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Dating hazards are real. I couldn't make this up if I had to.
A few years ago, I was on a dating site looking for love. That was my first of many, many mistakes. I had an amazing profile on a popular dating app. It was in October and Halloween was coming up. A guy named Ben messaged me and we had been chatting on the app for a few days—nothing serious. He finally asked me if I would like to travel to the next town to attend a Zombie Crawl Festival with him. My response was “Sure. I love Halloween. We can go as friends.” He then stated he would pick me up the next day. I agreed.
The next day, I got ready to go to the festival. I was excited. Excited about the festival, not necessarily the date. Ben arrived at my house on time and when I answered the door, Ben looked nothing like he did on his profile picture (Shocking, right?). My first mistake of the day was about to happen. Though I was surprised he looked nothing like his profile, I tried to be nice and not show it. I said “Hi. Ben, right?” Ben stated he was ready to go and I said “OK.”
As we walked toward our vehicles, he asked me if I wanted to follow him or ride with him [Mistake #1]. I replied after a short hesitation, “um…I’ll just ride with you, it’ll be fine, right?”
He, of course, said “sure.”
We begin the trip to the festival, which is 45 minutes away. As I ease into the car, a black 1997 Caviler with flame decals and pinstripes, I begin to assess my situation. By this time, I realize Mistake #1 has happened and I see no quick way to fix it. I begin talking nervously, trying to keep Ben occupied so he doesn’t get handsy. I ask where he’s from, how long he’s been in the area, and where he works. Ben starts answering my questions and explains that he grew up in the area, and he works for a maintenance company. When Ben tells me the name of the maintenance company, I quickly realize that he is possibly special needs. The maintenance company he works for only hires special needs adults. I’m cool with the possibility of him being special needs. I’m glad another human has not let potential challenges limit their life. Go, Ben!
I continue to ramble out get-to-know-you-type questions as we drive up the divided highway toward the next town (Keep in mind, we are on a divided highway—not the interstate—with nothing but open land and trees to the left and right for at least 30 miles). We are about a quarter of the way to the festival when, out of nowhere, Ben abruptly pulls over on the side of the road. He opens his driver door and jumps out. I was startled. My life flashed before my eyes and I surveyed the surrounding isolated area and thought to myself: this is how I die. My second thought was: I think I can outrun him. Ben reaches back inside the car from outside and grabs a pack of TWINKIES from his center console! He says to me, as he stands back up alongside the highway, “Do you want one?”
My response is, “No thanks. I already ate” [Mistake #2]. I wait in a complete state of confusion and terror…instead of getting out of the car and running.
After finishing one TWINKIE, Ben gets back in the car and we begin driving back up the highway like nothing ever happened. In my mind, I was trying to figure out what the hell just happened. He got out of the car like someone would if they didn’t want to smoke in their car. So, I thought, maybe he’s just REALLY against eating in his car. I guess that’s the explanation. He continues to travel up the highway and I continue my random, trivial questions. A few minutes later, out of the blue, he hands me his phone. He says, “Here is a HILARIOUS joke I want you to read!” Shocked, I take the phone and start to read. The joke is a guy who has had too much to drink while “eating out” his girlfriend and subsequently throws up in her vagina. The joke continues on with this same girl being “eaten out” by another guy the next night. She tells her partner that her last boyfriend had gotten sick so she left him (I lost focus for a moment and don’t know the next part of the joke). When I regained my senses, the end of the joke was something to the effect of, “Yeah, I know, he had corn for dinner.” I immediately hand the phone back to Ben as he is telling me, “That’s a great joke, right?”
My response: “No. That’s actually disgusting.”
After the joke and the TWINKIE incident, I’m thinking that the worst has to be over! [Mistake #3] I was wrong. A few miles more up the road, Ben leans toward me and is reaching into the rear passenger floorboard behind me. For the second time within ten minutes, the thought this is how I die! crosses my mind. I’m thinking OH MY GOSH HE HAS A GUN! Nope. No gun. Ben pulls out a box of FREEZE-DRIED CRICKETS and asks me if I’m hungry. My girly girl persona comes out and I shriek, “Eeewwww! No!”
