Sunday, February 27, 2011

The No Show

I suppose my dating life couldn't be complete without having at least one guy stand me up. Another reason I'm not so big with the online dating scene...

08/2010: The No Show

I was pleasantly surprised when I received a message from Connor* in my inbox. The man was gorgeous, and just as big a goofball as me. Spectacular! We sent a few messages back and forth before finally exchanging numbers, and texted for maybe an hour before actually speaking on the phone. Judging by the length of our phone convos, we were getting along swimmingly. No awkward pauses between topic changes, lots of laughing, I was becoming smitten with the fellow.

Our phone convos continued every day for a couple of weeks, with the occasional text throughout the day. We had tried to get together once, but last minute scheduling issues on both our ends wound up getting in the way of our plans. Shortly after that, though, our conversations became slightly more brief. Texting through out the day became less common. A tiny red flag started to rise ever so slightly in my mind, but I didn't think too much of it. Maybe he was just busy with work?

During what would be one of our last phone conversations, we finally set up a time to meet. We would meet at Mio Sushi in Beaverton after work. I was actually excited to meet this guy. We seemed to click in every way, and I was anxious to see if the chemistry would be the same in person. Connor and I spoke briefly the day before we were scheduled to meet, which wound up being the last time I would speak to him.

I decided I didn't want to bring an extra pair of clothes to work to change into, so I just dressed a bit on the casual/fancy side. "Looking forward to seeing you this evening!" I texted him in the afternoon. No response. The little red flag in my head grew to a more medium sized flag, and rose a little higher on it's flagpole. Again, I didn't think too much of it. At the end of work, I sent another text simply saying "On my way!". Silence in return. My mind started to race on the way to Mio. Was his phone off? Did he forget? Did he change his mind? Nooo he couldn't have changed his mind. We had too much fun in our telephonic adventures! All we did was laugh!

I finally arrived at Mio. I was about 15 minutes early, so I grabbed a table for two outside (since it was freakin gorgeous out), and waited. And waited. Sipped my water, and waited some more. Checked my phone....five minutes had passed. Ugh. I continued to wait. Checked my phone again. Three minutes had passed. My heart started racing. I still had not heard from Connor. Our meeting time came and passed. I waited another ten minutes before making one last, ditch effort. I called Connor's phone, only to go straight to voice mail.

It was official. I was stood up.

Thankfully, I still had my sunglasses on, so the people around me couldn't see the tears welling up in my eyes. Yes, I was starting to cry. Why? BECAUSE I FREAKING GOT STOOD UP. I couldn't stop thinking "How could this happen to me??" However, I was not just going to get up an leave. Oh no. I had planned on having sushi, and dag nabbit I was going to have it with or without this douche bag. I flagged down the waitress and ordered an obscene amount of sushi to go. She, still assuming I was going to be eating this with a second person, was gracious enough to supply me with a second pair of chopsticks. This did not help the situation, but I let it slide. I paid for my meal, grabbed my stuff, and speed walked to my car. Thankfully, the roommates weren't home when I arrived. I went right upstairs, sat on my bed and at my sushi at an extremely unhealthy pace. Shortly after, I let my dogs out, got in my stretchy pants (aka my pj's) and went to bed. I was emotionally drained, and didn't feel like dealing with whatever the world wanted to throw at me for the rest of the evening.

Looking back on it now, I should have nipped it in the bud right when he started calling me less. But, such is life.You live, you learn. Besides, the next time it happened to me (The Blind Date), I just laughed about it. Anyone who stands someone up for a date is just a giant bag of douche. And a coward. Which is probably why they are single to begin with :-)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Poem: Part Deux

Another lyrical masterpiece brought to you by J-Rock. This one is more just an imaginary tale...but I can see aspects of pretty much all my bad dates in a lot of the examples given.

Dates From the Darkside

I've gone on dates, and boy they suck.
These boys I date, I have no luck.
So here we go, lets check the list,
Of mostly boys, I would not kiss...

The Rapper / Marky Mark
You can shine my car, you can shine my bling.
Wax my chest, it ain't no thang.
Why you trippin, just buy me lunch!
I'm white and fly, from the funky bunch!

The Granola Crunchin Hippie Tree Hugger
I love the birds, I love the trees.
Give me patchouli, and my guitar please.
Why do we fight, this war should cease,
Make love not war, all hippies want peace!

