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The Perfect Line
or, Don't Just Stand There, Do Someone

by Daphne Uviller

I have no patience for people who lament how hard it is to find dates in New York -- or in any big city. Lower your standards, folks, and enjoy the scenery! I'm not suggesting, by any means, that you compromise your ideals when it comes to a relationship, but for a first date? Please. At worst, the evening (or morning or afternoon) will make a great story. But how do you secure said date?

Believe it or not, to really exploit your city's dating potential, a good bet is to stand around and wait. Think back to the first days of college when you waited on one line to pick up your ID, then on another for your meal card. Universities know that lifelong friends are made while standing endlessly in endless lines.

Never to be outdone, New York City has the best lines and waiting rooms in the world. For beginners, there are the universal queue locales, but enhanced by NYC's colorful population: the DMV, jury duty, your morning coffee place and airport check-in lines (even better, the line you wait in when your flight has been cancelled: nothing fosters bonds like commiseration). Is the person in front of you cute, ringless and age-appropriate? Start chitchatting. The only way to make this or any city work for you is to show up and speak up.

In New York, the most extreme waiting area in which to meet people is the subway. Hear me out! You're not going to just turn to the guy next to you and start talking. No, you're going to stake out, over a period of weeks or even months, the people who are on your route, those who stand on the same part of the platform at the same time as you each morning. Check out what book he's reading, what newspaper. Which section does he read first? You can learn a lot about him before your first conversation. (NB: if you're staking out a woman and she thinks you're creepy, she'll find a different place to stand; and that's your cue to cool it. I can't guarantee this degree of perspicacity on the part of a male target.)

If you haven't got this kind of time, there are other, more improvised lines. Enjoy the theater? Year-round, you can wait at the TKTS booths -- there's one at Times Square and one indoors at the World Trade Center -- for half-price, same-day Broadway tickets, where you're likely to meet people who a) also like theater, b) are in a similar economic stratum as you and, c) are capable of spontaneity. (Check your hometown or nearby big city for a similar service.) In summer, New York residents make an event out of lining up for free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park. Bring lawn chairs and a picnic while you wait outside the Public Theatre on Lafayette Street and you'll be in couplet-loving company.

In addition to theater tickets, the World Trade Center offers one of the longest lines in New York to one of its most romantic views -- the Observation Deck. Don't pretend you haven't seen "Sleepless in Seattle" (OK, the couple finally met up on the Empire State Building, but first Meg Ryan went to the WTC). Be warned, though: tourist attractions can be both blessing and curse. You may meet the love of your life (great), but she'll turn out to be a princess (good) from Mozambique (maybe not so good).

More geographically propitious courtship awaits you along the Hudson River, whose piers provide miniature golf (for meeting that youthful and/or single-parent mate), outdoor pool tables and, yes, kayaking. All for cheap or free, all requiring at least a short wait (Pier 26: 212- 966-1852). Each of the five boroughs boasts its own botanical garden to stroll through, two have zoos, and one has a roller coaster (Brooklyn's Coney Island). And there's almost nowhere in America that doesn't have a whole host of similar venues. Just think of the lines in store for you at the ticket counters, the cafeterias, and the IMAX theaters!

Another approach to the wait-and-bait strategy: adopt a Zen approach to transportation. The goal will be the journey itself, not the destination. NYC, of course, is replete with destination-less forms of travel. Hop on the free Staten Island Ferry, the Hoboken ferry, the Roosevelt Island tram or the Circle Line and it's like you're in a floating or flying waiting room with terrific views. For those who prefer a destination, Paragon sporting goods store offers daylong ski trips to nearby Hunter and Windham mountains. For about $50, they'll provide you a seat on a charter bus, a bagel and a lift ticket. The opportunity, as you should have gathered by now, dear reader, is in the bus ride.

This winter, one of the best indoor sports is at the American Museum of Natural History, which, for the second year in a row, is displaying a live, exotic butterfly exhibit featuring lepidoptera from around the world. Several exhibits around the country have been huge hits. Here, you'll pay $14 to wait in a very, very long line, after which you'll strip off sweater after sweater to enjoy the critters flitting through the simulated tropical heat and humidity. I know of at least one date that resulted after a man admired a Monarch that had landed on my friend's rather creamy shoulder.

Museums are generally a sure bet, but pick carefully. Anyone can (and should) go to the Met and the Guggenheim, but consider whether you wouldn't like to meet someone curious enough to go to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, which features rooms as they were inhabited by different immigrants during various periods in New York City's history. If you haven't checked to see what's going on at your own local art venues, it might be time to pick up the paper and renew your membership.

Year-round lines are generously provided by television shows in need of studio audiences. Whether your taste is David Letterman or Regis and Kathie Lee, you know someone's willing to give you a ticket in exchange for your prompted clapping and forced laughter. This phenomenon isn't limited to the coasts, of course; check your regional PBS stations and network affiliates to see what's filmed live.

When it comes right down to it, any queue will do. Take your place waiting for the city's best lox at Russ and Daughters on Houston Street, or preview the crowd before an auction in the Flat Iron district. Join a Big Onion walking tour to discover everything from famous murder sites to dead writers' watering holes. Line up and sign up for language classes at the Alliance Francaise and then go wait with a newfound fellow Francophile for a screening booth at the Museum of Television and Radio.

Think you can't meet someone is this pulsing, writhing, passionate city?

Oh, just you wait.

Daphne Uviller finally found love in the form of an ecologist who keeps beetles next to the butter in her freezer.

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