Approximately one minute after the cricket incident, Ben abruptly pulls to the side of the highway, jumps out and…yes, begins to eat his second TWINKIE! As I sit in the passenger seat, I look out the window, knowing that I am at least 20 (or more) miles from home with nothing but an open field and a few trees around me. I had thought about jumping out of the car and just running! [Mistake #4] I didn’t run.
Ben gets back in the car and, in silence, we continue to travel up the highway. Again, I nervously start talking about how I love Halloween. On that note, Ben starts telling me that he lost his virginity on Halloween [Mistake #5].
Mortified, I said “Oh yeah?”
“Yep,” he responded. He told me that, when he was 12, he had been trick-or-treating with the new girl in his neighborhood. On their way home, she took him on a shortcut through an alley, pulled down his costume, and laid on him. And that’s how he thinks he lost his virginity. At that point, he was unsure if he actually lost his virginity, but, “Hey, it’s almost Halloween, right?” (said while he raised his eyebrows at me…and gave me a WINK WINK). So, [Mistake #6] I was not tucking and rolling out of a moving vehicle at that moment.
I had no words after that conversation. We had finally entered the town where the festival was being held. Ben took the wrong street and we ended up on the “wrong side of town.” Families were out playing in the street and Ben was driving way too fast. Parents began yelling and screaming at us because he was speeding. A dog ran out in front of us and Ben almost ran it over. I yelled at him, "Slow the hell down, you almost hit a dog!”
After navigating to the festival entrance, we parked and got out of the car. I was having a real “self-talk” session internally. I tried to convince myself that we were in public, it can’t get any worse or weird than it already has [Mistake #7]. As we walk up the street toward the festival, he puts his arm around my shoulders. I immediately remove his arm and say that I don’t like to be touched. He repeats the action and I remove his arm a second time…except this time, his obnoxious gold bracelet gets caught on my sweater and pulls a long thread out. The thread was the least of my worries, but I was annoyed.
We walk into the crowd and he asks if he can buy me a t-shirt. I accept, thinking “Hell yeah, I’ll at least get a t-shirt out of this horror story if I survive!” I throw the t-shirt over my shoulder and try to start enjoying the atmosphere. Ben again puts his arm around me. Frantically, I tell him that I get anxious in crowds and don’t want anyone touching me. So, he says, “Why don’t we sit down on the terrace by the band and listen to them a while.” [Mistake #8] I agree and we sit down. Again, Ben, with the arm!
At this time, I am visibility distraught and I’m nervously wringing my hands together. He grabs my hands and tries to hold hands [Mistake #9]. I pull my hands away and say “please don’t touch me.”
Ben says, “OK, I’m gonna put my shirt in the car. Do you want me to put yours in the car, too?”
I replied, “Nope, I’ll hold on to mine, thanks.”
He looks at me puzzled and then says “OK. I’ll be right back.” As Ben walks away and disappears from my view, my mind immediately starts playing out how the ride home is going to go.
Taking into account the accumulation of events to this point, the only thing my mind is telling me is: RUN. RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN. RUN IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION! In the next instant, I am running through the crowd to the other side of the festival. Luckily, there is a monument with a bench four blocks away from the festival. I sit down and collect myself. As I sit there, I receive a text message. It’s from Ben. It says, “You ditched me! I can’t believe you ditched me! You have to be the worst human being on the earth!”
I immediately respond with, “You are right. I ditched you. You may think I’m the worst human being on the earth, but I’m 45 minutes from home and I don’t feel SAFE or comfortable with you AT ALL. I was thinking about my safety. I will find a ride home. I apologize for being so rude.”
I sit on that bench contemplating how to get home. I call my supervisor (who is also a friend) and he and his wife come to my rescue. Of course, I have to recount all the events of the evening to them on the ride home. Every few months, my supervisor asks me if I’d like a TWINKIE or a FREEZE-DRIED CRICKET just for spite. #MyWorstDate