Welcome to “It’s Complicated,” a week of stories on the sometimes frustrating, sometimes confusing, always engrossing subject of modern relationships.
For New Yorkers, waiting in line is a ubiquitous experience. We line up for art, food, fashion, and entertainment, often while mindlessly scrolling through our phones. But some folks in this fair city of queues come away with an unlikely souvenir: love, or at least the beginning of it. Below are five “how we met” stories as told by couples who met in lines at the Whitney Biennial, B&H Photo, Shake Shack, and two Brooklyn bars.
LINE AT THE WHITNEY BIENNIAL
Viraj Kamdar (director of online and blended learning at NYCDOE) and Bridget Jordan (real estate broker with Douglas Elliman) met in line at Whitney Biennial on February 23, 2010.
Viraj Kamdar: I was bumming around on a break that I had from work. I remember checking my mail and found this big envelope from the Whitney. It was two invites to the Biennial for like their black-tie gala. I wasn’t sure exactly how I got them, but I was, “This is a hot ticket. You’ve got to take it.”
Bridget Jordan: And my girlfriend gave me a call the day before, and she was like “I think I might have some tickets to the Biennial. Wear something cute to work tomorrow, and I’ll call you.” And she ended up calling, and we got them. It was a super last-minute thing.
Viraj: Meanwhile I’m calling every girl in Manhattan to see if they’ll go with me, and I couldn’t find like one person to go. Everyone was, You can’t call me at the last second. So I called my buddy, John.
It was a rainy night. There was one of these enormous lines, the kind that wraps around the museum. And the rain is coming in sideways. We’re just stuck on this line, but we know that the payoff is going to be so good so we just sort of endure it. All of a sudden, these two girls in red coats get in line behind us, and one of them was my future wife.
Bridget: My friend smokes and was just like, “Hey, does someone have a light? lah lah lah.” We just started talking, and we talked the whole way in waiting to check our coats.
Viraj: She was like, “What do you do?” And I’m like, “I’m a teacher.” And she’s like, “Oh, I’m a teacher, too. I spent my summer in Rio de Janeiro, and I was working in this favela teaching street kids how to make documentary films.” And I was like, “Oh, I spent my summer in Rwanda working in community-based learning centers teaching women Kinyarwanda, French, and English.” So we both gave each other this look. Like, Oh my god, there’s something there. We’re like the same kind of weirdo, I suppose. You could feel it right away. So obviously we immediately start talking. We’re telling our travel stories and all of a sudden we’re at the front of the line. The girls say, “Hey, do you want to go downstairs and grab a drink?” My buddy gives me a little elbow and is like “Hey, Kamdar, spread the love around. Let’s go to the top floor.” So we go to the top floor.
Bridget: Mind you, we had asked them to join us for a drink and basically they shut us down. So we felt like, Great, not only do we look like huge booze bags going down to like drink first, but we also got totally denied.
Viraj: Meanwhile, we both have flasks inside of our jackets, and we’ve been drinking the whole time. [Laughs.] We go from the fifth floor down to the fourth floor and then on the third floor. Meanwhile, they’ve been working their way up. We actually ran into each other right in the third floor lobby as you walk across the gallery right by the elevator. We’re like, “Hey.” [Laughs.] So I’m standing here with this beautiful girl who I talked to the whole way in, and I hear the beats start playing downstairs. And I said, “Hey, you know I’d really like to dance with you, but there’s some great things to see upstairs and I haven’t seen all the things downstairs. So how about this? I’ll run through the fourth and fifth floor with you and show you the things I think are the coolest if you’ll run down the first and second floor with me if you’ll show me the things that you think are the coolest. And then we can really get down dancing because that’s what I think we really should do.” I put out my hand and she grabbed it. Six months I asked her to move in. A year to the date I asked her to marry me in a small town just north of Mexico City.
LINE AT B&H
Scott and Elizabeth Valins (co-founders of Recently app) met in line at B&H in March 2002.
Scott Valins: I was at a point in my dating life where I starting to realize that if I did not talk to people and take that first step and just engage, I would never meet new people. Liz was in front of me and I tried my best to have a conversation with her. And initially, like all New Yorkers, she wanted nothing to do with me. Through some persistence I realized a couple things: One that she was a typographer, a book jacket designer. And I was in the design world, and a client had asked me to use a certain typeface that McSweeney’s used. I was not very knowledgeable on typography, so I asked her about that. We started to have a good conversation as we were waiting in line. We were both waiting to purchase digital cameras and talk to the sales associate. And B&H lines back in the early 2000s — this was like a 35-minute line on a Sunday, when it’s jam-packed and chaotic there.
Elizabeth Valins: I dragged myself to B&H, which was the last place in the world I wanted to be on a Sunday, but I needed to get this camera because I was going on a trip. There I am in line, not wanting to talk to anybody, just wanting to get out of this line, and this guy behind me starts talking. He asked me what camera I’m looking for and I gave him kind of a curt answer to just brush him off. But he persisted. He asks what camera I’m looking for; he told me what camera he was looking for. It turns out they had all the same features.
We’re about to get to the spot in line where the dude in front sends to you the sales associate, and I said to Scott — and I know I said this because it was completely out of character for me — I said, Hey, you know what, we’re asking all the same questions. Let’s just go up to the guy together. I would normally not say that to a stranger — Let’s go join the same team and go talk to this person together. So we went up together. His was not in stock. He asked if he could go up to the other line with me, and then I paid for it.
