WEST LOOP — With Winter fast approaching and the COVID-19 pandemic still growing despite efforts to ignore it, many local eateries are hoping heartier outdoor-dining structures will keep diners coming. While on a first date in a recently erected “dining pod” outside The Publican restaurant, Dan Handen, 25, and Heather Westbaum, 24, found themselves not only running out of things to talk about, but also oxygen to breathe.
The couple, who met two weeks ago on the Hinge dating app, decided to meet up for the first time at The Publican, a popular choice for dates where one or both parties want to prove they know what “farm to table” means. After receiving their entrees, the couple was left to dine in the dining pod and quickly ran out of conversational subjects and air.
After covering such topics as “where did you go to school,” “what music do you like,” and “Queen’s Gambit was good, right” the couple began to feel the effects of waning interest in each other and increased carbon dioxide in their bodies.
“They seemed like they were having a good time at first,” said Robert Swain, 38, a server at Publican, “but when I came to take away their entree plates I could tell they were really having a tough time keeping the date going. The woman even had her head down on the table! I’ve seen some harsh rejections before, but ouch, man...ouch.”
The would-be couple reportedly struggled to keep engaged in each other and conscious during their nearly hour and half long first date inside the plastic dome, designed by local engineering firm OutDr Designs. The firm has said their dome designs are safeguarded against the spread of the virus and accidentally asphyxiating the occupants.
“Our domes are rated for up to six occupants to have plenty of air for a meal, but can’t guarantee the domes can handle a real stinker of a date,” said Greta Van Hallen, Director of Marketing at OutDr, “We can promise our domes are safe to a point, but we can’t protect anyone from the effects of long-winded anecdotes, prolonged bluster, or if someone brings up their bad politics and sucks all the air out of the dome, metaphorically or literally.”
Despite the lackluster first meeting, Handen and Westbaum are reported to have left the restaurant together in an ambulance, their faces reportedly “blue, possibly with desire.”