Looking for love in the arms of a stranger -- ten of 'em at a time.

These days, when I'm not working, spending time with my daughter or drinking beer, I mainly look forward to the new Harry Potter book. I anticipate escaping into the world of wizards and Muggles so I don't have to think about how long it's been since I've had sex. It's getting to the point where the U.N. may just mount a humanitarian mission to Denver to relieve the crisis, though the French would probably ask for more time to prove that I was not in possession of recent carnal knowledge. Until such time, I figured I'd better be proactive.

So when I heard about speed dating, I figured, what the hell. The allotted six-minute relationship is great for commitment-phobes, pre-arranged dates eliminate the likelihood of a woman pulling out pepper spray when you're initiating a conversation, and since actually asking anyone out during the event is off limits, guys can prolong the illusion of being civilized even though most of us can actually barely walk upright. With any luck, maybe speed dating would prevent an epic sex drought.

But I wasn't sure how to approach it. Should I really take this seriously? Should I just have fun with it? Partly, I decided to use it as a purely scientific task to elucidate the human condition - mainly, what the hell do women really respond to?

Bryan Baldasaro

I did have reservations, though. First, how do you explain to your future kids that you met their mother during a round-robin interrogation? Second, I knew it would be very hard not to take notes. If history is any indicator, I knew there would be times when I would find my jaw in my lap and I would have to stop my date and ask her to repeat what she just said so I could tell my friends later. I certainly wanted to avoid the typical situation where I think I am an absolute riot but am paired with someone whose sense of humor was apparently surgically removed. I also knew it would be imperative to have on my poker face, because I have learned over the years that it is a huge turnoff to show genuine interest in a woman. I knew I had to be able to sit across from a Cosmo cover girl without wishing I had worn a bib to protect myself from my own drool. Finally, I wanted to make sure I had sufficient "rap" in store to make it the full six minutes without my counterpart checking her watch or putting a dry-cleaning bag over her head.

But since Jillian's at Colorado Mills was the venue (a guy's paradise: multiple giant screen TVs, trivia and video games), I figured that if the night was a bust, at least I was somewhere I could entertain myself. Cheri Collins, who brought speed dating to Colorado with her company, Rapid Fire Romance, had our banquet room set up with twenty-plus numbered tables. (Collins once had an attendee's ex-girlfriend infiltrate the group, so she tries to keep things private.) I registered and received a report card that told me where to be and kept track of who I met -- lest I mix up the Cosmo cover girl with the one with the mullet. It also had room for notes, such as "Appetizers in teeth" or "Perfume probably from bargain rack at Wal-Mart."

When I first walked into the room, it was the typical sausage fest. The guys were all waiting to see who they'd be paired up with for the evening. Apparently, the women were congregated in the bathroom doing whatever the hell it is they do in there. As I paced through the lumberyard, I noticed something very peculiar: These guys were all checking each other out! I wasn't sure at first, but I became convinced after receiving several very dirty looks. I checked to make sure my zipper was up but then realized some guys were just staking claim to their territory. In fact, I spent much of the first half hour wondering when I was going to be called out to the bike racks to fight.

Remember, this is a setup where there are an equal number of men and women, all of whom are looking to meet someone, or at least fulfill their end of a dare. So theoretically, you should meet a new person every six minutes; there shouldn't be the typical bar-like competition. Shouldn't be. But when I sat down at the first table, I was saddled one. In a situation as close to shooting fish in a barrel as is humanly possible, I got stiffed. I knew right away things could only get better. In fact, it did, once the waitress came by with a beer.

After that, most of my night was spent talking to two local nurses, Allison and Kelly, though we'll protect their anonymity with quotation marks and call them "Allison" and "Kelly" from here on out. I had spoken to both of them prior to the start of the event and had been immediately swept off my feet when they asked who I was rooting for in the hockey game on TV. The beautiful thing was that they waited for an icing call before striking up conversation.

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