracefully eat my pizza, and looking at the restaurant decor, then Mr. Goodlaff, then Tally, then my plate; lather, rinse, repeat.
After about an hour and fifteen minutes, it seemed like the meal was finally going to be over, and Houdini pulled out a deck of cards. He explained that what he was about to do was a compatibility test, to see if Mr. Goodlaff and I would be a good match. I was to pick one of the Queen Cards (either Spades, Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts) and Mr. GL would then pick a card and then we would see if we were meant to be, or if we should quit while we're ahead. I could pick any card I wanted, and my thought process was: hearts are too volatile and sappy, diamonds too symbolic, clubs are ugly. "Call a spade a spade,"popped into my head right at that moment, so I chose the only card left after my quick elimination: the Queen of Spades. Mr. Goodlaff's choices were somewhat limited by my selection--he could only choose one of the red queens. I'm certain his thought process was along the same lines as mine, but he didn't have the luxury of choosing a so-called "safe" card, and ended up selecting the Queen of Diamonds. Houdini promptly declared us a perfect match, and joked that Mr. Goodlaff had "picked the Queen of Diamonds, which is a good sign," then followed that with another joke about marriage.
And that just about did it for "The Lunch." An hour and a half of awkward small talk, avoiding each others' eyes, and trying to eat gracefully ended with me being a half-hour late to work and convinced that Mr. Goodlaff would cancel our date on Friday (he didn't).
In the end, "The Lunch" turned out to be a good thing, but not in the way that our friends had anticipated. The Goodlaffs went on a date that Friday, and instead of the typical first date so-tell-me-about-yourself script, we spent the first 15 minutes of our real first date rehashing Wednesday's events. Ultimately, it was a good icebreaker, and clearly, everything worked out in the end.
And I have to give credit where credit is due: it turns out that Houdini's magic cards were right!