by Kevin Burton
When we started a beep baseball team in Wichita, my then girlfriend-now wife Jeannette was issued uniform number 5.
Why? Glad you asked.
It’s anniversary week with the Burtons. Ten years ago yesterday we tied the knot after five years of dating. I’ve talked about this from several angles, told a lot of stories. But I have never mentioned how Jeannette and I first met, until now. It’s something you would never guess.
Some background. When it came to dating I was beyond pessimistic, very close to fatalistic.
So I have taken a job in Wichita but I am back in Ohio for the weekend to go through my stuff and take some of it back to Kansas.
I’m listening to the radio and a commercial comes on. It is for E-Harmony, or some similar dating site, can’t remember now. It’s 2007.
I hear this commercial and think, “OK, look, one last chance. I am going to force myself to think positively about meeting someone. If it doesn’t happen this calendar year, I quit. I give up altogether.”
That was stupid I know, but that’s what I said.
Spin forward maybe two months and a friend of mine finds out about a singles event being held in Wichita. I had told her about my silly now-or-never quest.
She said to me “There’s this speed dating thing going on later this month. If you are really being positive, this is something you would do.”
“You’re right,” I agreed, dismissing the idea out of hand, secure in the knowledge that she would forget about it.
In a few days I got an e-mail, forwarded. “This is the speed dating thing I was telling you about. You can sign up here…”
Another week or so. “Did you sign up? Get on it. You said you were thinking positive…”
I signed up because she was right. I would try. I figured at the end of the year I could add speed dating to the list of things that didn’t work.
Hey I told you, close to fatalistic.
So I went to the event. Here’s how it worked. There was a group of males and a group of females, matched by age. There were 11 numbered tables. The females sat at a table and the men rotated among the tables.
Your speed date was seven minutes long. When that was over a bell would ring and the men had a minute or so to get to the next table.
Before the event the males all got a card indicating which table they should start at. My card was number five.
A woman was already seated at table five. It was a few minutes before the event officially started, but I introduced myself.
“Hello there, I’m Kevin. I see you’re number five and I’m number five. What do you say we blow this popsicle stand and get a real party started,” I said, fueled by Diet Coke, brimming with confidence.
No wait, that was the after-the-fact joke. I didn’t really say that. Sounds good though doesn’t it?
Surely you’ve figured out by now, Jeannette was the woman at table five. Speed dating is how we met. This answers the beep baseball question too: She was number 5 because both of us were fives on speed dating night.
They gave us notebooks to write in but I already had a notebook because I always have a notebook. Jeannette didn’t fill it up for me though. She had very short answers.
She had her arms folded across her chest in the universal “don’t approach me” signal. I knew the signal well, I use it a lot. This was like a bad radio interview. I couldn’t get her to say much.
“I almost backed out,” Jeannette said later. “I was out of my comfort zone.”
From the dating standpoint, I was too. But hey I could do interviews all night! In fact that was Jeannette’s impression.
“Man it seems like he just interviewed me,” she recalls thinking.
I would later say that she wouldn’t talk on “table five night” but hasn’t stopped talking since.
At the end of the night you went to a website and told the organizers which of the speed daters you liked. In cases where both said yes, they put you in contact with one another.
We communicated on the event site for a while before exchanging phone numbers and braving a first real date.
The rest, as they say, is wedded bliss history.
I see Jeannette’s number 5 Wichita Sonics and USA Legends jerseys hanging in the closet, I marvel at all that has taken place and can’t stop smiling.