The Preppy Metrosexual
My brows are plucked, my hair is rad.
Oily skin, just makes me mad.
Seacrest out, is what I say,
My clothes are pressed, do I sound gay?

The Gothic Vampire
My clothes are black, my skin is white.
I'll drink your blood, I love the night.
I keep a bat, as my pet,
So back off bitch, I'll bite your neck!

The Geek
Revenge of the Nerds, is my movie of choice,
I snort when I laugh, I have a wheeze in my voice.
Where's my inhaler, I'm no good in the sack,
I'm just a wussy, no bone in my back!

The Sloth
I live in a cellar, it's my humble abode.
My friends name is Chunk, I like Rocky Road.
I smell and I'm ugly, I'm telling the truth.
By the way woman, I eat Baby Ruth!

The Creeper
I'll stare at you weird, I'll cause you such fright,
All through the date, and through the night.
I'll give you the willies, I'll drive you so mad,
When this date is over, I'm sure you'll glad!

Mr. Right

So here I wait, for Mr. Right.
Where is he at, he"s not in sight.
It's all good, I know he's there.
I'm sure he's waiting, for me somewhere....

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The One Hour Date

I decided to take my chances and go on a first date on Valentine's Day. Can't say I'd take that risk again.

02/2011: The One Hour Date

 Colin* was my highest match on the online dating site I was on. I had read his profile once or twice, and we did seem to have quite a bit in common. Call me old fashioned, but I don't like making the first contact. If a guy wanted to talk to me, they would. Colin was one such guy. We exchanged messages a few times over a couple of weeks, and eventually exchanged numbers.

He had tried to set up a time to get drinks a couple times, but unfortunately I had plans each time. Finally, on a Friday, we settled on meeting for drinks the following Monday. That weekend, I also happened to decide I was done with the online dating scene and closed my profile out. It wasn't until Sunday that I realized what holiday happened to fall on that Monday....Valentines Day. Honestly, it didn't bother me. I was just worried wherever we went, we'd be surrounded by the lovey-doviest of couples being disgustingly doting and feeding each other with their hands.

We settled for Paddy's Pub at 8. I decided I would be clever and take the MAX down. The Yamhill stopped right in front of the bar, and I wouldn't have to deal with parking, since I figured it would probably be pretty slammed downtown. I arrived at my destination a half hour early. Slightly embarrassed, I texted Colin of my timing snafu, and grabbed a booth. The place was DEAD. There was a group of four by the door, a couple at the bar, and a man in the booth in front of me waiting for someone. I couldn't help but hope that perhaps he, too, was awkwardly early for a first date. Alas, his lady friend arrived and chatted like they knew each other for years.

I continued to wait, sipping my water and watching the results from the Blazer game, until exactly 8 o' clock. In walked Colin, right on cue. He came over and explained he didn't read my text until he arrived, and we shared possibly the most awkward hug of my dating career. I'm a pretty friendly person, and I have no problem greeting with a hug. I'm guessing, he was not as comfortable with such greetings. The hug was comparable to an eight grade dance. Probably a good foot or so between us, with arms almost straight out on his end. After our hug experiment, he had a seat. We looked at each other, and smiled. Not a word was said, until I did the dreaded nod while saying "yeah...." That is a maneuver I have come to hate, probably because I've had it happen all to often. You run out of things to say, and there is nothing left to do but just nod your head slowly, as if you are accepting of the fact that this date has gone to hell, and say "yeah...." just to fill the air with words.

We started to talk about the most absolute generic first date questions. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to high school? Do you have any siblings? It was like pulling teeth trying go have a conversation with Colin. The waiter came to save me from my misery, and asked if we would like to order anything to drink. I ordered a glass of wine, Colin ordered nothing. I found this a bit odd. After all, he did ask me out for "drinks." I had fallen under the impression that "drinks" is code for "alcoholic beverages." The waiter came back with my "drink," we each ordered a salad, and continued our almost mind numbing conversation.

