Jim Fisher wants to help you get a date, but knows you don't want to waste a lot of time. " After 9 minutes of sitting knee to knee grilling each other, a bell would ring and the men would slide one chair down and the questions would begin flying again. Not only are speed-dating events sold out months in advance at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco, but non-Jewish organizations are spinning variations of the concept from Walnut Creek to San Rafael to Silicon Valley to the Castro, catering to everyone from suburban goyim to HIV-positive men. So events were held in Jewish community centers to help Jewish singles meet - fast - by interviewing each other with a battery of serious questions, like, "Where do you see yourself in three years? In our disposable, Pentium-powered culture where nobody's got time for anything, speed dating has become phenomenally successful.Speed dating is for people who are picky." Yet that makes some speed-dating purists uncomfortable."Sure, these other places will get you dates," said Yossi Offenberg, who has coordinated speed dating at the nonprofit Jewish Community Center in San Francisco since February 2000. Dating is a means to an end, not an end to the means.After two hours of this, the participants would jot down names of the people they wanted to hear from again. The same thing has been happening in large cities around the country.
To lead you to the promised land, the former marketing executive crunches the numbers for his new First Impressions Dating service, one of the latest entries into the look-'em-over quick, toss-'em-back quicker world of what's become commonly known as speed dating. Figure you'll score face time there with 15 potential dates - for 9 minutes at a time - and, as Fisher said, "You're looking at spending about a buck a head." Nobody said speed dating was pretty. Created in Los Angeles two years ago by a Los Angeles rabbi interested in elevating the dating process beyond bars and clubs, its original intent was to preserve Jewish culture by stemming the tide of interfaith marriages. Yet with everybody from accountants in Los Altos to HIV-positive men in the Castro trying it now, there is a growing concern that the concept isn't quite what it started out to be: Serious.