Date night – or nightmare

The path to love, or fear and embarrassment? Columbian readers share stories of memorable outings

By Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith



Dating. The stomach butterflies, tongue-tied conversations and heart-pounding new experiences with someone sweet can make romance electrifying. Whether unconventional, unsafe, unforgivable or just plain unforgettable, it’s striking moments with that potential special someone that can shape our views on dating and love — for better or for worse. We’re all human, we all make mistakes and dates may not always go according to plan.

So, we asked Columbian readers to let us into their love lives by recalling their most memorable dates. They delivered. After all, Vancouver did make Amazon’s 2011 top 20 list of most romantic U.S. cities, making this place a gold mine for riveting tales of romance.

Christyna Hengstler


When I was about 21, a co-worker and her boyfriend set me up on a blind date with their roommate, John. Having given up on the dating scene, I figured why not.

The four of us went on a double date: dinner, drinks, a dip in her hot tub and a movie. The hot tub was enclosed inside a wooden gazebo, making the hot tub particularly hot. While everyone else was getting in and out of the water to cool off, I stayed submerged, looking at John, wondering if he was “the one.”

Eventually, I couldn’t take the heat any longer. I made my way out of the tub and sat on a bench. John was talking to me, but I couldn’t understand him. Next thing I knew, I had passed out in the flower bed. The three of them stood over me, arguing about what to do. Should they call my parents? Was I on medication? John helped me get up. I looked down to see the decimated flower bed. Are you kidding me? I thought. Great job.

In the bathroom, I wiped the dirt off my face and body and picked leaves out of my hair. As I looked at myself in the mirror I gave a thumbs-up and said, “Way to go. You’ve impressed this one!” I eventually emerged, embarrassed, from the bathroom and we sat awkwardly in the living room until it was time for John to drive me home.

In the car, I flat out asked him, “Well, what do you think?” He replied, “I think I’d like to take you out again.” “Suit yourself!” I said. “What you see is what you get.”

We’ve been married 18 years, and there’s never been a dull moment. I still have hot tub restrictions.

Jim Hansen


After starting my freshman year at Columbia Basin College in Pasco, I moved back home and transferred to Green River Community College in Auburn. I was 19 and needed to get my life back on track, so I asked about student leadership opportunities. I was invited to a student Senate meeting, which I very nervously attended. As I walked into the boardroom, I locked eyes with this pretty 18-year-old. Her name was Ann, and she was just beautiful.

In time, I became a student senator and vice president of the sophomore class. I later worked up the nerve to ask Ann out to the school’s dinner-dance cruise, a formal affair at Pier 55 on Elliot Bay in Seattle. It was Saturday, May 17, 1980. As first dates go, it was special — we fell in love. A photographer was on hand and captured the moment. The following morning, at 8:30 a.m., Mount St. Helens blew and I have taken credit for having made the earth move ever since.

Three years later, we revisited Pier 55. I was unsure if Ann knew the date, May 17, 1983. I was quite sure she did not know I had a ring in my pocket and a photographer friend hiding around the corner. As we stood on Pier 55, I proposed and my friend captured the moment. Four months later we married, and shortly thereafter we moved to Vancouver, which has been home ever since.

We have revisited Pier 55 repeatedly over the years with our daughters when they were infants, teenagers and, now, adults — taking photos to capture those moments as well. Ann and I will celebrate our 30th anniversary this year. A trip to the Seattle waterfront and Pier 55 will be among our plans.

Bob Whiting


While attending college in Austin, Texas, I managed to snag a date with an attractive, popular coed. I picked her up around 6:30 p.m. and we drove to a quaint restaurant where each dark, private booth had a small tropical fish tank built into the wall. Seated across from me, she was impressed and fascinated with the quietly bubbling tank. The meal was nice and the conversation delightful.

As dessert and coffee with a dash of cinnamon were served, our knees touched under the table and she smiled warmly while leaning towards me with the soft glow of the fish tank on her face. I looked into her eyes and tried to think of something interesting to say while raising the hot coffee cup to my mouth, but I accidentally inhaled the steam or cinnamon from the cup and immediately sneezed, blowing coffee all over my date and her new dress.

With apologies not accepted, it was a quick and deathly silent trip back to her dorm.

I later learned she never quite decided whether or not I did it on purpose. My buddies told me I should have said “Gotcha!” but at the time I was too shocked to say anything at all.

Tana Hart


In the early 1960s, “West Side Story” first appeared in Portland. I was thrilled to get an opportunity to have a date take me to see the movie in downtown Portland.

When the film reached Vancouver, I was asked by another young man to go see it in Vancouver. I was honest, told him I’d already seen it, but would really like to see it again. We made a date for a Saturday evening. On Friday, a former classmate was home on leave and wanted to go see the movie with me. Though I had a date for the next evening, I knew the movie was excellent, and that I could easily sit through it two nights in a row.

