A 28-year-old accidentally goes on a date with her cab driver

A 28-year-old accidentally goes on a date with her cab driver

My name is Vanessa, and I’m 28 years old. I’ve used OkCupid sporadically, but I usually meet people through friends or work. I had recently gotten out of a long-term relationship and moved into a new place, and I was looking forward to being single for a while.

This might seem like a random thing to mention, but I promise it’s relevant: I’ve been collecting Wizard of Oz stuff since I was a kid. I posted to Facebook to see if anyone I knew had a Dorothy toy from the days when McDonald’s was giving away Wizard of Oz toys in its Happy Meals. My old roommate Nic (short for Nicole), who had just moved back from Australia, messaged me to tell me she had the coveted (by me and small children) doll and would be happy to give it to me. We agreed to meet for coffee sometime that weekend. We exchanged numbers and I—in a fateful act of negligence—didn’t put hers in my phone.

A couple of days later, I went to a friend’s house party and got pretty inebriated. I took a cab home and woke up the next morning, a bit hungover, to a text from an unknown number: “hey its nic.” Great! Gonna get myself that sweet McDonald’s Dorothy doll (and see a friend). After some generic chatting, we agreed to meet up at Starbucks. She said it’s her regular Starbucks, and that she drives by it a lot. I didn’t remember Nic having a car, but whatever, I hadn’t seen her in more than a year.

When I arrived at the Starbucks, I couldn’t find Nic anywhere. I wore a blue-and-white gingham shirt and put my hair in low pigtails, in what I thought was a subtle nod to Judy Garland’s Dorothy outfit, but I probably just looked insane. Again, I was very prepared to obtain this toy. And yes, I am a fun person to hang out with.

I texted her and she insisted that she was there. I wondered if I was in wrong Starbucks, or if she looked drastically different? Finally, she told me specifically where she was in the shop. Then I saw her. Except Nic was not a 20-something girl. Nic was an older man—my cab driver from the other night.

Everything came back in John Woo-ish slo-mo: I remembered I was short a couple of bucks for my ride, that the cab driver’s credit card machine wasn’t working, that he joked that I could give him my number to make up the difference (at least I thought he was joking). Feeling trapped, I gave him an old phone number, which, in a game-changing power move, he called while I was still in the cab. Shit. I was outed. I gave him my real number and earned my escape.

What are the chances that this cab driver and my friend Nic have the exact same name and both wanted to meet up that weekend? Apparently, 100 per cent, because that’s exactly what happened.

In the moment, I tried to keep calm and act like I was planning to meet this Nic all along. I can hardly remember what we said to one another—I was in panic mode, trying to figure out a way to get out of the situation. But he was quiet and innocuous, and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, even though it’s pretty sketchy to get drunk girls to give you their number under a weird form of pseudo-coercion. I decided there was nothing to do but go along with it until I could fake an out. When we left Starbucks and returned to his cab, I got in (front seat, for maximum visibility), and on we went.

He told me he wanted to to go to a nearby restaurant. What else could I do? I thought about explaining this sitcom-level misunderstanding, but I was in too deep. How would I explain to this man, whom I’d accidentally been leading on for a couple of days, that I wasn’t looking for a date? I was just looking to procure a Happy Meal toy from a friend with the same name as him. Not a relatable explanation! I didn’t want to get this man—who knew where I lived—angry and be afraid of taking a cab ever again.

So we drove up the street to a small restaurant where he insisted on getting me a fish dish. I excused myself to the bathroom and texted and tried to call a couple of people, but no one answered. I went back upstairs, and Nic and I continued our awkward conversation. I have no memory of what we talked about, probably because all I could focus on was the horrible combination of guilt, fear and supreme awkwardness I felt. I had created a bizarre panto of sorts, and I wasn’t sure if I was the hero or the Ross Petty.

Finally, the accidental date ended, and Nic reminded me again that, since he already knew where I lived, it was no problem for him to drive me home. I could have said I was actually meeting someone else nearby. But, of course, I didn’t think of that in time. The drive proceeded without incident, and I got home. I thanked Nic for the (free) ride and the fish, wished him a good night and hoped it was obvious to him that this was not a romantic encounter.

When I got into my apartment, my roommate was sprawled on the couch playing Mario Kart. Never had I been so relieved to see this guy I only kind of knew. He said, “Oh, hey,” and I immediately burst into tears and told him my absurd ordeal. He hugged me and laughed, and eventually I laughed, too.

I heard from Nic a couple of days later when he texted me to mention he just dropped someone off near my house. Sadly, I never ended up getting that toy. Unrelatedly, I have since moved.