Blind dates — can there be anything worse better? It’s a chance to spend an awkward fun evening with a stranger, and who knows, maybe even never speak to them again, like every other date you’ve been on in the past year, then wonder what’s so wrong with you while you eat ice cream alone in your apartment fall in love?

So when BuzzFeed asked me to go on a blind date to a Dixie® Deadzone Diner (more about that later), I thought about faking my own death said, “Sign me up!”

First things first, though: I had to find somebody…because the only thing more awkward than going on a date with a stranger is going on one by yourself.

And while asking my friends to find me a date was ~pretty~ embarrassing, one of my co-workers quickly came to the rescue by unleashing his inner matchmaker and setting me up with his sister, Julie.

So the hardest part was taken care of — I had a date! To a pop-up restaurant with free food! Free food!

The rest should be smooth sailing, right? What could possibly go wrong?


You can tell we’re both cool people because we say “cool” a lot.

Yep. It happens to the best of us. And I’m usually really good about being on time (which is pretty rare in Los Angeles), but hey, that’s LA traffic for ya, amirite, folks?

I texted Julie*, and she didn’t seem to mind at all, but I still felt like I was making a bad first impression.

* Yes, we were messaging beforehand to figure out the details, so it wasn’t totally a blind date. Also, Julie was really charming and interesting in her texts and emails, and so was I. Online is easy! Real life is hard.

Augh! I was 15 minutes late, and I interrupted her podcast with a “Hi, I’m Kirk! Sorry I’m late! Also, I’m sweating — why am I sweating? Oh, look, there’s our photographer!”

We made some small talk (she listens to political podcasts! I don’t!) before heading into the Deadzone Diner.

OK, let’s talk about the Deadzone Diner.

I know it sounds like a Stephen King–themed restaurant (which, let’s be honest, would be AMAZING), but it actually refers to the lack of cell phone service within the diner…which, to some people, might be just as scary.

Fortunately, Julie and I didn’t mind. In fact, it was kind of a relief knowing we were free from the soothing buzz of notifications, and it seemed like a lot of the other guests felt the same way. (Not that we were eavesdropping or anything.)

But here’s the thing: Without the distraction and assistance of the internet, you can’t, oh, I dunno, look up a BuzzFeed post like 35 Things To Ask On A First Date Instead Of Staring At Your Phone, and so…

I mean, there’s always something to talk about, but it can be tricky finding a topic that you’re both interested in. (Did you know some people aren’t into Harry Potter? I was surprised, too.)

Before our date, I even asked Twitter for help about conversation topics, but without cell phone service, I couldn’t check the results.

Ghosts: acceptable topic of conversation on a blind date, or a bad idea?

— Kirk McDuck (@kirksays)

(For the record, the 22% were right.)

The Deadzone Diner must have known this could happen because each table had a little “Conversation Starters” placard, and we put ours to good use…I think.

We were being pretty ridiculous, and I think it was because we couldn’t get over the fact that the whole thing was so unusual — sitting in a bank vault decorated as a ’50s diner, not having access to the internet, being photographed, and unable to forget that the whole date was gonna be turned into an article.

Since we couldn’t get over it, we went around it…or through it, maybe?

The evening was weird, but I think both of us realizing that it was weird, acknowledging the elephant in the room, and joking about it made everything less awkward…or, at least, fun awkward. (Is that even a thing?)

Cheers to the elephant in the room!

Our dessert completed (and before you ask, No-Fi Pie is chocolate buttermilk pie, AND IT’S DELICIOUS), we bid adieu to the Deadzone Diner and returned to the regular world of Wi-Fi.

As we exited, the photographer recommended getting one last shot — like a “walking into the sunset” finale.

We crossed the street, and I thought it’d look more picturesque if we walked off, arm in arm…

Yeah, I bungled that one. I’m just not an arm-linker, I guess.

Julie very tactfully helped me fix my error, and we course-corrected mid-step.

You know, this could’ve been embarrassing. OK, it was a little embarrassing, but it was also funny. And it also didn’t matter.

We laughed about it for a bit, said good night to the photographer, and went out for a celebratory drink.

And we didn’t look at our phones once.

Photographs by Dan Dealy / Design by Chesney Lattuga / © BuzzFeed 2016

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