Colin had mentioned he had gone to Seattle with a friend in his previous messages. "So how was Seattle with your friend?" I asked. "Good." he replied, and dug right back into his salad. I looked around confused. I asked a more open ended question. "So....why were you up there?" He finished chewing, replied it was for work, and took another bite of salad. I eventually got out of him that he worked for a toy store, and he had gone up to Seattle to see about possibly getting some new inventory. It was starting to feel like I was interrogating the man over dinner. The waiter came by one more time to see if Colin wanted a "drink," to which he declined. I had almost chugged my wine to make it through the date, and had considered ordering another, but ultimately decided that was a tad on the un-classy side. The entire time, I couldn't help but wonder to myself..."This is my highest, possible match?"

While he was a nice guy, it was just going nowhere fast. I was chatting up a storm, and he was enjoying his salad a little too much, while occasionally laughing at my ramblings. After about three more of the awkward "yeah...." nods, and what felt like two or three hours, I told Colin I had to head home and get to bed early, since I had a meeting the next morning. This was true, actually, but I was happy to use it as an escape route. It turned out we closed the joint down, since the bartender and the waiter were the only two left in the pub when we left. We shared "eighth grade dance hug" number two as we left, and I headed for the MAX station. I figured, since it wasn't too hoppin downtown and the pub had no one left that it was probably pretty late. I checked my phone.

It was 9:06.

The date was barely over an hour long. I chuckled to myself. About a half hour later, I sent Colin a courtesy text, thanking him for dinner. He said he had a nice time, and would have offered to take me to my car, but he had to go take some pictures. While he had mentioned earlier, after my what seemed like hours of questioning, that he was into photography, he never said what kind. I didn't respond to his text, headed home and called it a night.

Ultimately, Colin was a nice guy. And who knows, maybe he's just a quiet guy. But if I can't even give the guy a hug without feeling like I have popped his personal bubble, and possibly scarred the man for life, I don't think it's gonna go any further.

*name changed to protect identity

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Cult

I had a wonderful first date with this gentleman. Went to Saturday Market, ate some delicious sushi, played a couple games of pool. Of course I agreed for a second date! Too bad it was doomed from the get go...

08/2010: The Cult

Matt* and I really hit it off our first date. We had a great time, and I was really looking forward to our next date. We decided to grab dinner after work one day. Usually, when I have plans after work, I like to bring an extra pair of clothes to change into. I can only handle looking so professional for so long before I just want to hop into my stretchy pants and call it a night. However, I decided to wear one of my more "I may have just come from work but I could totally wear this randomly any other day of the week (even though I totally wouldn't)" outfits. Basically, a gray top, black skirt, and black pumps. Added a nice little silver chain and a black flower clip in my hair, I was feelin it.

I arrived to our dinner destination, Bugatti's in Beaverton. I had been there a few times before with the fam. The food is always delicious, and they have a freaking great happy hour. Matt arrived shortly after me, and when I saw him walk through the door, I had to try my hardest to hold back laughter. First off, at 6'5", he was hard to miss regardless. Second, he chose the exact same color palette as myself. Exact same shade of gray top, black pants, and black shoes.

We were twins.

I made a small joke regarding how we looked like we may be part of some cult, which he didn't seem to keen on. Over some awkward small talk, we looked over the menu. He took a couple quick glances, and had made up his mind. "So what did you decide on?" I asked. "Same thing I get everywhere else. Fettuccine Alfredo." This piqued my interest, since you don't hear too often that someone gets pretty much the same order every Italian place they go. Turned out, he was on a hunt to find the best Fettuccine Alfredo. I could respect that, since a couple years prior, I had been on the hunt to find the best chocolate cake in Portland. (Turned out...all the places I went, Costco PWND them) "Oh, and where as the best been? Don't say Olive Garden!" I joked. He just looked at me. " is Olive Garden." I couldn't help it. I laughed.

Now, I am by no means a pasta, or general food expert at all. But I know when it comes to Olive Garden, of ALL the restaurants I've been to, they rank pretty low for awesome pasta. After my laughter subsided, I apologized and wished him luck on his order here. We both ordered a glass of wine, and chatted for a bit, with the awkward tension still hovering above us. Finally our order came. I was actually quite curious about his opinion about the dish in front of him. Lo and behold, while he said it was good, it was no match for Olive Garden. I chuckled to myself, and enjoyed my food.

