“And when I took little Maisy to the veterinarian for the first time to have her anal glands expressed, the bill nearly made my anal glands explode!” my date says with a chuckle, reaching for his pint of Guinness. He finishes the last inch or so of the glass, lets out an enormous belch, then leans in, elbows on the table, cradling his jaw in his hands like he has a massive secret to share.
I lean back. As in, away.
“That,” he says, reaching for my hand and ensconcing it between both of his, “is when I turned to good old YouTube and decided to DIY.”
“DIY?” This guy has more jargon than a sociology grad student.
“I taught myself how to express her anal glands,” he crows proudly. “Just did it this morning.”
I look down at our hands.
I can live without one, right?
“It takes more vigor than you’d imagine,” he murmurs.
That is the worst come on line ever.
“Another beer?” the waitress asks, interrupting. She is my new best friend.
I nod vigorously and tug my hand away from his, praying for divine intervention. Or an electric knife to saw off my hand. A beer will have to do. If I get tipsy enough on this date, maybe I’ll forget that my hands just rubbed up against—
Hold on there. Pause.
You heard me right. I’m on a date. Except I’m not on a date. I’m technically working right now. On this date. I’m dating him professionally.
Wait—don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not...well, it’s not that kind of working date. I’m not making three hundred bucks a night to lick his toes or whip him or be a professional escort or anything like that.
(But that’s starting to look better and better....)
All I get is my regular paycheck, my meal, and an eighteen dollar mystery shopper’s fee for having Mr. Anal Gland Hands sit across the table from me and talk about Maisy the Wonder Schnauzer like she’s his girlfriend and I’ll be the third in their little poly human-human-dog threesome.
That’s right. I’m getting paid to do this.
My boss, Greg, got a new account for online dating service evaluations for his company, Consolidated Evalu-Shop, and I’m currently on the prototype date. I have to create the series of questions that future mystery shoppers will answer when they go through all these customer service shops to determine whether the dating service works as the owners expect, and to help improve customer service, client retention, and overall efficiency.
I’m the sacrificial virgin.
Okay, not technically a virgin, but...you know what I mean.
“DoggieDate: The place where dogs find love” is an online dating service for dog lovers.
Snort. Go ahead. Say it.
The motto needs some work.
I’m mystery shopping DoggieDate’s entire customer service and online algorithm matching system. This is my first date. According to their system, Amanda Warrick, age twenty-seven and noneofyourbusiness pounds, with a college degree, an interest in chihuahuas and labradoodles, the owner of Spritzy the teacup chihuahua, and a lover of seafood is an eight-three percent match with....
Mr. Anal Gland Hands, forty-nine, thrice-divorced, a triathletic vegan, an Internet Marketer, owner of Maisy the schnauzer and...
“You know, Amanda,” he says, grabbing my hands again. Ron. His real name is Ron. He has a combover like Donald Trump and arms like cords of steel, tanned deep and hairless. “If you’re anything like me, you’re sick of this dating game. How about we strip off all the bullshit layers and just get right to the heart of seeing if we’re compatible?”
This isn’t the first time I’ve done online dating. It’s just the first time I’ve done it professionally. I’m not invested in the outcome here. I’m just doing my job.
I know what Ron’s about to say, so pull up a chair. This’ll be a doozy.
“So tell me all your secret sexual fantasies.”
I totally called it.
“All of them?” I ask, leaning forward. “Because I’m not sure we have enough time for that.”
His eyes light up. They’re the color of the bay after a big storm, the kind of brownish grey that only comes from stirring up a lot of crap.
I sniff the air. You smell that? It’s the scent of desperation.
Or Maisy’s anal glands.
It’s hard to tell the difference.
I need to focus on work, though. This isn’t a real date. If it were, I’d trigger a rescue text from my best friend Shannon and claim she’s in the ER and take my escape. Given how often Shannon really does end up in the emergency room, I’d have about a one in ten chance of not lying.
“Tell me all about Maisy!” I say, suddenly chirpy.
Poor Ron recoils. “She has nothing to do with my sexual fantasies!”
I didn’t imply as much, but the fact that he’s so quick to say that freaks me out.
“No, no, of course not,” I say in a soothing voice. The waitress brings my beer and I drink half of it in one long ribbon of alcoholic perfection.
Ron unclenches. He has super-short hair (except for the Trump combover right along the bangs) and is clean shaven. Those grey-brown eyes are framed by nothing but loose eyelid skin.
And then it hits me.
He has no eyelashes. No eyebrows, either. That’s why he looks like he’s so interested in everything I say.
“I just meant,” I continue, “that I love my little Spritzy. That’s why I joined DoggieDate. I’m wondering what Maisy’s like.”