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Thursday, Nov. 18, 2004 02:55 pm

The right time

Angela and Darius met at a speed-dating event in February; they married earlier this month
Photo by Susan Rich

Darius Howse didn't want to go to Speed Dating. Since he worked the night shift, it meant taking time off his job. Worse yet, he would have to find a way to vanquish his "social phobia."

Angela Trowbridge also didn't want to go to Speed Dating. For her, it meant a long drive to Springfield from Jacksonville, where she lived and worked at the time. Having survived a bad relationship, she also risked getting her heart stomped again.

But they both went. Darius, 28, conquered his phobia by telling himself it would be like dancing, but in front of strangers who probably wouldn't notice him anyway. "I told myself that if it doesn't work out, at least I can say I tried," he recalls.

Angela, 33, went only because she has a strong belief in listening to her inner voice. And a few days before the deadline to sign up for the Feb. 19 affair, that voice commanded her, "Go to speed dating!" As it turned out, she was the last female to register.

Sponsored by Illinois Times, the Hilton Springfield, and Miller Lite, the event took place in Jazz Central Station. The women sat at numbered tables. The men wore numbered nametags and took turns moving from table to table. Everybody had score cards to jot down notes. Each little "date" was four minutes long.

"Sometimes four minutes could seem like an eternity. But with Darius, four minutes wasn't enough," Angela says. And then she giggles, and Darius giggles, and they nuzzle each other like, well, like newlyweds, which they are -- the first marriage made from Illinois Times Speed Dating.

Their courtship happened pretty fast. A few days after the Hilton event, Darius phoned Angela, who happened to be spending the afternoon with friends. The friends suggested that they meet at a certain North End tavern. Darius says he was looking around, wondering if somebody was about to hit him with a pool cue, when Angela said, "This isn't really my kind of place. Is it OK if we get out of here?"

They decided to go to a movie, 50 First Dates, and when it was over they shook hands and said goodbye.

Over the next few weeks, they saw each other whenever possible, and talked on the phone for hours at a time. But they didn't realize how they felt about each other until Angela went to Ireland for a week. While she was gone, Darius e-mailed her a poem he wrote with a personal compliment for her built on each letter of the alphabet. X, for example, stood for 10, "because on a scale of 1 to 5, you're a 10."

Trying to let their relationship evolve slowly, they say they waited six weeks before they kissed. They've been making up for lost time ever since.

Darius proposed Sept. 3 in a wedding chapel inside the Mall of America. They married Nov. 6, in the Hilton, at Jazz Central Station, and for all the right reasons:

"It was just dreadful to be apart," Angela says.

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