N.B. [ Weighing the entire spectrum of tragic, losses of personal intimacy, occasioned by the universal shift from (natural) spoken conversation, to the transmission of impersonal, images, onto a small, hand-held, lighted screen, (i.e., “smartphone”) the romantic and memorable phrase, “ I love you,” has empirically, suffered a shameless decline, from first place, in consequence, to a pragmatic, second place, behind three, impersonal words, viz., “On” “Select,” and “Play”]
*Scenario # 1:
We arrange our mise- en- scene, to be, on an early evening, at a dimly lit, romantic, New York City, East Side Restaurant. On this rainy and cold, November, occasion, our attention is soon drawn to two well-dressed, attractive guests, both in their early 30’s, sitting, at an intimate table for two, in front of the ersatz (but warming) fireplace, as arranged in advance by the solicitous, male diner.
Before we proceed further, in this anecdotal romance, we would like to go back to late October, preceding the dining event. The young man’s name is Sheldon Lewis, (“Shelly’) a recent graduate of NYU Dental College. The young woman’s name is Florence (“Flo”) Gibson, a graduate research assistant, at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Laboratory for Research in Infectious Diseases. Shelly has never been married. Flo was married for a brief time, prior to her husband’s death from an aneurysm.
They had met each other after a few, mutual, unsuccessful, searches on an internet dating service, specializing in college graduates under forty. For a period of approximately, ten days, prior to their arranged, dinner date, they had mutually exchanged several, lengthy introductory texts, and e-mails, plus two, (televised) “virtual, meetings.” Based upon their personal impressions, derived from these prior communications, they were mutually, desirous, of physically, getting together, perhaps, as suggested, at a dinner date to further their mutual acquaintance. After making a reservation at the restaurant, Shelly texted the details of the coming event and Flo e-mailed her enthusiastic acceptance.
The couple arrived, excitedly, each at precisely the agreed time, at the appointed restaurant, and, after warm, mutual, introductions, waited a short time, in the restaurant lounge for a table assignment. Each, from time to time, subtly, peered at the other to eliminate any possible doubt that the other transmitter of electronic messages and seen in their two past virtual meetings were, in fact, the same. Flo silently had been of the mind that Shelly was a bit, taller and had more hair; Shelly had the impression that Flo was slimmer and curvier. They were shown to the pre-arranged table (by the ersatz fireplace), and Flo, excused herself, nervously, to go to the restroom.
After she left, Shelly took out his smartphone, called his friend, Jeff, and in a somewhat, querulous voice, told him that his date might be a substitute, someone, a bit chubbier and less appealing than in the virtual meetings. As soon as Flo arrived at the ladies” rest room, she took out her smartphone and, shrewdly dialed Shelly’s e-mail number. Shelly, who had just completed his call to his friend, tapped his phone and was rather surprised to note that the caller was Flo, herself. “Is everything ok?” he typed. Flo, after letting out an involuntary sigh of relief, at the recognition of his voice, typed the following e-mail response: I was going to ask you a specific question, but I can just as well, ask it when I return to the table. Upon her return, to the table, both parties, for the moment, remained strangely silent.
Shelly picked up his menu, pointing to Flo’s copy, and said, “I suppose we might as well order,” to which suggestion, she, a bit nervously, agreed. The diners, similarly, ordered a cup of onion soup and swordfish from the summoned, waiter who compliantly, noted their requests, typing the information on his smartphone, which was instantly, transmitted, to a computer in the technologically, modernized restaurant kitchen. The meal soon arrived and the couple, now, somewhat, more relaxed, chatted about their past, their families, work experiences, and interests.
Following a truly delicious dinner, they expressed their mutual intention to meet for dinner again in the very near future, and, hesitatingly, decided to go their respective ways home; identically, anxious and impatient, to return home to e-mail the other, to express just how very much the evening was enjoyed. After a few days of electronic communications, neither thereafter, contacted the other.
John, an undergraduate Engineering student, at the Jesuit College, “Our Lady of the Holy Algorithm,” had been, energetically, engaged in the sweaty process of rushing to his twelve o’clock, mathematics class, at the Thomas Aquinas Building, when he happened to observe, what he considered, the most uncannily, attractive and appealing female student. She was sitting on a College bench, under a shaded, Elm tree, holding a textbook, which she was quietly and intently, engaged in studying. Normally, possessing a shy persona, John found himself, nevertheless, irresistibly, drawn to the far seat on her bench, all the while, unblinkingly, staring at her sunny, but intent, face, her long, beautiful red hair, and, more subtly, at her crossed, shapely legs, protruding, from her argyle, pleated skirt.
John, somehow, conquering his customary shyness, ventured to say to the pretty, female student, “Excuse me… I don’t usually… I just wanted to talk…please do not think that I am aggressive, because, I never am… but you looked, forgive me, so nice, I felt that I wanted to come over and just say hello. There was no response, from the young woman, other than, calmly, and pleasantly, looking up from her book. My name is John, he continued. I am an engineering student here, at Our Lady College. She sweetly smiled and said that her name is Susan and that she too, is an engineering major, awaiting the commencement of the noon Mathematics class at the Aquinas Building. By good fortune, it was the same class, John was to attend, and, under the circumstances, they sat in adjacent seats, during the lecture demonstration.
Upon leaving, class, John ventured to invite Susan to lunch at the college cafeteria and she cheerfully accepted. At lunch, both spoke freely about their lives up to that point, their families, interests and likes and dislikes. The natural ease of their conversation resembled that of a date between two close and affectionate friends. At the end of a period of a full hour and one-half, they reluctantly parted, but, not before mutually exchanging cell phone numbers, and modestly, kissing on the lips. Each party, on the way to his and her next destination on campus, looked back, warmly smiled and waved.
John e-mailed an invitation to talk, via text and/or e-mail, a suggestion quickly accepted by Susan. By perverse luck, it was the beginning of the Official Spring Break, and each party was, for two weeks, relegated, as a needed alternative to costly, long distance telephone calls, to communicate by e-mail or text. In the absence of Susan’s lovely, personal presence and attractive voice, her remembered loveliness seemed to be a bit faded, in John’s memory. Susan was, as it happens, too busy with pressing family matters so that her electronic messages were somewhat, hurried and by virtue of the empirically impersonal nature of the chosen medium of communication, were perceived to lack the uniquely, spontaneous, energetic nuance, as recalled, of their exciting two weeks, preceding the Spring Break. However, instead of growing increasingly ardent, by virtue of their separation, such electronic exchanges became more impersonal and mundane, caused, conceivably, in light of the selected, impersonal medium as well as their rather short, albeit, romantically. exciting, previous history.
On return to college, following the conclusion of the Spring Break, John and Susan saw each other, Tuesdays and Thursdays, in math class and somewhat uneasily, exchanged smiles and friendly greetings with the implicitly shared, realization that their previous romantic assumptions must have been misconstrued.