By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Taking a cue from a favorite Sex and the City episode in which Miranda, the successful lawyer, pretends to be a flight attendant in order to get dates, I keep my story simple. I am new in town. My friends are supposed to meet me soon. Never been to college, and I'm studying to be a hairdresser. Isn't drinking fun? Look at my tiny shorts! Tee-hee!
My cover is almost blown immediately. While I'm standing next to the recently discovered porn screen, planning my next move, a familiar face appears in the crowd. He's several years older than most of the 20-somethings in the room, and he's in the telltale striped button-down shirt and pre-distressed jeans. As he makes his way past me, I narrowly avoid making eye contact.
This man is the founder of a social club called The Beautiful Room, a group of people assembled after their photos are approved by the founder and it is established via a phone interview that they enjoy drinking and bragging about their cars. There is a monthly fee. I wrote about the group last year when I infiltrated their ranks in another immersive field study of local assholery.
If Dallas is the land of douchebags, this man is their king.
To my relief, I don't think he recognizes me. Last time I saw His Highness, my hair was long and red, not short and brunette like it is today. I am terrified because the man knows my true identity, but also overjoyed. Spotting the king is like hitting the Homo sapiens douchebagus jackpot.
Time: Very, very early Monday morning
Location: Mantus; inside, near their wall of white pleather booths
Target: A short, five-o'clock-shadowed guy wearing a T-shirt I estimate at approximately 2.5 times too small. I "accidentally" bump into him while climbing over an ottoman.
"Oh, excuse me!"
"No, babe, it's fine. You're looking good tonight." He smiles and gives me a little "Cheers!" clinking his glass with mine.
"Oh, thanks. I'm waiting on my friends. I've never been here before! This place is really nice!" I babble.
"Oh, it's the only place to be on Sunday. I'm new here too." This is Justin, and he recently made the trek north from Austin. I tell him I was at Kenichi on Saturday, trying to keep the conversation safely in booze-and-bragging territory.
"That place is good," he says. "I know the owner, like, really well. I'm going to go broke eating there!" He laughs a little too hard. "Not really, you know."
"Right," I laugh, a little harder. What brings him up from Austin?
"Software," he says, vaguely. "I sell software."
"Oh, computers are fun!" I offer. What brings me to town? "I'm going to be a hairdresser. Hair school." He grins, wrapping his arm around my waist.
"You know what would be a sexy date? You give me a haircut, and we'll share a bottle of wine."
"Wouldn't that be a dangerous date?" I ask. I don't mention the fact that his receding hairline didn't leave much cutting to be done.
Before I can determine if we're going back to his place or mine—$30k-ers almost always insist on the girl's place—King Douche appears right over Justin's shoulder as if he's about to interrupt our conversation.
"Well, it was nice to meet you. I'm going to have a cigarette!" I squeal and head for the patio.
Results: High likelihood of Homo sapiens douchebagus, considering his apparent friendly relationship with Douche Vader, vague "software" reference and name-drop of the Kenichi owner.
I flee potential outing by the Czar of Assholery by chain-smoking Camels in Mantus' underground porch. My feet are aching, and I've got a case of the caffeine jitters courtesy of four Diet Cokes. A drunk guy named Juan tries to woo me after I ask him for a light.
"I saw you over by the porn earlier," he says. A veritable Don Juan, indeed! We talk for a few minutes, and he tells me he's a medical student. "Probably surgery. Something like that." He's too far gone to be milked for $30,000 millionaire info, though he's a likely candidate.
"What's your name again?" he asks, flipping open his phone to take down my number. Seconds after I take leave of him, a guy in a loud, purplish button-down shirt asks me for a cigarette. This one "used to be a jewelry designer." Today, he sells furniture. He's got the day off tomorrow, he mentions. Nothing to do tomorrow morning. Nowhere to be. Hint, hint, hint. I stop caring if he's a $30,000 millionaire or just a garden-variety douchebag. I stomp out my smoke in mid-cig and make for the valet stand. It's almost 2 a.m.
While I'm waiting for the valet to bring my car, I reflect on all the field interviews conducted over the past several weeks. Taken together, these guys equal just about one stereotypical $30,000 millionaire, but I never managed to turn up the total package in one guy. Dismayed, I shift back and forth on my heels and try to calm my aching head—until fate gives me one last wink.