Kent is incapable of going on a good date.
He tries. For the last year, he has tried. Tinder and OK Cupid and even eHarmony for a bit, although the subscription rate was ridiculous. It doesn’t matter; his dates always go wrong.
There was the guy who showed up to dinner and said, “Sorry, I already ate, but it’s cool if you want to order something.”
There was the woman who ran into her ex and spent twenty minutes chatting with him while Kent just stood there.
There was the guy who took Kent to a carnival and had a meltdown over a ring toss game.
There was the woman who got up during a movie and whispered, “I’m going to the bathroom, be right back!” and never came back.
There was the guy who was late and kept texting excuses for over an hour before ultimately sending, “can’t make it, sorry, something came up.”
There was the woman who invited Kent to a house party and then spent the whole time ignoring him in favor of talking to other people, and then had the audacity to call the next day asking for a second date.
And now there’s this guy, Henry, the son of a friend of Kent’s great-aunt, which means Kent is honor-bound to give him a shot. But Kent already knows there won’t be a second date. Conversation is excruciating; Henry gives single-word answers to everything and barely elaborates. When their food arrives, Henry sends his plate back twice with cosmetic complaints. Kent talks about his job as a personal trainer and the night classes he’s taking to be a physical therapist, and halfway through, Henry takes out his phone and starts scrolling.
Kent endures another five minutes and three bites of his steak before he can’t take it. “I have to go to the bathroom,” he says abruptly, and flees for the men’s room.
Hidden in a stall, he grinds his teeth and wishes he was the sort of asshole who would ditch in the middle of a date and leave his companion to foot the bill. He also wishes he wasn’t afraid of what Great Aunt Ruth would say if he did that.
He just really wishes he had an excuse to cut the date short. He shoots off a text.
bad date? dude i told u to get off tinder
not tinder. blind date. son of a friend of aunt ruth or something.
oh shit. yeah ur stuck.
fuck u i’m in hell. can you call me in five minutes with some work emergency?
uh, no, ‘cause i’m at my niece’s bat mitzvah and my sister would kill me? she’s already glaring ‘cause i’m talking to you!
then what tf do i do???
suck it up.
no wait!!! carl told me about this app last week. i ignored him cause, u know, carl, but maybe u can try it? it’s called hinder. it’s like tinder but instead of finding ppl to date, u find ppl to CRASH ur date.
... that cant be a real thing.
nah i just checked the app store, it’s real. lmfao these reviews are hilarious.
Kent opens the app store on his phone and searches “Hinder.” There’s only one matching result. Hinder: We’ll ruin your date so you don’t have to.
Oh, what the hell, he’s desperate. He downloads it. The main menu is similar to all other dating apps he’s used, although he finds that he doesn’t get to choose a particular person to bust in on his date, he can only make a request. Apparently, it depends on availability. Whatever. Kent ticks as many preference boxes as he can. He hesitates when he gets to scenarios: Ex-partner, Ex-spouse, Spouse, Mistress, Friend, Other.
He checks everything. Again: he’s desperate. He’ll take someone pretending to be a jealous spouse if it gets him out this.
The last step is adding a photo of himself, so his date-crasher can recognize him. Kent takes an awkward selfie and posts it. He realizes too late that it’s obvious he’s sitting on a toilet in a bathroom stall.
He spends a total of ten minutes in the bathroom. When he gets back to the table, he’s pretty sure that Henry thinks he was taking the world’s biggest shit.
“Sorry,” he says. “What were we talking about again?” He honestly doesn’t remember.
Henry taps a few things on his phone and puts it aside, then reclaims his fork from his plate. “I don’t know.”
“Okay. Um.” Kent wracks his brain for something, anything. “Seen any good movies lately?”
Henry shrugs. “I don’t really go to the movies.”
“What about on Netflix?”
“I have Hulu.”
What Kent wouldn’t give for a bolt of lightning to strike him dead. “Well, I don’t have Hulu. I’ve thought about getting it, though. Can you recommend anything?”
Henry thinks about it. “Everything on there’s pretty good.” He takes a bite of broccoli.
Kent picks up his own fork and digs into his steak. The sooner he finishes, the sooner he can go.
