It’s November and it’s freezing outside. I hopped off the subway one block early because I’m always ahead of schedule and I need to get my mind into the game. I’m about to meet her for a legitimate date. It’s a big deal because after being casual friends I finally stepped up and suggested a date, and she accepted. My nerves are on full alert and I need to take a few minutes to calm down.
The reason I hopped off the subway at 5th Street is because Independence Mall is one of my favorite spots in Philadelphia. As I walk to a park bench I can see my office back to the northwest and Independence Hall to the south. There's no tourists out since it’s winter, so the whole block is calm and mostly vacant. I check my watch. I’ve got about ten minutes to the time we agreed to meet at the Gaslight over by Market & Front. That gives me enough time to listen to one song and then get moving.
When I go on dates there’s two songs I really like to listen to to calm me down. It can be nerve-wracking when you meet someone new. But this is the first time meeting a girl I already know in a new situation: an actual date. It’s a whole different type of nerves being wracked. I sit down on a bench facing west and pull up my favorite song on my iPod: “Soul To Squeeze” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. At this moment I have no idea we will be listening to this song live in three months at the end of a Chili Peppers concert in Philly. I also have no idea that it’s her favorite jam by the Chilis. That fact won’t come out until January.
It’s five minutes to myself. The freezing weather is an afterthought. I relax and spend that time listening to John Frusciante’s incredible guitar intro and Flea’s killer bass groove. I sing the lyrics to myself while the song plays. Eventually I hear “I’m gonna keep ya for the end of time,” and realize there’s only five minutes left to go. She grabbed an Uber so I have to be there on time or I’ll have failed one of my own personal standing orders: always be early.
It’s only three blocks to go but I’m nervous as hell even though I shouldn’t be. I cue up my go-to first date hype song: "Tell Me Baby" by the Chili Peppers. The song is about going to Hollywood to chase your dreams, but there's something about that chorus that makes me think smile and wonder about all the new things you get to learn when you sit down with someone for a great conversation. Like all good songs the lyrics mean something more personal to me than the most basic interpretation. I get to the Gaslight right on time, and then maybe 20 seconds later I see a car pull up. She steps out of the car wearing a pink coat and I smile to myself because that’s always been her style - bright and outgoing on the surface. She’s about to walk to the door with a slightly confused look, as if she’s not sure if she should be waiting for me or if I’m that kind of guy who would go inside first, get a seat, and just wait for her to show.
I call her name and her entire expression changes to a bright smile that welcomes a familiar friend. We hug. We go inside...together. In the back of my head I hope that it will be a great day. And it turns out to be one for the record books. Personal stories that connect. Pop culture references and laughs as we realize we have even more in common than we thought. After brunch when I suggest we head nearby to play pool and grab some beers she accepts immediately with no hesitation.
I have no way of knowing how this story eventually turns out. But right now, in this moment, I finally feel what other people wish for and talk about all the time: a connection. And it is absolutely magical. I'll never forget those last few minutes waiting for her to arrive while I let music calm me down and help me welcome in a new friendship.
"Tell me baby
What's your story?
Where you come from
And where you want to go this time?