When Saturday rolled around, my date picked me up and we drove to downtown Vancouver. He parked the car, looked at me and asked, “Now, do you want to see the movie for the third time?” Before I could answer, he started the car, drove somewhere in Portland (I thought maybe Council Crest) and got out of the car, leaving me there. He was gone for some time. I was scared — scared to stay and scared to leave.

Finally, he returned to the car, seeming like he had cooled down, and asked where I’d like to go. I told him I’d like to return home. No words were spoken on the way home. When we reached my driveway, he touched my knee to apologize, which scared me. I jumped out of the car, ran for the house and never saw him again.

Bill Schmidt


My wife and I have been married 29 years, but our relationship didn’t start out very smoothly.

We worked together at the old Memorial Hospital for six months before I finally got the nerve to ask her out on a date — just the two of us.

It started raining that day for the first time in a couple of weeks, so the roads were slick from the mixture of oil and water. I was driving east on Mill Plain Boulevard and attempted to turn left onto Andresen Road when my car started fishtailing. Despite slamming on the brakes, we drove faster out of control. Turns out, my shoes, slick from the rain, had slipped off the brake and I had actually been pushing the gas pedal.

We drove up and over the curb and onto a grassy area. After we stopped skidding I said to her, “Wow! That was close. We almost hit that power pole.”

She said, “What power pole? You almost hit that guy-wire.”

We somehow drove between the two while basically out of control.

Hitting the curb blew out my front tires and dented my rims. I drove with flat front tires a block down the grassy strip, hopped off the curb and parked my car — all while people drove by, honking their horns and laughing at us. I called my parents to come get us so I could buy some new tires and rims and go to work.

I figured after wrecking my car, almost injuring us, ruining our date and having my parents pick us up, she wouldn’t want to be with me any longer. But, we married three years later and are still together more than 32 years after that first date.

Muriel Buriff


We were in the bushes surrounding the library at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, during intermission at the annual Sweetheart Ball. It was 1953 — a time when big bands played at university dances. Gene Krupa and his band were playing that night. I was in my white formal dress. John wore his best suit that night.

Suddenly we saw a flashlight approaching. It was the campus police.

“What are you kids doing in the bushes?”

John, with a flashlight in his one hand and a jar in the other, replied, “Hunting night crawlers.”

“Yeah, that’s one I haven’t heard,” the officer said as John held up the jar with a few night crawlers in it.

We are going fishing tomorrow and want to catch some bass and blue gills, John said. I think I held my breath this whole time. The officer chuckled and let us return to the dance.

After almost 60 years of marriage, we look back on this and laugh. We fished a lot and I mostly went so that I could be with John (not because I enjoyed fishing so much). His love of fishing played a part in where we spent our honeymoon. I wanted to go to a secluded place.

We chose Sugar Island in northern Michigan. I had no idea that our honeymoon would mostly be fishing from about 5 a.m. till dusk and that I would have to cook fish for breakfast and dinner, having never cooked before.

Glynda Hamilton


When I was a freshman at Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas, in 1965, it was the custom to be set up on blind “Coke dates” midweek before a football game. Typically, you would go out for a Dr Pepper at a drive-in while meeting a prospective date. If it worked out, you would have a date for the Saturday football game.

One problem — I was unbelievably shy.

This Coke date was doomed from the start because my date was just as shy as I was. As we drove around the Sonic drive-in, I held my Dr Pepper in my right hand while I looked out the window. Suddenly, my date asked me a question. As I turned quickly to respond, my straw jammed up my nose. Instead of laughing and breaking the ice, in my horror I pulled it out and responded. Neither of us said a thing as we rode back to my dorm in the silence, but I couldn’t wait to tell my friends. Too bad I didn’t laugh at myself at the time.

Needless to say, I did not attend that football game with a date. I learned to hate blind dates, but ended up marrying my last one 43 years ago.

Ann Morrow


In the summer of 1970 I signed up for the event of the summer: the Teeter-Totter Marathon, an attempt to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records. I had a little trouble getting a partner. As a joke, I signed up my friend, Jim, for the 5 to 7 a.m. slot. We worked together in the cafeteria at Central Oregon Community College.

After much deliberation about getting replacements, crossing out our names, or just not showing up, we stopped speaking to each other. About a day before the event, however, he called to say he’d be there.

The dark morning came. I was prepared for the worst, but Jim was only five minutes late. After some begging, he got on the teeter-totter.

The best way to describe Jim is to say he’s twice as heavy as I am. It took us a while to get adjusted.

At first I just sat there and let him do the work. Then, we tried to even it out. No good. I hung on for dear life while my body flew up to the ceiling.

Our final solution was to have him sit near the middle with me on the end doing all of the work.

Jim devised a plan to conceal his identity, so as not be seen teeter-tottering with me, and talked about the California surf — while hanging 10 on the teeter-totter.

Our replacements arrived a little early, and were as eager to take over as we were to get off. That is, I was eager. Jim was beginning to have fun. My legs felt like a couple of Slinkys.

Jim was sweet and treated me to breakfast.

We got married in October 1971, had two boys and are now grandparents.

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