After we ate, we decided to get some dessert. There happened to be a Cold Stone in the area, so we got in my car and headed for it. Still feeling like we should be going door to door and telling people of the Hale Bop comet and how they should all come wear sneakers with us, we walked into the ice creamery. I noticed we  got some strange looks from the kids working behind the counter. I can't say I blamed them. We made our selection, and one of the boys behind the counter asked who was paying. I looked at Matt, who looked at me. We stood there for a minute, before he finally opted to pay. I stood their, watching the girl mash my ice cream together, hoping this date would make a turn for the better.

Since the weather was nice, we ate our ice cream outside. We sat on opposite sides of a little table, and shared awkward small talk. I'm pretty sure my body language said "Please stay over there, this is just getting weird." Matt apparently wasn't fluid in body language, and made a big to-do about getting out of his chair, pulling out the chair next to mine, and plopping himself down. I laughed nervously a bit to myself, and continued to shove my ice cream into my mouth, as to make less small talk.

Once we were done, it was still light and nice out, and he asked if I would like to go for a walk. I couldn't think of an excuse to say no quick enough, so I said yes. We hopped back in my car, and he directed me to a disc golf / walking park by Washington Square. I had driven by this place countless times, but never knew it was there. We got out, and started our journey down the path. I naturally walk at a fairly fast pace, even in my heels. Double that with the fact I was feeling dreadfully weird with this entire second date situation, I was walking pretty quickly, holding the hand of a guy that I had lost absolutely all interest in. He finally tried to slow me down, pointing out we had no where to be. I laughed and said "Oh, I'm just a fast walker! I can't help it!" Really, I was just thinking the faster I walked this long ass path, the quicker I could take him back to his car and we could be done with this fiasco.

We continued to walk when we came to a fork in the path. One way looped back to where we came, another went on even farther. Luckily, I happened to be getting a blister, so we choose to loop back. Now, I'm not sure how this came up in conversation, but we had started to talk about something, and he made the statement "Yes, I am a man, I have a penis." It was at this point I decided I never wanted to see this man again. I picked up my hurried pace back to my car, and drove him back to his vehicle. I parked next to his, we shared an awkward good bye, and I quickly drove myself home.

Whether he was just having a bad day, or the cult joke right at the beginning threw him off, that was not the same guy I had the awesome first date with a few days earlier. All I know, is it made me want to drink the Kool-Aid, and that can't be a good sign.

*name has been changed to protect identity

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Blind Date

The following story is why I am very wary on being set up with gentlemen by my friends, and have sworn off blind dates entirely.

01/2011: The Blind Date

My friend Charlotte* had been out at a bar in her neck of the woods, while I was enjoying a quiet night in with the pups. After my lazy evening, I headed to bed. At around 1:15am, my phone started beeping at me. I groggilly reached over to see what all the racket was about. I opened my new text inbox to see two new messages from Charlotte. She had found me a man.

"I've got the perfect guy for you. I'm setting you up on a blind date." The first message read. I blinked a few times trying to make sure I read it right. Before I had time to really gather what was going on, two more messages came. First was a picture of this mystery man. Second, a description: "His name is Ryan*, he's an environmental consultant, and he thinks you're really pretty." Granted, it was dark and my eyes hadn't adjusted to the brightness of the phone, but all I could really get from the photo was a bunch of lasers, and a silhouette of a man. I was somehow able to gather all my energy to text back an "ok," and drifted back to sleep.

I texted Charlotte the next day about how this was all going to go down, if she even remembered. Did she give him my number? What was going on? I didn't hear back from her regarding it, so I figured she just got tipsy and didn't remember trying to set me up with a random stranger in a bar.

Flash forward almost three weeks. I'm sitting at my desk at work, trying not to rip my hair out (it was a particularly stressful week) when I get a text from an unknown number. "Hey, this is Ryan. I think your friend is trying to set us up." I read it, and went back to work, since I had a lot of stuff to do. He texted again. "How are you?" Again, I read it, and resumed working. About five minutes later, I got another text. This one from Charlotte asking me why I hadn't texted him back. I finally gave in and texted Ryan back, and we did so sporadically for the rest of the afternoon. A couple days later, the very sporadic texting resumed. He claimed to be a very busy guy, hence why it was like pulling teeth just trying to have a conversation with him via text. I said that was fine, and if he was interested in getting together to let me know.

