I almost got robbed within the first half hour of being on British soil. I was waiting in line for a cab at Heathrow, which I thought was the safe thing to do. (I could hear my dad’s voice in my head, “Just take a cab! I’ll pay for it.”) This guy in a suit came up to me, and asked where I was going.
“Right this way ma’am.”
I start following him, when another man in a bright yellow vest stops me and says,
“Where are you going?!!”
I explain to him that man over there is going to take me. Oh wait… He’s running away now. Yellow vest man is practically shouting at me now.
“He was going to ROB you! Why do you think he’s on the tear right now? Get back in the OFFICIAL cab queue!”
Yup. My so-called driver is now sprinting away into the parking garage. FACK! I’m a facking idiot! Yes, me, in my red Canada hoody and an airplane pillow still pinned around my neck. I couldn’t have looked more vulnerable. This is a wake-up call. I have to be careful in this country. With my belongings AND my Tindering. This is also a note to any thieves out there: You’re good. You clearly know that if you want to rip off North Americans, just offer them an alternative to the long line they’re waiting in.
I finally arrive at my friend Sarah’s flat, and relax in my lovely Notting Hill guest room. In the end, I still got robbed. The cab was 70 facking pounds! (My keyboard doesn’t have the pound symbol. The closest I could find is a small f.) Seventy pounds is about $140 Canadian money. Yikes! So ya, if you think you can beat me in a “waste money off,” please let me know.
But now I’m cozy in bed, with the Wi-Fi password all keyed into my phone, and obviously pumped to open Tinder. I can’t wait to see what’s over here. I’m predicting some gingers, some braces-worthy smiles and some taglines that include the word, “shag.” Speaking of which, I FINALLY decide to change my tagline. “It’s all on myspace,” had to go. (I can’t believe I took this long.) I change it to,
Toronto girl in the U.K. I do slightly less crack than my mayor.
If they don’t know about the Rob Ford scandal, this won’t make much more sense than my old tagline. So I start swiping. I’m being pickier than usual, cuz I don’t want any creepy fake cab drivers/ murderers/ pickpockets etc. I make about ten matches rather swiftly. The leading contender, a cute 37 year-old (I like that age!) dude, whose profile pic doesn’t seem to have a girlfriend/wife abruptly cropped out. He also includes a close-up of his smile (perfect teeth- no stereotypical Brit here.) He messages me first.
Aloha Christina x. How long have you been here for? Enjoying the English crack?
Haha! Just got here tonight, so sadly I’ve only had banana muffins.
Not found a dealer yet? I know the problem. How long are you here for? x
(Everyone here ends their texts with an “x.” Is that code for something? Is it kinky? I don’t know, but I started doing it too, just to fit in.)
Til Wednesday x.
That’s brief! Business or messing about? Got time for a little drink before you head back?
Obviously! I’m hoping to find a drinking buddy for tomorrow.
Well, maybe we can meet. Do you have whatsapp?
Oh yeah. EVERYONE over here uses whatsapp. Make sure to download it before you come here, or if you’re sexting an overseas man. He tells me he has the day off tomorrow, cuz he’s studying for an exam. WOW! He’s 37 and still in school? I know English people sound smart, but I guess they’re more committed to education than I thought. We make plans to meet at 3. I tell him I have dinner plans with a friend later, to give myself an escape route just in case. (But really I have another dude in my Tinder box who wants to take me to see some live music.)
Getting ready for my date, I’m too scared to use my hair dryer. I have the converter for the plug, but the voltage difference always scares me. I swear my hair straightener gets TOO hot overseas. What if I accidentally burn off all my hair? I’m paranoid, so I just decide to let my hair air-dry. It’s a weird combo of curls, waves and frizz. I hope it doesn’t frighten him. At least London is warm right now, unlike Toronto. I can actually leave the house with damp hair and NOT get pneumonia.
He suggests we meet at the Harry Potter store in Kings Cross Station. Since I’m a tourist, he thinks I may like it. I don’t mention that I’ve never seen any Harry Potter movies, or Lord of the Rings, or any sort of fantasy sagas. I have seen Lord of the Flies though. Any similarities?
I have no problems tubing to Kings Cross, but when I get there, I can’t find the Harry Potter store. I circle what I think is still Kings Cross, but it turns out it’s actually Pancreas Station. I ask two men drinking outside a pub where it is and they basically laugh in my face. Fair enough. I probably should have asked the parents with the Harry Potter Store bag hanging off their stroller. Know your crowd, yo.
Luckily the station has free Wi-Fi. I manage to check into The Harry Potter Store on Foursquare 15 minutes before I actually find it. When I spot the entrance of the store, he spots me and walks over. He’s super cute. I give him a hug and say,
“Yay! I’m a facking moron! I totally couldn’t find the place! Sorry!”
“Do you want to go inside?”
“Nah. I’m not gonna lie. I’ve never seen the movie.”
“Well, then. There’s a pub just up there that’s good.”
Perfect! He should have told me to meet at a pub in the first place. I have EXCELLENT bar radar, but my radar for finding children’s shops is completely disabled. As we walk by the store, there’s a bunch of kids waiting to get their pictures taken on a bike that’s crashing into a brick wall. What a bunch of idiots.
We grab a table, and he asks me what I want to drink. At first I consider a white wine spritzer, since that seems like a very British woman’s drink. (Lily Allen orders one in the song “Knock Em Out.”) But then I just decide on a Guinness. I’m glad he goes up to the bar to buy the pints- NOT because I want to score a free drink, but because I’m having guilt issues with the whole “you-don’t-have-to-tip-here thing.” FACK! I STILL feel bad!