He almost chokes when a loud voice suddenly shouts his name across the restaurant.
“Kent! Kent, you here?”
Kent chugs water to clear his throat, then turns around in his seat. There’s a tall man with broad shoulders and a long face trying to get past the hostess.
“No, no, I’m not want table,” the man says, “just need find—Kent!” He spots Kent and hurries over. “Kent, have to go now!”
Kent stares at him, mouth agape. Everyone in the restaurant is staring.
“Kent, come on, have to go! She’s have babies!”
Kent manages, “I... I don’t know—”
“Your dog! Remember? You ask me watch because she pregnant! She’s have babies right now! I try text and call but maybe you don’t get, so I come! Oh, sorry,” the guy adds, finally acknowledging Henry, who looks as befuddled as Kent feels. “Sorry, I know it’s date, but is important, you know?”
“Um,” Henry says.
“We go, right, Kent?” And then the guy turns fully towards Kent, his back to Henry, and gives Kent a big, meaningful wink. “Yes? We go now, for dog?”
Everything abruptly clicks. Kent shoots to his feet. “Yes. Yes, we should absolutely go. Henry, I’m sorry, but it’s um—it’s an emergency.” He digs through his wallet, thankful that he has cash with him, and puts a few twenties on the table. “I think that’ll cover it.”
Henry frowns. “I thought you had a cat?”
Kent is frankly shocked that Henry was listening to him. “Yeah, uh, I have a cat and a dog. And I guess I’m gonna have more dogs.”
“Thanks! Dinner was great, thanks for everything, see you!”
Kent grabs his jacket and pulls it on as he leaves the restaurant, with a total stranger hot on his heels. He doesn’t stop until they’re outside and halfway across the parking lot.
Only then does Kent turn to his rescuer. “I, uh, take it you answered my Hinder post?” he asks.
The guy grins. “Yes! I’m Alexei, nice to meet you.” He holds out his hand. “Sorry is confusing for you, I send message but you don’t respond, so I’m wing it.”
Kent laughs and shakes Alexei’s hand. “I’m Kent. Well, obviously. And don’t worry about it, you’re my hero. Thanks for saving me.”
“Is no problem!” Alexei keeps smiling, big and friendly. “I’m enjoy. Two months ago I’m start taking improv class for fun, you know? Join Hinder for practice, can be new character every time.”
That’s pretty genius, Kent thinks. “Well, the practice is paying off. You were really convincing.”
Alexei beams. “Is because story not so much lie. Pregnant dog is my dog, Darya. But she’s not have babies until maybe next month. Improv class say it’s good use little bit your life, easier for make up story on the spot.”
“Oh. Yeah, good trick. And congrats, I guess, for your dog.”
“Thank you! She’s very good girl, think she be great mama.” Alexei’s voice is full of pride. “You need me see you home?”
Surprise at the unexpected consideration makes Kent fumble. “No, I’m—I’m good. I drove. My car’s over there.” He points. “Do you need a ride?”
“No, I’m come with friends. We having dinner over there.” He points to a bar up the road, his expression turning bashful. “Actually I’m little bit rude, leave them suddenly. But I get notification and see you’re close by, and think you look like nice guy who don’t deserve bad date. You know?” His smile is embarrassed but earnest.
Kent’s face feels warm. This guy ditched his friends just to help him? “Well. Thanks.”
Alexei nods, still smiling. “Hope your next date go better. Go home safe, yeah?”
“Sure.” Kent waves after Alexei as he leaves, and then goes to his car. He opens the Hinder app and sees a message notification of Crash Accepted! on his post. It leads to Alexei’s profile, which just has his name, a counter for Dates Crashed (7) and a picture of him giving a big smile and a thumbs up.
There’s a banner prompt at the top, asking, Was your date successfully crashed? Kent selects YES, and Alexei’s Dates Crashed counter automatically ticks up to eight.
Kent grins, closes the app, and pulls up his earlier conversation with Jeff.
date officially over.
Jeff sends a thumbs up.
thanks for the hinder thing, it saved my ass.
someone showed up?
two words: tall & russian.
tell. me. everything.