Another couple weeks go by, and it was a Friday night. Ryan texted me, asking if I would like to do something that weekend. I let him know I happened to be free and that would be great. He started to make it sound like he may want to get together that evening, before he disappeared and didn't respond to one of my responding texts. The next evening, we decided to get drinks. He asked where I would like to go. I really don't know too many places, since I haven't really gone bar hopping or anything, so I brought up the two places I do know and usually have a good time at: Rock Bottom and Thirsty Lion. Ryan didn't like either of these. In fact, he didn't like going downtown. I could respect that, since I know that's not really everyones scene. He mentioned he was going to be having dinner with friends at this little place in North East, and we could meet there. "Sure, if you don't mind me crashing your party, haha" I responded.

A half hour went by. No response. "So...when should I head out? haha" I texted him. After about another half hour, I started to wonder if I misunderstood him, and he wanted me to head out earlier. I decided to get in my car and head that direction. As I got on the freeway, he finally responed:

"Whats so funny?"

I don't know about all of you, but sometimes I add the proverbial "haha" at the end of my texts, to let them know that whatever I'm saying is being said in a friendly / semi joking manner. Apparently, Ryan didn't believe in that. I let him know I was just slightly confused on when to head out, but that I was on the road to meet him. He then said his friends had changed their mind and they were going to go have Thai food for dinner instead. He asked if it would be ok to meet at the Doug Fir afterwards. I said that'd be fine, and to let me know when he was there and I would head over. He then asked if I could tell him what I looked like, so he would know who he would be looking for (ironically enough, he added a "haha" at the end of that text.) I told him what I was wearing, and sent him one of my pics.

I drove around for a bit longer, just enjoying the drive, then wound up heading to my friend Lindsay's* place for a bit. She lives right near downtown, so I figured it would work perfectly. I could hang out with her and have a drink at her place, and then once I would get the text from Ryan, I would head to the Doug Fir. I got to Laura's around 9:30ish. I left her place just before midnight.

I never heard from Ryan.

I literally almost couldn't stop laughing. I had been blown off by a blind date. I texted Charlotte the next day to let her know of her poor match-making skills. I don't know of she ever texted him to find out what the hell happened. I just deleted his number from my phone and went on like nothing ever happened. Because...well...nothing ever did. At least I had a good time at Lindsay's watching an American Iron Chef marathon (the original is WAY better of course) and setting up her microwave my friends and I got her for Christmas :-)

*names have been changed to protect identities

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Poem

Courtesy of J-Rock.
Inspired by The Dishwasher Story


So here I am, goin on a date,
to have some fun, to find a mate.

I get in my car, and go downtown.
Forgot my cash, and began to frown.

I need to park, I need to pay,
Now I'm sad, I have to say.

I figured it out, so here I go,
Up to his place, I'm ready to flow.

So he calls his mom, he calls his sis.
He's building a bookcase, now I'm pissed.

I cleaned his pots, I cleaned his pans.
Wore an apron, with soapy hands!

We ate a salad, there was no steak,
And then he made me, clean his plate!

This guy is a tool, he makes me sick,
but here I stay, to watch a flick.

I try to be nice, I plan my escape:
Gee I'm tired, thanks for the date!

I run to my car, I speed away.
A horrible ending, to my day.

Mr. Right, you don't exist.
I'm going to bed, I just got dissed.

Peace Bitches!


Feeling artsy? Want to write a poem about my awesomely bad dates? Maybe I'll have a competition, and the winner will get a free coffee or something. Or I will take THEM on a really bad date.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The "Ass" Man

Not all of my dates have been via online dating websites. I have actually met men in bars. The only thing is...they seem to be just as odd as the online guys...

12/2010: The "Ass" Man

You ever have one of those work weeks, where when the end of it finally arrives you just want to go out and have anywhere between one to eight drinks? There was a weekend in December where that happened to me. My friend Charlotte* and I decided to grab drinks at this little place in North Portland, and then headed for the Boiler Room to watch some awesomely bad karaoke. At the time, Charlotte was in a relationship, but was a terrific wingman. She would strike up a conversation with a man, discover he was single, then pretty much toss him in my lap and wish me luck.

