Speed Dating: A Temporary Inconvenience

How does it happen that four of my top six Mosa Gwangwa songs, (Kgomo, Shebeen, Diphororo, and Flowers of the Nation) are from one album, Flowers of the Nation, one from Kukude (iHome Brew), and only one from A Temporary Inconvenience (the title track) yet it is the later album that I regard the best? Well, the sum total of the experience is in the end what really matters, not the stand out moments.

It was the same with the Speedy Night organised by The Rent Friend on a comfortably chilly Bloemfontein evening. As the night wore on, having had two minute dates with about twenty people, I looked at my match card wondering who haven’t I seen. The organisers confused the lot of us when they could not give guidance on how the rotation should work; so after the increasingly baffling instructions Tshidi took the mic issued the final clarion call: “re baholo; just make sure by the end of the night you have seen everyone.” Easy enough; except if you’re the moron named Mpho Matsitle. But there was no room for me to object by saying I prefer strict adherence to structure over heavenly chaos and – I mean no offence – but people look all the same to me. Names, places and faces are forgotten as soon as I hear/see them, I remember stories.

So I tried to write the broad strokes of the stories of each individual I met on the match card: “Michael – DJ”. But that was minimally successful, between the “hi how are you’s” and “what do you do’s” there was very little time in the two minutes to really get anyone’s story without looking like the voyeur you are. Unfortunately I had to also answer questions about myself which of course is the nature of the game, no matter how little interest I have in telling anyone about myself.

So at the end of the night I was at a loss as to whom I hadn’t had a date with. I feared the worst: someone in this room might think I snubbed them. Oh the horror! I counted the people in the room against my match card. I was over. Which could only mean some people had already left. Which led me to a more terrifying possibility: someone might have left without dating me, and I had no way knowing who. Imagine an entire nincompoop deciding that I am not worth their two minutes? The brute! K’ha ereng anxiety mo ngwaneng? 

Breath in, breath out. “With control” – as my yoga instructor cum lover would say.

And thusly I avoided an anxiety attack. Something I already had to do earlier in the evening, as the event started a full soccer match later than it was billed. I texted a friend in angst:

“These people are psychologically abusive. The people who come to these things are likely the people who suffer around other people, how you go just leave’em to their devices – are you hoping they’ll just spontaneously mingle?”

Of course in the main I was using the royal “they”, but I did get a sense that I was not alone in this discomfort, as I pointed out to the said friend: “everyone is on their phones anxiously awaiting Godot.”

But Godot did come – sort of. Well, it depends what Godot you were waiting for. It could have been love, a friend, or a business partner as the organisers envisaged. For me, it was a chance to put to the test the revolutionary pick-up lines from “We Do Not Take Our Own Advice – Critical Questions For First Dates” – one of the many books in the pipeline I am co-writing with Lubabalo (maybe we should also write a book about books in the pipeline). These are some of the pick-up lines explored in A Very Short Dictionary of Pick-Up Lines Unuttered. For this speed dating gig I had settled on five:

1. “Oh you look like you don’t mind taking out the trash”

2. “If loving you feels so right, then I don’t wanna be left”

3. “Till Siberia do us apart”

4. “Why was the slay queen sought? Because she was lit. Why are you sought? Because you exist. #GratuitousLove”

5. “From me according to my abilities, to you according to your fancies”

But for me, Godot never arrived. For one – I was ill prepared. Truth is, I had no interest in picking  anyone up. Even if for Kundera’s “seeing and boarding”. It has never been my forte in any case, I am more of an eleventh man if push comes to shove. And – no small matter this – I am doubtful of the ethicality and political correctness of the practice. But more specifically, I had failed to take into cognisance the fact the The Rent A Friend Co. does not subscribe to heteronormative binaries, and as such my dates would come in all shapes and genders, not just “the ladies” as my rigid imagination had it pinned.

So the pick-up lines never got to have their run outside our Black Conscious Marxist romantic minds. All the better. As I told a pastor with whom I had an extra date with coz our conversation wasn’t quite done when the bell was rung, I always prefer to have a script written down even if I plan to spitball. The rest of the story the four minutes would not allow is that I am such a heathen that I don’t even believe in myself. Again; all the better. My first date said he recognised me from church, I laughed hysterically and said that was definitely not me. He got the message loud and clear, and did not take it all too well.

But, saved by the bell (God how I love bells!).

Two minutes was really the requisite time to not get too deep into things, but feeling that I almost ruined things there with my first date, I pulled back a little. Surely you can go two minutes without upsetting anyone. So I let my second date lead me and she did. Rather mechanically I must say. Soon as the bell rung she was out like primary school kids at break time. I think she ticked “no interest” next to my name. I don’t blame her, I was rather dull. And she tolerated me only because two minutes renders the whole thing but a temporary inconvenience.

And seemingly that’s how the whole affair went – a temporary inconvenience for those not finding their Godot. However, for a graphomaniac on whiskey, filling up two minutes with inanities was no mean feat. I even successfully attempted an insult to a guy from the Sasolburg telling him it isn’t really “the Vaal” – that term belongs to the more famous corners of that triangle. He protested profusely claiming they’re the real Vaal, albeit agreeing with me that Sasolburg is an ugly deadly cousin in the Vaal family, and to that end he’s organising a petition against the air pollution caused by the Sasol plant there. And a few of my jokes landed well, especially with the ladies – coz as I have pointed out before; I’m a very funny guy. Flattery too I employed, exalting a lady from Rustenburg for her beautiful song-like accent. Most interesting were the four ladies who were psychology students; I feared like me they there on a voyeuristic mission and would find me out, ka sekukuni se bonwa ke sebataladi. I also managed to squeeze in a heart to heart with a man from Cameroon on our experiences with long distance relationships.

When the night ended and I was forced to hand in my card, I realised I had not ticked ‘interested’ or ‘not interested’ on anyone’s name. Except maybe the aspiring writer who spent some time with Credo Mutwa, I had no particular interest or disinterest in anyone. I am a writer after all; people mean everything to me as much as they mean nothing. So ticking either box would be a lie. But the boxes had to be ticked – for the culture if not for anything else. So I capitulated and ticked ‘interested’ on the very few I had been able to capture their story next to their names – it was a random enough act to not qualify as a value judgement.

Even though there were hardly any stand out moments, the experience as a whole was quite an awesome one. Just like my favourite Jonas Mosa Gwangwa album A Temporary Inconvenience.   

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