As he takes off his jacket, I note that he’s wearing pinstripes. A lot of dudes here wear pinstripes. This must be the plaid of the U.K. We totally hit it off. The conversation is easy peasy. He laughs every time I use the word “dudes.” For some reason, dudes over here are pretty charmed by the usage of that word. I’m killing with NOTHING here! Woot Woot! But I cringe every time he uses the word, "Toilet." Can’t we use the word bathroom? "Toilet" is so visual… When we’re done our drinks, I ask,
“So, should we have another one here? Or shall we go explore?”
He agrees on exploring. He suggests a Spanish bar, Camino around the corner.
He says, moving his hand to allow me to walk first. But a few steps in, I stop, cuz I have no idea where we’re going. Then he says,
“Oh ya. You don’t know where we’re going. After ME, I guess.”
As we sit down in the Spanish bar, where I buy our round (I can’t let him think North American women are free riders. I must show him my feminism, in the best way I know possible: buying beer.
I take off my jacket, but hug my purse like a child because I’m so scared of thieves. Everywhere you go here, there are signs saying “Mind your belongings.” I got pickpocketed here years ago. It ain’t no joke, yo.
The bonding starts back up. He gives me an ADORABLE, yet mischievous smile and then says,
“Christina…. You seem like you’ve been on some Tinder dates before…”
BAHAHAHAHAHA! If “some” is British for “dozens,” this guy nailed it. Do I look like a pro? I burst out laughing. I ask him how he could tell.
“Well, most girls ask a billion questions before having the nerve to actually meet up. You’re here with me right now, two drinks in, and you don’t even know what I do.”
He’s right! I don’t. I guess in my more senior Tinder years, I skip all those generic online dating questions- Job? Fave movie? What do you do in your spare time? Blah Blah Blah. I don’t care. The only way to really know if I like you, is to just meet you. I’ve sort of ditched the prelims.
“Okay, fine. Let’s rewind…. So… what do you do?”
“I’m a lawyer.”
“Great. Now I don’t like you anymore.”
Kidding, of course! I’m totally charmed. Maybe it’s the pinstripes. Are they capable of putting a chick under a spell? Maybe it’s the way he uses the word “loads” that constantly keeps me giggling. Did I mention I lost my virginity to an English bloke? As a North American bartender seeking tips, the accent is a total turn off. As a girl hoping to smooch a dude in a foreign country, it’s facking irresistible! I decide to give him some more Walkinsauce facts.
“I’m not gonna lie. You’re my 43rd Tinder date. I don’t care if you judge me. I’m only here for a few days anyway. No point lying to you.”
I’m almost hysterically laughing as I make this confession to him. I can’t believe I’m giving numbers here! TMI? He smiles a little.
“Oh no! Am I freaking you out? FACK! Oh no! I shouldn’t have told you that!”
He shakes his head, and laughs.
“No, it’s fine.”
“Why? How many Tinder dates have YOU been on?”
“Probably about the same! But I’m not counting…”
Or blogging. How do you think I keep count? We both burst out laughing. Is this guy my Tinder equivalent? Enjoying the unknown, meeting new people every weekend, and NOT caring about finding traditional relationships? He even says this, which I totally can relate to:
“I felt weird about meeting you on a Friday night. I don’t want you to think I don’t have friends to hang with. I do, I just like the unknown sometimes… I love my friends, but I already know what’s going to happen when I go out with them. I know who’s gonna get drunk the fastest, I know what time the married people will go home at… It’s pretty much the same night, every time. When I go out on a Tinder date, I don’t know what’s going to happen. Even when it’s shit, it’s still interesting.”
Holy FACK! This guy took the words right out of my mouth. He’s soooooo right! I wonder how many chicks he’s scored with? I’ll ask him that after drink #3. (Or 4.)
And so we set off to bar number three. I’m happy to be with him. Not just because he reminds me which way to look when crossing the street, but also because he’s fun. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m new to these surroundings, but every bar he takes me to seems the best. He even gives me some history about Kings Cross Station. Apparently it used to be a hot spot for hookers. See the way I’ve scored a date AND a tour guide? Bonus!
As we sip our third drink, he looks at me and says,
“So… what time do you have to go meet your friend?”
I’m having so much fun, I totally forgot I had a back up plan, AND I told him about it.
“Ummm… I don’t really have plans. I just said that in case you sucked.”
“Hmmm… well, I made other plans too.”
FACK!!! NO! I don’t want this date to end yet! I don’t want to go out with the guy in the pink shirt making duck face anymore! See what Tinder greed has led me to? Double booking on the best date of my life! For shame!
“Do you mind if I just use my phone and cancel?”
“Not at all! Phew. I was scared you were going to ditch me.”
“No… I’m actually having a great time. I like you. But I won’t lie… My other plans were… another Tinder date.”
“So were MINE!”
All four eyebrows at the table go flying to the top of our skulls. We burst out laughing. What is happening here? Have I found my equal? A Tinder addict with a curiosity about the people of the world? Or do I just look easier than the other girls in his Tinder box? It’s not clear….
All I know is… this date is NOT ending now…
Keep Calm and Tinder on,
P.S. How come there’s not a Reality Bites store, for people who like the movies I do? I’d totally buy a Winona Ryder bobble head.
P.P.S. As per my tagline, don’t worry. (Or do.) EVERYONE here knows about Rob Ford doing crack.