The Ultimate Speed Date In Florida

Sometimes things don’t always go as planned and you just have to make the most of it. A few months back I had booked a week off from work to camp at Yosemite in August with a friend. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other intentions and canceled that possibility, leaving me with all of this free time and nowhere to go.

Thanks to the power of social media, I posted an update about my dilemma online and received several offers on last minute places to visit. Having less than 24 hours to book a new flight and change my itinerary, my Aunt Karin and Uncle Richard’s invitation to see the family in Florida became the most intriguing alternative. I hadn’t been down to Orlando since high school and the idea of relaxing with my relatives was just what I needed. It also helped that I had recently reconnected with an old high school friend who had been living in Tampa over the past decade. Once I let him know I’d be in his neighborhood within a matter of days, we decided now was as good a time as any to have our long overdue reunion.

The next few days seemed to fly by as my Florida family welcomed me with open arms. It was great catching up with the Aunt and Uncle and all of my cousins. They were gracious enough to spoil me at Universal and even had me kayaking at the beach one afternoon. After a few nights of family fun, I was excited to finally see my high school friend after all these years. We had only reconnected through social media days before the trip but oddly hit it off instantly, like we knew each other this entire time. He was the jock in high school winning wrestling meets and making a name for himself on the football field while I was the nerd always writing in my journal or active in the Art Club. We ran in different circles but definitely noticed each other throughout the years. And here we were, two decades later about to basically go on our first date a thousand miles away from home.

Since our time was limited, we knew we’d have to make the most of our weekend. The morning before we met consisted of me neurotically trying on every outfit in my suitcase and fixing my hair and makeup more times than I’d like to admit. I told myself that if he’s not as cute as I made him out to be or doesn’t seem as wonderful as I had envisioned, I would call my aunt to pick me up at the nearest gas station and that would be the end of my spontaneity. I was in high school all over again, but this time the nerd in me was stepping outside of her comfort zone.

My aunt had agreed to meet him at a local 7-Eleven off of Interstate 4 outside of their town to “do the exchange” so he wouldn’t have as far of a drive to come get me. As we waited for his silver Cadillac to pull up, my stomach was tied in knots. Why am I so nervous? What if this goes terribly wrong and I’m stuck with this guy two hours away from anyone I know? Do I hug him when we get out of the car? Do we fist bump? Give a handshake? What if we have nothing to talk about? Why am I so Nervous?

The moment had arrived and he pulled up next to our vehicle. As we got out and said our hellos, he greeted my aunt and cousin and assured them I was in good hands. I’m not sure how my aunt felt about leaving me with some random stranger I basically met on the Internet at a local convenience store, but there we were. A few days ago I had expected to be hiking in California at this time, but instead I was heading to Tampa with this handsome guy who hasn’t aged since high school and made me smile like a giddy teenager. We got our awkward hug out of the way and headed out towards Tampa. Our first stop was the auto parts store as he needed a new rotor for the car he was racing at East Bay that evening. I’ve definitely had worse locations for a first date and I felt pretty special he even came out of his way to get me on such a special night.

OK, so the date hadn’t officially started, but it was a funny preface to the day. He decided to take me to Ybor City because it was a fun town to walk around, check out the local shops and get a bite to eat. The only problem was that when we arrived, we were caught in a torrential downpour. We figured we were already there so we ran in the rain, through the puddles and made our way to a local brewery for lunch.

We couldn’t get over how much fun we were having, in spite of the fact that we were both soaking wet and hadn’t seen or really even known each other since we were teenagers. Because of the storm, the races were cancelled so plans quickly needed to be changed. His cousin was also in town to see him race so we all decided to meet up at a festival in Tarpon Springs as an alternative.

The rest of the day consisted of his cousin and friends joking that we were on the ultimate speed date. We had both already met the family and were carrying on like we knew each other forever so we figured we’d play up it up and move right onto the engagement and wedding if this was the ultimate speed date it was turning out to be. He went all out and surprised me with costume jewelry at one of the vendor booths just to make it official. That faux diamond encrusted plastic ring fit perfectly, like it was meant to be. That’s right; we were committed, to this joke.

The night continued with dancing to classic 60’s rock with his family and hundreds of other strangers which we pretended were all part of the wedding party. Before we could decide on where to go for the honeymoon, we ended the ridiculous night at his mother’s to pick up his 3-year-old daughter. I would never meet someone’s child so soon if we were actually dating, but this situation was just a crazy exception. When we first met, she scoped me out and sized me up, but luckily warmed right up to me. I had a nice brief visit with his parents and we all laughed about our extraordinary circumstances and how silly our day of ultimate speed dating had become. They were asking when the wedding was and I was already calling his mother “Mom” before we left for the evening. The next day we were all invited to my aunt and uncle’s for a cookout and we both figured, we’ve sped past everything else in this two day “relationship,” we might as well go to this cookout together and meet the rest of my family.

He fit right in as him and my uncle talked racing, while his daughter hit it off instantly with my little cousins. But I knew the bell was about to ring and our speed date was soon coming to an end. They had a two hour drive ahead of them and I was sad knowing I’d soon have to say goodbye. This weekend was crazy, but in such a good way. I’ve never officially done speed dating, but if this were just that, he definitely checked off all the boxes on my list.

I’m heading back home to New York tomorrow and who knows what will happen from here. We had a great time and if something more comes of it, we had an awesome experience to get things rolling. If we go our separate ways, I’m thankful I had the chance to meet a great guy who gave me one of the most memorable first dates in history. After all, life is all about taking chances. If you want it, go for it. If it’s not what you expected, at least you took the risk.