Video dating provides journalist a unique travel experience

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  • Tom Kertscher visits Catherine Palace near St. Petersburg, Russia during his unlikely trip overseas as the result of a single video date (Courtesy of Tom Kertscher)

Tom Kertscher visits Catherine Palace near St. Petersburg, Russia during his unlikely trip overseas as the result of a single video date (Courtesy of Tom Kertscher)

When you take a risk in life, you’ve got to prepare for the unexpected. Milwaukee journalist Tom Kertscher recalls how joining a video dating service provided him an experience unlike any other.

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Compared to online dating, the notion of video dating sounds quaint. And maybe, kind of lame.

But just one date from video dating provided me a singular experience — transporting me to Russia and other parts of Europe — on my one and only trip overseas.

Here’s the story:

I wasn’t prepared for the shock when I took my second job as a newspaper reporter. I got an 80 percent pay raise. Yes (laugh), 80 percent.

Before that transformational moment, when mail would arrive from dating services, I would throw it away.

But I was young, single, new to the area — and suddenly flush with cash. So, I decided to try the Heart to Heart dating service.

Tom Kertscher visits Madame Tussauds wax museum in London during his unlikely trip to Europe (Courtesy of Tom Kertscher)

Tom Kertscher visits Madame Tussauds wax museum in London during his unlikely trip to Europe (Courtesy of Tom Kertscher)

You would do a recorded video interview and fill out a bio. The other Heart to Heart members would do the same. If there was a mutual interest, you’d get each other’s phone number.

The bio from 27-year-old me said:

“I try to be many things; someone who is sensitive and caring, to whom family is important. And someone who dares to be different, having fun trying the offbeat.”

Not bad, right?

Well, like with online dating, there were rocky moments: The woman who went to the Kentucky Derby and said she forgot to place my bet. On what turned out to be the winning horse. And me trying to take a woman to a concert … for a singer who, we found out too late, had been dead for several years….

But with Patti, we easily filled three hours with conversation.

One thing she shared was that each summer, she would help chaperone high school students on a European history tour.

Patti and I didn’t go on a second date, so I was puzzled when she called saying she couldn’t go on the next European tour — and had recommended that I take her place as a chaperone.

Wait, what?

She had known me for three hours. Well, I met with the high school teacher who led the tour. He signed me up as a chaperone. And he signed up my best buddy, too.

Tom Kertscher visits with Saint Petersburg, Russia, resident Ilya Lazerson during his unlikely trip overseas (Courtesy of Tom Kertscher)

Tom Kertscher visits with Saint Petersburg, Russia, resident Ilya Lazerson during his unlikely trip overseas (Courtesy of Tom Kertscher)

So, one video date and my best friend and I went on a 25-day trip — two weeks in Russia and Ukraine, a week in London, stops in Berlin and Paris — for $900 each.

The other day, when I got the idea to share this story on WPR, I decided to try and look up Patti. Maybe I could reach out to her now. How fortunate that I still had a printout of names from Heart to Heart.

So, I Googled.

Her name popped up right away … in an obituary.

Patti died more than a decade ago, leaving a husband and teenage children. How quickly my joyful reminiscing turned sad. But how fortunate I was to have met Patti.

She helped give me a life experience that, more than 30 years later, remains unmatched.

Bless you, my fleeting friend.

Tom Kertscher

Tom Kertscher

Tom Kertscher is Wisconsin Watch fact checker and contributes to its collaboration with the The Gigafact Project to fight misinformation online. Kertscher is a former longtime newspaper reporter, including at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who has worked as a self-employed journalist since 2019. His gigs include contributing writer for PolitiFact…

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