It was cold. What is it that they say? “Bone chilling?” Yeah, that was about right. And it was windy as all hell, too. It was as if God had looked down and said “Ya know what, Gabriel? (one of his main angels) I haven’t messed with J for a minute…watch this…” I mean, I knew that the area I had deployed to was known for its cold and windy winters but good Lord. Overall though, I didn’t have too much to complain about. Things had gone well with flying in and my initial planning, and at the moment I was off to my first meeting.

The person I was meeting had no clue that I was meeting them, but hey, such small details were meaningless in the grand scheme of things – yeah, OK. What’s that you say? How does one hold a meeting with someone who isn’t hip to the fact that there is a meeting taking place? Well my friend, today is your lucky day because this – much like the time one of my lovely daughters asked me if Pennsylvania was near Philadelphia – is what we call a teaching moment. You are about to get a broad – VERY broad – lesson in the art of the bump.

OK by show of hands, who here is married? Ever dated? (That plastic “friend” you keep inflated in your closet does not count sir, put your hand down.) OK so for the rest of us, unless you are inhumanly good-looking á la BK style (though I am positive that he has had work done – I will get the proof!!) we know that it is not a simple endeavor. Much like this current operation, there is some planning that goes into it. Let’s place the potential love interest into the role of the potential asset.

You spot them, “assess” them (find out what you can about them and their hoped for willingness and ability to be with you, or in the case of the asset, spy for you), “develop” them (work your charm, hopefully leading to a series of dates or meetings before you pop the question or ask them to commit espionage), “recruit” them (ask them to spy, get their yes, then in most cases begin paying them) “handle” them (manage the relationship and flow of intelligence) then either turn them over to someone else or terminate the relationship.

So back to dating and marriage. Simply put, apply all of the above to meeting, courting, dating and possibly marrying that special someone and you, my friend – are a spy. OK, not really, but you get the gist of it. Today, my part of that tango was the meeting. I had a general description of the guy that I was meeting – headquarters had provided it – but other than the fact that he would be wearing a beanie with a particular logo on it, didn’t have much else.

The meeting spot was a mix between a Starbucks and a Whole Foods, so we both had a good reason to be there, and he didn’t have to stand around in one place looking suspect while waiting for me (in this case, he had no idea he was waiting for me anyway, so it worked in my favor.) In the case of dating, it could be a supermarket, bar, or your best friend’s backyard Fourth of July cookout. Whatever the case, the stars and planets have aligned and you and that person are in the same space and time – wow that was deep – so now what?

I had already run my surveillance detection route and determined that I was not covered (no one had been following me) and entered the store. I stood and looked up at the various aisle signs in hopes of looking lost – because I was. Settling on a food type, I wandered around looking at both the shelves and my surroundings hoping to catch sight of my target.

A few aisles over, I caught a glimpse of his hat (or cover in my beaten-into-me Marine Corps jargon) ambling around, so now it was time to put the next phase into action – spill my drink on the hot chick. No not really – but it was the same premise. Much like that romantic comedy where the guy/girl is desperate to find a reason to get next to the girl/guy, I needed an “in.” Lucky for me, I had one, and it was sitting on top of his head.

Wandering around the corner, I spotted my guy grabbing a cup of soup. I grabbed my own cup and said – in my best Ned Flanders voice – “Semper Fi, sir! You a Marine?” Well unlike most times I have used that greeting, this time I got a “what makes you say that?” Wonderful – I get a soup slurping hard ass for a target. Woosah, deep breath, JP. We have been here before. Not in a dating situation – oh hell’s naw, I was too much of a dork for that – but in other situations.

The key to this is calm and anticipation. How you react can mean the difference between the being asked to sit or being called a creep and getting kicked in the ding-ding. I regrouped and made another pass. “Oh I apologize, I thought that you might have been a Marine based on you’re the eagle, globe, and anchor on your cover and the salty look of a Master Sergeant,” that seemed to do the trick.

The gentleman pulled himself up to his approximately six foot one height, adjusted his belt under his pot belly, and thrust his chin out. “You called it a cover so you must be a jarhead,” he made the gruff comment as he sized me up. Then he surprised me and stuck out his hand “Semper Fi.” I shook it and took notice that he did not offer his name.

Though I was almost positive that I had the right guy, there was still a chance I was wrong and I needed confirmation, but I wasn’t going to offer anything that I did not have to, so I also did not give my own name. Might have to work a bit more for this one. I added as much respect in my voice as I could muster “Yes sir, retired now but I did my time.”

He regarded me again for a few seconds, then seemed to soften a bit. But then he started walking away – what the hell? He walked over to a small table, placed his soup down, took off his beanie, then looked at me and said “You taking a seat or what, Marine?”

Bingo. The hot girl had asked me to the prom. Now let’s see if I knew how to dance, because God knows that history has shown that to be a complete disaster.