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Couples give fast romance a shot on Quick Date night

Posted: Sunday, December 14, 2003

FAIRBANKS - Love at first sight may be rare, but 44 people took three minutes to do some wishful thinking about just that in a dimly lit ballroom last week.

It's not a lot of time to find a future spouse, but it's enough time to determine if you'd like to see someone again, said Michelle, a woman with blond-streaked, curly hair.

"It's better than the bar scene, and you can drink," she said while sipping on a drink at the bar at Pike's Waterfront Lodge. "I guess it's the new way of meeting people."

Michelle was one of 17 women participating in the second Quick Date event for Fairbanks. Speed dating emerged several years ago in the Lower 48 as a way for single people between the ages of 25 and 40 to meet. The Fairbanks event was organized through an Internet dating Web site, Cupid.com.

The rules for the event include not giving out last names, phone numbers or e-mail addresses. Most participants didn't wish to be identified for various reasons. For some, it was privacy issue, or they didn't want an estranged husband to find out.

Participants sat down for three minutes of conversation. At the sound of a whistle, the men got up and moved to the next table to spend three minutes with someone else.

Tom, 38, a heavy equipment operator with a nicely trimmed black mustache, not only went to the event looking to meet new people, but because "there's always that possibility" of meeting someone special.

"It's kind of uncomfortable to meet somebody that you don't know. A lot of times you get the same answer, 'I'm seeing somebody,' or, 'I'm busy,"' he said.

But sitting two single people down at a table together is a good ice-breaker, he said.

Tom said he had debated whether to compile a list of questions to ask each woman, but opted instead to let the conversation flow.

George, on the other hand, had a set of questions, including asking if a woman smoked and what she did for a living.

"Religion has to work," he said before heading off to take his turn at the tables. "You can't put a Catholic and a Jew together."

That comment left the rest of the men waiting their turn shaking their heads.

"It's guys like him that give us a bad name," said Patrick, 32, an aircraft mechanic waiting in the "man pool" for 30 minutes before his turn at the tables. He remarked how the gender ratio, 27 men and 17 women, was indicative of Fairbanks.

It wasn't all strangers meeting for the first time. Some, like Jen, 33, sat at the table with two men she had dated before and another man who's a friend.

Jen and four other woman huddled together after the event, comparing notes on their score cards and giggling. They rated each of their quick dates by deciding whether they'd be willing to see the person again.

The participants will go to the Web site and post their results. A list of interested people will be e-mailed to each participant shortly afterward and the rest is left to fate.

Richard, a young-looking 30-year-old who said it's hard for him to find time to meet women while traveling between Fairbanks and his job as safety specialist on the trans-Alaska oil pipeline in Valdez, had a list of at least eight women he'd like to contact later.

"I just hope I turn up on that many people's list," he said.



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