Scott: On the way out, I said, “I’m kind of curious, because your camera may be a better fit for me, so can I” — It sounds kind of cheesy now, but — “Can I follow up? Mine’s not going to be in for a week. I’m curious if you like yours. Can I reach out to you?” And she said that that was OK.
Elizabeth: The reason I realized that I did want to talk to this random stranger, even though I had no desire to talk to people, was that not only was he really nice, but he was also really funny. He kept me laughing. That’s the main reason why I kept talking to this guy.
Scott: We’ve been married since 2006, and we have a daughter.
LINE AT SHAKE SHACK
Andrew Flamang (nonprofit consultant) and Brittany Charlton (instructor at Harvard Medical School) were set up on a blind date in a line at the Madison Square Park Shake Shack in June 2008.
Andrew Flamang: We were actually set up, but I didn’t realize I was being set up. It was a Wednesday in June, and my friend Jill said, “Do you want to have lunch at Shake Shack? Let’s bring the dog.” She introduced me to this woman in line and then left us in line together for like an hour and a half to stand there and just talk to each other. It’s actually, as it turns out, a really amazing way to be set up, because there’s a bunch of stuff to look at, so you don’t just have to talk about each other. You can comment on all the people around you. You both have a reason to not just stare at each other because you’re facing straight ahead. It’s a lot less awkward than any other kind of set up that I’ve ever had.
It was one of those incredibly beautiful early summer days. I was more than happy to stand around for an hour and a half when I could have been working otherwise. I guess in retrospect maybe I could have figured out what was going on, but I had no idea. Brittany, in fact, had been asking Jill to set her up with somebody, but I don’t think she knew that she was getting set up at this particular moment.
Did you friend with the dog ever end up joining you guys again?
Yeah, she showed up again almost basically when we were ordering.
BATHROOM LINE AT CROWN VICTORIA IN WILLIAMSBURG
Phoebe Gittelson (works in PR) started a summer fling in the bathroom line at Crown Victoria in June 2015.
Phoebe Gittelson: I was out with the girls at Crown Victoria in Williamsburg and I had to run to the bathroom. The line was ridiculously long. I was standing there dancing to the music and the hottest guy I’ve ever seen gets in line behind me. He literally looked like an Israeli Johnny Depp. Of course, I’m like, Don’t look. You’re going to pee in your pants. Just focus on going to the bathroom. He said, “Hey, what’s going on with this line?” I was like, Don’t turn around. Phoebe, be cool here. Someone from the front of the line yelled back and was like, some girl cut the line, and now she’s in the bathroom, and she’s probably sick, and blah blah blah. He was kind of like, “Oh, that’s so crazy. Always in New York, you’ll never know what happens in a line. Someone should write about it.”
I’m a writer. I turned around and finally was like, I’ll talk to this guy now that he said that. I was like, “Oh, you think someone should write about the line …” We got to talking and he asked for my number. It was at 3:30ish in the morning. I ran back to my friends afterward and was like, “We’ve got to leave. I just met the hottest guy in line. We got to get out of here. I don’t even know what’s happening.” After we left, we were at a different bar in Williamsburg, and he texted me and was like, “Are you still out?” And my friends were like, Let’s have a party on our roof. So we ended up having people over to my rooftop in Bushwick and watched the sunrise. It was kind of a summer fling from there.
BATHROOM LINE AT METROPOLITAN IN BROOKLYN
Tile (works in social media) and Freddie (mobile product manager) met in the bathroom line at Metropolitan bar in Brooklyn in February 2011.
Tile: We did meet in line. The question is always whether we met in line in the bathroom or met in line outside the bathroom.
Freddie: We met in line in the bathroom.
Tile: That’s Freddie’s version. I think that we met in a more — I don’t know, it seems nicer to meet outside of a bathroom rather than inside of a bathroom.
Freddie: That’s how you want to remember it.
Tile: Right. It’s wishful thinking. We definitely met in line. We were both at Metropolitan five years ago. It was getting late, probably 1 a.m. We started talking — probably about the bathroom, which is really un-creative.
Freddie: We were talking about how gross it was in there. Metropolitan has the grossest bathrooms.
Tile: Sorry, Metropolitan. I was just kind of blabbering. And Freddie said something cheesy like, “I hope you meet you again in a less gross place.”
Freddie: Exactly what I said. I distinctly remember saying, “I hope to meet you again in a less gross place.” The worst pickup line ever. But it worked.
Tile: Usually I would be like, “Oh, god. What a line.” But I thought that it was cute enough that I let it slide.
Freddie: We met again later in the night. We danced and made out a bit. We exchanged numbers.
Tile: We ended up having some weird mutual friend connections, but really we just met because we were gutsy enough to talk to each other. You were a rando.
Freddie: Still am. [Laughs.]
Tile: We’ve been living together for three years. We live here in Bed-Stuy. We have a dog and a cat. It’s gone from gay bar, grimy bathroom, to very domestic in five years.
Freddie: It’s pretty much the complete opposite of where we were five years ago. We went out all the time. That made it possible to meet each other.
Tile: It wasn’t as simple as we met and we were never apart after that. But we ended up together, in a sort of strange twist of fate. It’s always just crazy to me that I managed to find the person who I wanted to live with in a line. Thank god we were there on that Wednesday night.
These interviews have been edited and condensed.