Covent Garden, 7 o’clock on a Friday and I stood en masse with the other individuals clutching their phones, pretending to look busy and less alone as crowds poured out from the tube.
I was late, my friend was even later – eventually turning up a fashionable 20 minutes later just in time for the closing of happy hour. Those 20 minutes of my attempt to lean nonchalently against the nearest wall, forgetting the fact that my phone was creeping towards a battery blackout, were in fact a revelation. Unwittingly I was in the midst of first to fifth date territory, the crowd surrounding me gradually shifting with the arrival of the ‘other halves’. The people-spotting was fascinating – watching someone meet and greet their date was a little like a soap drama pan out, but at a much slower pace. Reactions ranged from the awkward kiss, nervous glance and standardised round of polite Q&A to a confident holding of hands (fortunately never refused).
However, it was the observation of the waiting period that I found particularly interesting (in the non-creepy way – in fact, I truly hope that this post does not hav a stalker-like tone – people-watching as opposed to people-following or people-obsessing being my intent). There were three main categories of individuals waiting – the phone-bound, the cool glancers and the time-worried (categories one and three probably murging).
The phone-bound were those who had to be seen being social, while at the same time ensuring that they are within contact at all times. In terms of dating, this is where the suspense builds up – the “why hasn’t he/she texted me yet…” only answered satisfactorily by the lack of signal on the Underground. However, this group also find comfort on their phones – their friends and ‘plan b’ only being a speed dial away.
The cool glancers describe those individuals, usually men, who have sufficient confidence in their dating skills to not look busy. They look around, smoke and seem completely at ease. The smartly dressed man near me even using the waiting time to check out some passing girls, while carrying a conspiciously large suitcase. The “no show” or awful date was clearly never going to happen. A potential pre-warning – this is the kind of guy likely to use chat-up lines.
The third categoryis is the time-worried. The one who constantly checks their watch, anxious that is them who is late/in the wrong place/got the wrong day, rather than their date. Ironically the time-worried is often the person who is early, but will never accept the apologies of the latecomer, whose arrival is generally greeted with relief, pure affection and the occasional flowers. This date will be the most carefully planned of the three.
So there you have my Covent Garden date analysis, and with it a horrible realisation that I have brought my work home with me – that “capacity to deliver an in-depth understanding of an audience”. It was therefore fortunate that my friend turned up. For all of us standing there that chilly April evening, being in the “stood up” category would have been the worse option of all.