"Traffic was really bad," explains the lanky professional as he pulls his chair up to the table. "I drove an hour and a half."
"That's commitment for speed dating," responds the smartly-dressed blonde across the table.
8MinuteDating.com event organizer Amy Amore hands a nametag to the late arrival, informing him that he is halfway through the second date, then clears the way for the remainder of date two to resume. See also: Top ten Denver women you've probably dated
"You work downtown?"
"Yeah. So it wasn't as bad," she says, clarifying. "I walk to work. So... yeah."
In addition to the twenty tables occupied by forty speed daters who have been paired according to age range, the back room at Jazz@Jack's holds a bartender; The TAN Band, a jazz group slated to follow the dating event; and an appetizer table.
"I work as a test engineer."
"So you're super smart."
"It's always going to be an even number of men and women so everyone gets a date," Amore says, explaining the set-up. Each person gets eight dates that are eight minutes long. At the end of each eight-minute segment, Amore hits a bell. During the ten-minute intermezzo, participants are encouraged to visit the appetizer table, where they can meet singles who may not be in their specified age-range rotation.
"So what do you do besides..."
"It's lobbying but it's not, like, sleazy."
To preserve everyone's privacy, no one is permitted to provide or to request last names or phone numbers. Following the event, however, the speed-daters can turn in the first name and assigned three-digit number of anyone they would like to see again. They are instructed to specify whether their interest in that person is either a) work, b) friendship or c) romantic; if two speed-daters' multiple-choice interests match up, 8MinuteDating software provides both individuals with contact information.
"Jennifer. Think I need a new name tag"
"How are you? Good to meet you."
Participant Alisa Goldschmidt "had a friend who did an 8minutedating event a few months ago," she says. "She had a good time and said all the men who came were talkative.
"We've all had online dating experiences where you meet the person and either they don't talk if they meet you in person and there's nothing," Goldschmidt continues. "Seemed like a good way to meet a person confident enough to come to an event like this. I haven't done that well with online stuff but I can talk to a stranger for eight minutes without a problem."
"My approach was to not have any kind of expectation," says a participant who's a professional therapist and asks to be identified simply as Ian. "Similar to what I do in therapy, it's a healthy way of connecting," he says. "This is because the boundaries are created by the structure of the event. Everyone knows the expectation here. No confusions about 'is he or she taken?' It creates a level of honesty. There's a higher level of integrity compared to a normal bar scene. Definitely compared to online dating. You see someone directly. This is a person. It's not a text on a screen. This person is on the literal level of what they say. The emotional level. How they make eye contact, how they hold themselves. How they put themselves in words."
"I'm from Kansas."
"I've been there."
"No, you haven't"
"Lived in Wichita. Dodge."
"Kansas. Not that common."
Self-defined introvert Bas Hamer finds speed dating preferable to other ways of meeting people. "I'm from The Netherlands. I have an accent," he explains. "It's a great thing to have because it's different, but it's really annoying to have when you're trying to communicate at a bar. It's much easier at a speed-date event because it's not as loud."
The bell again. Daters put pens to papers as they discreetly jot notes. Amore's phone timer completes its two-minute dispersal and reconfiguration interval, the daters move and the timer again starts counting down from eight.
"So what do you do for a job?"
"I'm a dentist."
"I ski a little."
"Love the summer season."
"Some introverted people will step out of their comfort zone for a night and try it," says Amore, "but I'd say the people who are most comfortable at speed dating are extroverts."
While science has explanations for instant attraction (see Stephanie Pappas's Livescience article here), Amore doesn't have access to data on how many dates have come out of her events. The information the daters submit at the end of the night is confidential; she is sometimes informed of outcomes if a participant attends another event. But she has plenty of evidence that the system works: She met her own husband at the first speed-dating event she organized.
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Amore will host a pre-Valentine's Day Cupid Party at 6 p.m. Sunday, February 9, at Jazz@Jack's, 500 16th Street, Suite 320 in the Denver Pavilions. The cost is $39.88 and advance registration is required; find more information at 8minuteDating.com