While watching someone literally MURDER Billy Idol "Rebel Yell", a gentleman happened to curtsy to a woman while he passed with his beverage. This caught the eye of Charlotte and myself, since it was rare to meet a man who would even say "excuse me" in a bar when he bumped into someone, yet alone bow in a graceful manner towards them. She approached him about this maneuver, while I let my ears bleed into my beverage. They danced briefly, before she headed him in my direction.

I introduced myself, "Hi, I'm Alison, one L". You may laugh that I specified this, but you have no idea how often my name is misspelled. For some reason, I decided to try and use my constant correction of name spelling as a line. "Hi, I'm Casey*, one S, cause two would make me an ass" he replied. Since I was slightly intoxicated, I found this a bit on the witty side. We continued to talk, when I discovered he went to University of Washington...aka he was a Husky. I happen to be an Oregon Duck fan, who happen to be bitter rivals of the Huskies. Upon hearing this fact, I quoted my favorite anti-Husky shirt: "You know, Ted Bundy was a Husky." And how did he reply? "Well, you know us Huskies like to go big or go home. So if you're going to be a serial killer, you may as well go all out."

How I didn't run away at this alone, I still have no idea. I blame the alcohol. Again, I found it witty.

We danced for a bit to some terrible singing, and I wound up putting my number in his iPhone. I should also mention, that to try and impress me, he said he worked for Apple. I later told Charlotte I figured he just worked for the Mac Store. (Turned out, I was totally right. He managed a Mac Store at the mall by my house.)

About two weeks later, while I'm house sitting for some family friends, I get a call from a Washington number. It's Casey. I was surprised he even hear from him, since I figured he's be too drunk to even remotely remember meeting me. (it was his birthday the night we met, and he was at least five sheets to the wind). We set up a time to get brunch the first weekend of the new year, and texted occasionally after that.

He made reservations at Mother's Bistro in downtown Portland. I had never been there, but always wanted to. I hate parking downtown, but luckily enough, there is a pay-to-park lot right across the street from the bistro. I saw him waiting outside (I was about 10 minutes early), parked my car, and went to the self serve pay area to pay for my spot. I slid my card in, the screen said error. I tried again, error. I must have stood in front of that machine for about three minutes, each time it giving me an error. Now, I usually pride myself on being able to finagle those machines to do what I want them to. This one, no such luck. Not to mention, I could feel Casey watching me from across the street, with a look of "WTF is her problem?"

I finally gave up and went to meet Casey standing in front of the restaurant. I explained my pay-to-park issues, and he walked me back across to try and help me. There was an older man there at that point, who had absolutely no problem getting his card to work. I started to get frustrated, when Casey took my card, slid it once, and it worked just fine. Embarrassed, I took my parking ticket, placed it in my car, and headed off to brunch.

We made the usual small talk, asked the generic first date questions..."Where did you go to school?", "Where did you grow up?", "What do you do for a living?". It became pretty apparent there was absolutely no chemistry. Not to mention, he forgot I was a Duck fan. I should clarify, I'm not the rabid fan who would rather die than see the Beavers, Huskies or Cougars win a game. If any of them happened to be playing the Ducks, though, I'm going to route for Uof O of course. So, that made conversation slightly awkward from that point on.

I ordered an omelette, which happened to have full cloves of roasted garlic in it. Inside, I was doing a little happy dance, since I knew I could use this to fight him off in case he went for a kiss. But, just to be on the safe side, I pointed this out vocally. "Oh wow...I didn't realize this had full cloves of garlic in it. I'll be able to fight off vampires with this stuff!" While we ate, I asked him about his "Casey with one S because two would make me an ass" line, since I had never met a Casey with two S's. He claimed to not remember ever saying that, but said he specified the spelling since he actually did work with a Casey with two S's, and figured he'd try and be clever. I can't knock him, since I pulled the "one L" line.

After we finished our awkward brunch, I offered him gum. He replied stating his dentist actually recommended he not chew gum, since his jaw were unusually strong. I didn't ask him to go into any greater detail. He walked me back to my car and asked if I had any plans for the next few hours, since I had a surprise birthday party to go to that evening. I said I should probably get back to my dogs at home, but thanked him for the nice time. As I got in my car, he wandered past the passenger side of my car, almost seeming lost. He then mumbled to himself, and awkwardly turned around and headed back towards the restaurant. I sped home immediately, never to hear from the "ass" man again.

*names changed to protect identities