He Just Couldn't Hold a Candle

Story Sent in by Cristen:

Fred asked me out to a certain restaurant for our first date. When I arrived, the hostess informed me that Fred was already there and was waiting for me in a party room that he had booked out. That was strange, but I followed the hostess to an area set away from the main dining hall.

Sure enough, in a private room with a table big enough for a dozen, Fred sat alone, facing the doorway. A red, heart-shaped, mylar balloon was tied to each chair. When I walked in, he stood up and embraced me.

The hostess left and I asked Fred, "Thanks… what's all this?"

He replied, "I wanted our first date to be something memorable. One thing led to another and I guess I might have gone a little overboard, but you'll love it. Wait until you see what I have planned for the main course!"

I sat down next to him, a bit creeped out, but he seemed sincere and awkward and dopey and harmless, and so I didn't see anything wrong with sharing a meal with him. We were in a busy restaurant, after all.

I sat down with him and he clasped my hands, then pressed his face to them and didn't say a word. I slipped out of his grasp and asked, "So, how was your day?"

We made smalltalk, a waiter came by, we ordered, and ultimately our food was delivered to the table. After the waiter left, Fred stood up before eating a bite and reached into a bag that sat aside his chair. He pulled out a handful of candles.

"I know this is corny," he said, "But I thought it would be nice. I don't know if they'd allow it in here, but we'll see."

He lit candle after candle, pulling a seemingly endless supply of them from his bag, and placed them up and down the table. Once about thirty of them were lit, he turned off the lights in the room and there we sat, in candlelight.

He clasped my hands again and rested his face on top of our fingers. I slipped away. He took my hands again. I slipped away once more and moved my chair away from him.

"Fred, you're very sweet, but this is a little much for a first date."

"I wanted it to be memorable," he said, and slid his chair closer to mine.

I stood up and said, "This is all just too fast for me. Can we get the lights back on?" I reached for them.

"No!" he yelled, far louder than was necessary, and a moment later, the waiter walked in and stopped short. I turned on the lights.

The waiter looked at both of us and said, "I'm sorry, you can't have candles in here. It's a fire hazard." He glanced up at the ceiling, where a smoke detector and a sprinkler system were attached.

Fred stood up and advanced on the waiter. He said, "We just wanted a romantic evening. There won't be any fires, I promise you."

The waiter said, "We have to get these candles out of here without setting off the system, so we can't blow them out. I'll get some help." The waiter turned and left the room. Fred barged after him.

I didn't see what happened between them, but I took one candle at a time, brought it to a corner as far away from the detector as I could, and blew them out close to the floor.

I had made it through a little less than half of them when Fred came back and saw what I was doing. He switched off the lights and approached me. He asked, "What are you doing? What about our candlelit dinner?"

I stood up and said, "I'm going home," and I left there that moment. I had had enough of him, and I felt bad for the waitstaff and restaurant.

Fred sent me an email with a single question mark.


  1. His loss. Good fire safety skills are admirable in a mate.

  2. I don't think he was actually such a bad date. He should have cleared the candle thing with the restaurant first, and his idea of what women find romantic apparently comes from 1950s sitcoms (heart balloons, candlelight, hand holding... all he needs is red roses and violin music to complete the stereotype). But being hopelessly old-fashioned isn't a big deal compared to the true crazies we usually see on ABCotD.

  3. ^ Andrew: People who go overboard like this scream desperation. BIG turn off.

  4. My first answer for how to deal with the snuffed-candle smoke would be to pop cups over them, but I'm not sure how one would then smuggle the smoke-filled cups out of the area.

    Yes, this amazingly minor detail will haunt me until I work out a good answer.

  5. I know she said candles, but all I'm picturing are tealights. And if that was the case, then blowing them out one by one really wouldn't cause much smoke at all. Definitely not enough to set off an alarm.

  6. I originally pictured birthday candles and thought he was going to put them all in her food. Kinda disappointed now.


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