Minutes before my first lunch date with a man I met online, he called to cancel because he was hit by a bicycle and was in the emergency room at Roosevelt Hospital. I later called the E.R. to check on him, and a nurse said he was never there. Weeks after that, I heard about another woman with whom he used the same excuse: hit by a bike; in the E.R. Is it dater beware, or is there an obligation to be honest even online? — BETH ROSE FEUERSTEIN, LONG BEACH, N.Y.
While there is scant expectation of integrity in online dating (six feet tall? 35 years old? full head of hair?), the obligation of honesty persists even at JDate or Match.com. As does the duty not to be a goofball: can this guy not simply cancel? Must he concoct so baroque a lie — one so easily exploded? Has he no professional pride?
From my narrow, crackpot’s point of view (my favorite), the real harm here is not to you but to the many tens of thousands of New York City cyclists. This fellow promulgates the canard of the pedestrian-threatening bicycle. Average number of pedestrian deaths attributable to cyclists each year here? About one. (There were 11 between 1996 and 2005.) Yet in 2006 alone, cars killed 156 pedestrians (and 17 bicyclists) in New York City and injured more than 10,000 pedestrians (and more than 2,800 bicyclists) badly enough to be hospitalized.
The still greater tragedy? Some of the dead and wounded might have been men you could date, gents who would not invent ludicrous excuses but would stand you up honestly.
September 28, 2008, New York Times Sunday Styles (SOCIAL Q’S)
Five minutes before my first meeting with a man I had met on a dating Web site, he called to say that he couldn’t keep our date — he had just been hit by a bicycle and had landed in the emergency room. Something sounded off, so I called the hospital and was told that no such person was there. When I called him back, he insisted he was.
Several weeks later, I spoke with a woman who also had a date with this man, and he canceled — claiming he had just been hit by a bicycle. When I confronted him, he insisted that bike accidents aren’t so unusual. How would you handle this?
B.R.F., Long Beach, N.Y.
Poetic justice probably requires that you and your friend track down a bicycle-built-for-two and show your online Casanova what the inside of an emergency room really looks like.
But I have an even better idea: Stop communicating with him. This guy is a creep and a liar, probably married, and even worse, using seriously outdated pictures of himself in his online profile. Nothing good will come from continued engagement with him.
Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a perfect delivery system of eligible men and women. And what the online world offers in terms of increased volume and speed, it tends to subtract with its profusion of cads and game-players. Next time you find one, simply report him to the site’s complaint desk, and move along to the next guy.
I know it’s frustrating when you think you’ve met someone promising, but rehabilitating online frauds is not your job, and hoping that you will, through protracted interaction, will only lead to apoplectic seizures.
For my money, the Ethicist is a much better writer. And here, of course, the difference in quality is clear, given the same question.
Update: I caught this error on my very own, using something called my memory box, located in my brain. However, I just checked and Gawker did indeed beat me to this story: (link). That's what happens when you read the Sunday NYT across multiple days.