Friday, June 21, 2013

No. 349 – Difficult to Cure

Performer: Rainbow
Songwriter: Ludwig van Beethoven
Original Release: Difficult to Cure
Year: 1981
Definitive Version: Final Vinyl, 1986. This song is right here ONLY because of Richie Blackmore’s symphonic guitar solo, which opens this live track.

As almost anyone can attest, a broken heart makes you do some dumb things. The story I’m about to relate was the dumb thing I did—maybe the dumbest thing I ever did—after my heart was destroyed by Hurricane Melanie. In fact, it’s something I’ve never told anyone before.

When I took the Daily Herald job at the end of 1988, I was moving to an area where I had no friends and no real ties. I had been able to make it work from a dating standpoint at the YMCA two years before, but now I was out in the Chicago suburbs—totally different ballgame.

Being an introvert by nature, I couldn’t just go out by myself and meet people, particularly women. And, believe me, I was desperate to meet women. Besides, my schedule—working nights and weekends—wasn’t conducive to doing that anyway. So the winter of 1988-89 was pretty lonely.

One day in February 1989, I got a piece of junk mail that gave me pause. It was for a video-dating service, called Great Expectations, and with visions of meeting dozens of similarly lonely and interested women dancing in my head, I checked it out.

I took the train downtown and went to their building in the River North neighborhood. The mailer spoke of filling out a form and applying to become a member. I suspect that Great Expectations took anyone who “applied” and who appeared that he or she could pay the money. I was accepted, which meant now it was time to discuss the terms of my membership.

Now here’s where what I did bordered on insanity. Lifetime membership was $1,900. I was making about $15,000 at the Daily Herald, so joining a video-dating service would eat up 13 percent of my annual salary. Obviously, I couldn’t afford that—I didn’t have enough saved.

Knowing she had a sucker on the hook, the recruiter broke the payment up—$500 right away and then $150 per month after that until I was paid in full. I gulped, agreed … and was broke the rest of the year.

I made my video and filled out a page in a scrapbook with pictures and a basic questionnaire form. The way it worked was you went into the office, took the scrapbooks into a room and browsed as much as you wanted. If there were someone whose page appealed to you, you requested their video, which you watched in a private viewing room.

If you wanted to meet that person, you filled out a form that would trigger a mailing. If he or she was interested (and I’m pretty sure it was just a hetero service at the time), he or she came in and saw your video. If all went well, contact information was exchanged, and you then were on your own.

I probably went in about once a month, and the dearth of women in my general age range was palpable. I mean, 22- to 28-year-olds don’t join a video-dating service; they go to a bar with their friends. So dates were few and far between. I think for my $1,900, I got more acceptance notes from women who later blew me off on the phone than I did dates.

But I did go on a few. The most luck I had was with a brunette named Mindy. We had a few good dates in the late winter, but I moved too fast and chased her away, which, as I mentioned, was one of my unfortunate specialties. After Mindy, I think I went out on only two more dates the rest of the time I lived in Herald City (during which I was listening to Final Vinyl quite a bit).

So that was $1,900 down the drain. If there was any good news, it was that it really was only $1,850 down the drain. When I got the gig in Flint, I found out that Great Expectations wasn’t there, so I wouldn’t be able to use my “lifetime” membership. As far as I was concerned, that also meant I wasn’t going to give them any more money. Sure, it was only another $50 at this point, but it was the principle of the thing as far as I was concerned.

In truth, I was just glad to be done with it all. I felt ashamed that I had done it, which is why I never mentioned it to anyone. It was the mark of desperation, I thought.

The funny thing is, I was just ahead of my time, I suppose. I know of at least three couples who met—and married—through online dating sites. Meeting people through technology has become far more socially acceptable.

So, yeah, joining a video-dating club wasn’t necessarily a bad idea. But joining a video-dating club when you have no money to pay for the club and then no money to pay for dates afterward is an extremely bad—and stupid—idea.

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