Moving from the Midwest to the West Coast meant getting acclimated to the climate change. No more fiercely cold winters or broiling summers. Just chill, fog, rain and sun; often on the same day. Then there was the social climate. In the mid-90s, I attended a tech fair in San Francisco. At one busy table was a group of women promoting their new company called Match.com. Anything online was still a new concept and Internet personals were a promising option to the social maze of San Francisco. I took the free membership and set up my online profile, then spent the next few weeks trying to crack the code of others. I wasn’t having much luck. My emails usually went unreplied, or the responses suggested I was a suspect rather than a suitor. One evening I received a message that looked promising. The sender was a single mom, 33 years old, a professional who described herself as a legal advocate for men in child custody disputes. We started a conversation, sharing interests in music and politics, and over the next week our emails and phone conversations were refreshing in a city where people “networked” but rarely stuck with their connections.
We discussed getting together, but the 30 miles of time and traffic to her place in San Jose meant planning for a weekend. To be honest, I was in no hurry. Some years earlier, I had become involved with a woman who, shortly after we met, left town for a summer job. Our letters while she was away greatly enriched our relationship. It was an experience I still value. It was also a lesson for all the times I’d rushed in, letting expectations get ahead of me.
My new friend and I continued talking over the next week. The following Sunday morning, I received an email from her saying that she and her friends would be having brunch across the bay in Berkeley, and would I like to join them. Yes, I responded. It was nearby and would be a good day to meet and finally spend some time in person. Through the city and over the bridge I drove. Arriving in Berkeley, I was blessed by the parking gods with a spot only three blocks from my destination. As I entered the busy and popular restaurant, a hand went up on the far side. It felt good to be recognized and welcomed. I walked over and greeted my date and her three friends, who were sitting comfortably in a booth. They had already eaten. After the formal smiles and head nods, I then noticed that no one was making room for me to sit down. I pulled up an empty chair from a nearby table, sat down and ordered a coffee from the annoyed waitress who kept squeezing past me. The group seemed friendly enough, and I began talking with my friend. She had seated herself on the inside, which caused me to speak directly past the person next to her, who was nice, but gave me the sense that I was going through a translator. Fortunately, the scene didn’t last very long. When the check was paid, we made our way out the door with the rest of the dispersing crowd.
It was a beautiful morning, and I was anxious to spend time with my new friend. The fog had burned off, the sun was bright, and the air was freshly clear. Just the kind of perfect weather one imagines in the Bay Area. As we stood outside, I asked my friend what she would like to do next. “Oh, we have plans,” she said casually. And the four walked off, piled into a sedan, and drove off into the Kalifornia sunshine.