A few months back, in my semi-regular feature, "Diary of a LYNX Rider," I posed a question to the ladies of Orlando: Would any self-respecting female go out with a LYNX rider, on the LYNX bus, from start to finish?

I didn't think so, really. Riding the bus in Orlando has a stigma. No one rides the bus because they want to; we ride the bus because we have to, usually because we don't have alternate means of transportation. And that, my friends, is why mass transit is such a mess in this city.

But enough of my soapbox. This story is about love, or something like it. It took some time, but I eventually arranged two dates. One canceled, leaving just one woman in all of Orlando who would consider me, bus and all. I pondered the reasons for this dearth of available dates. Maybe women don't read my column. Or maybe they do and they think I'm an obnoxious, bitter asshole (the LYNX does that to you, ladies). Maybe I look

psycho in my picture. Or, more likely, maybe most women just can't fathom dating someone whose only mode of transportation involves waiting on uncertain, frequently late buses that don't run after midnight.

But Debbie was willing to give it a go. She told me over the phone that she rides the LYNX to work even though she has a car — quite noble of her. And that meant I'd avoid LVS: LYNX Virgin Syndrome, which happens when a noob rider first spots someone talking angrily to him- or herself on the bus or gets a good whiff of a bum's stinky ass.

Our plan was to meet up around noon on a Saturday at Roadhouse Grill, near Michigan Street and South Orange Avenue. Unfortunately, I drank way too much the night before at Hoops, the Amelia Street bar of choice for LYNX riders `editor's note: And of Orlando Weekly staffers` because of its proximity to the downtown bus station. I woke up late, feeling like Drew Garabo after a St. Patty's Day beatdown, and missed my bus.

So I had to ask my roommate to help me catch the 54 bus, which by now was cruising downtown on West Colonial Drive. Without help from my car-owning roomie, I was in serious danger of missing my date. Riding the LYNX is like that: Miss one step and you're pretty much screwed.

Anyway, we finally cruised to a bus stop a few hundred yards ahead of the 54 — which, coincidentally, was near an ABC liquor store. I needed some hair of the dog, but passed, once again lest I miss the 54.

The bus was 95 percent full and 100 percent reeking of sweat. And it also got to the downtown bus station 10 minutes late, which gave me precisely three minutes to take a leak and catch my transfer. The leak would have to wait.

I made it to Orange and Michigan with a little time to spare, so I grabbed some aspirin and a bottle of water to get rid of my pounding headache. Then I walked to Roadhouse. I sat at the bar and called Debbie — no answer. I called again; same result. I figured she'd stood me up. Time to get stinkin' drunk again!

Then I noticed a girl three stools over in a Dan Marino jersey. Since our plans — laid out by phone earlier in the week — involved Dan Marino's restaurant at Pointe Orlando, I ventured a guess: "Are you Debbie?"

She was. Her phone was off. We had drinks and discussed our plans; we decided to head straight to Pointe Orlando and figure it out from there. Simple enough, right?

Wrong. There's no such thing as going straight anywhere across town on the LYNX. We'd have to take two buses to get there. Off we darted to catch the 7 to the Florida Mall. We had time to get acquainted on the 7. Debbie was an Orlando native — a rare breed. I've only been here six years, so she filled me in on some local history. For example: LYNX used to be called Tri-County Transit, and the buses were white with a single orange-and-blue stripe. Then the powers that be decided that if the buses were prettied up, more people would ride. According to Debbie, it hasn't worked.

We arrived at the Florida Mall at 1:07 p.m., which gave us a 20-minute wait until we had to catch the 42, our ride to International Drive. So we talked about the various ways to kill time between transfers and watched some weird guy next to us on the bus stop bench mutter to himself. Being LYNX veterans, we weren't fazed at all.

At 1:31 p.m., we hopped on the 42. I sat down and was shocked. These were the plushest LYNX seats my backside had ever caressed. The bus was also exceptionally clean. Then it hit me: This is the tourist bus. Of course it's nice. They can go home and tell all their friends about how clean, friendly and comfortable Orlando's buses are. Nice trick.

Debbie told me this was nothing compared to the 50, the bus that goes to — you guessed it — Disney. The dirty mouse gets the best buses in Orlando, and screw everyone else.

At 2:16 p.m., we exited the 42 and soon thereafter I realized what a bonehead I can be (as my most recent ex is more than happy to point out). I got us off the bus a few blocks too early, which meant we had to walk, in the heat, to Pointe Orlando. Not the smoothest move.

Here's Pointe Orlando, the quick version: Some guy gave us a citation for smiling without a permit and then asked for a "donation." Marino's was closed. We went to Adobe Gila's and then bolstered John Morgan's already ample income with a trip to WonderWorks.

It was fun enough. We left at 6:30 p.m. after grabbing some ice cream. While waiting for the bus, we spotted an embarrassingly affectionate — or perhaps horny — British couple. The male squeezed the female's butt, then ran his finger down the lady's ass crack. We both noticed it, but opted against discussing it.

We jumped back on the 42 — which was running late, naturally — and an hour later, on the 7, which took us back to Roadhouse to wrap up our afternoon. I had a few questions for her. For starters, why had she agreed to go on this date in the first place? She told me she had hesitated because, you know, I could have been a psycho, but ultimately decided I was harmless enough. Besides, she rides the bus anyway, thus she was up for a challenge.

So I asked her what she thought of the men who ride LYNX. She was kinder than I expected. True, she told me, there's a portion of smelly and creepy guys, but there are also more normal people than you'd think. The biggest hassle with dating a LYNX rider is the time you spend trying to get from one place to another. And she's right. By driving, I could have shaved two hours off our travel time. In fact, unless you work the same schedule as someone else and happen to ride the same bus, it's hard to imagine having any time to spend together.

That was a sobering thought. In that moment I went from being bitter toward all the women who didn't respond to my date request to realizing that, really, it's too much work to even attempt to go out on a regular basis with the LYNX as your ride. At least until LYNX adds more buses and doesn't leave you stranded downtown after the bars close.

I mean, seriously: Even if you met a girl in a bar and thought you had a chance of separating her from her undergarments, your chances would evaporate as soon as you said, "If you want to come back to my place, we'll have to leave now or we'll miss the bus. And I'm not shelling out $30 for a cab."

But I digress. I thanked Debbie for her time and insight. As for a second date, I figured it would be more than a week before I could even try. This dating stuff doesn't work without a car. But at least we had a good time, and we managed to get through the whole afternoon without some drunk bum trying to pick up my date.


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