LA may be critically short on parking spaces, green left turn arrows, and people who know when to shut the fuck up about yoga, but we’ve got more attractive women in their 20s per capita than pretty much any other city. You see them buying kombucha at the supermarket or in line in their workout gear at The Coffee Bean – every time a gag on a TV show calls for a pretty girl, this is the pool that she gets cast from. Sometimes I wonder how many of the flawless powerwalking blondes I pass on my bike trail are Ted Mosby’s ex girlfriends.
Every time I’m in close proximity to one of these dayplaying basic cable goddesses, the part of my brain responsible for finding ways to get me to embarrass myself flies into action. Go talk to her! Seize this opportunity! This beautiful woman with everything in the world going her way is probably both single and totally into unemployed guys who haven’t showered yet today! But I always ignore this voice. I don’t want to accost some poor woman in the middle of her day, and the only pickup line I can ever think of is, “So, have you watched The Wire?”
It was after one such encounter that I spotted an ad for a new dating app called Happn – because Lord knows your app will be a failure if you don’t arbitrarily remove at least one vowel from its name – which is intended to function as a more effective version of a Craigslist “missed connections” page. Happn’s gimmick is that it somewhat creepily monitors every member’s location through their phone and keeps track of which other members you’ve crossed paths with during the day. If that certain someone you made eye contact with on the street is a Happn member, the app gives you the opportunity to send a message after the fact.
Having tried it both ways, I’d much rather have a woman reject me online than in person. Like ordering takeout or buying toilet paper, it’s just another thing the Internet has made easier. Happn looked like the best of both worlds: A way for me to approach women I see on the street without having to, y’know, approach them. Plus, on the off chance that women have been surreptitiously checking me out on the street all these years, this would finally give them an opportunity to get in touch.
So I downloaded the app, uploaded the three good pictures of me that exist, wrote a quick and to the point bio (“I’m not in ISIS.”) and then went on with my life, trusting the app to work its magic. At bars and restaurants or just walking down the street, I tried to guess who else around me was on Happn and which ones I’d be exchanging messages with later.
After more than a week with no activity I’d just about forgotten that I had the app. When I finally opened it to see what was up I found no messages, but an extensive list of the other Happn members I’d bumped into over the course of the past week, along with map images and timestamps to show exactly where and when we’d come into contact. I scrolled through the profiles, wracking my memory to try and remember if I’d noticed any of these women when we passed by one another. I couldn’t remember seeing any of them in person, but I’ve also got plenty of Facebook friends who I can’t remember ever meeting in person, so I figured it was on me and not the app.
I realized something was up while scrolling through the profile for a cute fashion school student who Happn told me I’d bumped into the previous weekend. Her pictures looked fine and her bio was par for the course (every woman on a dating site in LA loves Netflix and hiking. This is a fact.) But according to the pin on the map image, we’d encountered each other at 10:30 PM in the middle of a northbound lane on the Hollywood Freeway.
The Silicon Valley matchmakers who created Happn obviously envisioned a romantic utopia where shy singles in coffee shops make fleeting eye contact, connect on the app, get married, have a whole pile of kids, and teach them all C++ coding from an early age so they’ll have a viable skillset in a 21st century knowledge economy. Their ad campaign, dominated by pretty women on the street glancing flirtatiously over their shoulder at the camera, creates the same fantasy. My experiences haven’t quite matched up to that yet.
At least 70 percent of the women Happn tells me I’ve “crossed paths” with have simply driven down a nearby surface street. Yesterday I “crossed paths” with 13 different women while driving home from breakfast – they were either in nearby buildings or cars going the opposite way. I’ve crossed paths with one woman 9 times without even leaving my apartment because she drives up my street every morning on her way to work while I’m still asleep.
If you’re interested in modeling the traffic patterns of single young women, Happn can give you plenty of invaluable raw data. But if you’re trying to get laid you should probably use a different app. Or, y’know, just go talk to women.