I can’t be the only single person in the city today. I saw at least one or two other guys this morning clutching their typical coffee, umbrella, or iPod amidst a barrage of cut flowers, pink Vicky’s shopping bags and heart-shaped candy boxes. The bus driver’s pink striped shirt and flashing LED heart pin garnered rave reviews from many, but at least a few riders slipped tactfully by towards the exit door with only their typical, unremarkable “thank-you”. The elevator buzzed with discussion of evening dinner plans but a couple others – besides me – offered no comment. On a day when the unattached are verboten – or at least temporarily forgotten – there are very few places where it’s safe to be single. In an effort to help the rest of you singletons survive VD this year i have some places and activities to avoid for the next 24-48 hours:

  • The movies. Unless you want to be the third wheel to 100 happy couples, stay out of the theaters tonight. I know very few people that are gutsy enough to attend a movie by themselves anyway, but even if you were planning on joining a singles support crew for a filmgoing anti-VD rally, it’s going to be make-out central in there, so you’re better off renting.
  • Scratch that, don’t rent. The video stores will be packed this evening with smoochy couples cruising the romantic comedy isle. Watch something you already own, or hit up cable if you have it. Beware of sappy romantic movies sucking you in, though, even if they’re cleverly disguised with action-star actors.
  • Restaurants, and not just the fancy ones. While many guys will be treating their girl to formal attire, nose-tickling beverages and a large red crustacean, with Seattle’s aversion to dressing up just as many will be ironing their good flannel shirt and valet parking at Red Robin. Even your more dive-y joints (think Beth’s on north Aurora) will be overrun; punk and emo kids need booths to cuddle in, too. Fast food is probably a safe bet, as the kind of slackers that bring their date to Burger King tonight probably won’t be on the date very long, but we’re trying to survive VD not heart disease so skip that, too.
  • Grocery stores, especially the upscale ones with nice produce and full-service delis. Picture long lines, filled with guys that have never cooked anything more complex than Easy-Mac juggling raw produce they can’t necessarily identify and bottles of 7-dollar wine, and i think you’ll agree that’s not how you want to spend a tuesday night.
  • Car parts and car repair shops. Guys who are working on their cars tonight are doing so to distract themselves from messy breakups or girls they missed out on, and staff at these places tend to have a preponderance of bitter stories they’re oh-so-willing to share. Unless you’re looking for a lot of weepy bear hugs, steer clear.
  • Trendy bars and nightclubs. Bartenders and waitstaff are on a mission tonight: a mission to make you feel loved just long enough to take all your money. Flirting will be at record highs, with a strong hand-, arm- and shoulder-touching front moving in around nightfall. You may think your defense shield of cynicism will protect you, but never underestimate the combination of alcohol, loneliness and feigned availability. If you do find yourself kidnapped by friends, at least have the good sense to remove your ID and 20 bucks from your wallet and leave the rest at home.

Does it have to be so negative? Certainly there are some DO’s for the forgotten singles tonight, some informal storm shelters in which to ride out this red-white-and-pink blizzard?

  • Pick up a game controller. The people this item is aimed at probably don’t need me telling them that an especially cold winter evening when the roommate’s going to be out late is an opportunity for some quality gaming time. Just remember that too much of this sort of activity might be the reason you don’t have a date tonight, so try not to take it too seriously. No dressing up like your avatar just because no one’s at home to make fun of you.
  • Home Depot. Finish that bookshelf you started six months ago, fix that annoying cupboard door that never closes, or just wander the empty aisles looking at bathtubs and fondling the power tools. Only the lamest of dates will involve home repair, and couples that are pragmatic enough to be tracing the concrete aisles tonight will probably not be breaking into spontaneous tickle fights as they’re obviously either completely over each other, or Amish.
  • Electronics stores. Any guy who brings his girl shopping for boys’ toys on “big red tuesday” is trying to force a break-up, so it’s safe to assume any couples in the store are on the verge of a huge, explosive fight and therefore harbor huge entertainment potential for you. You may not even need to watch the wall of tv’s.
  • Work. I’m serious. Work late, get ahead and be the guy who has all the answers. Many of the world’s most successful people have absolutely no social life because they’re too busy making big things happen for themselves. The only difference between them and you is that they’re lonely and productive.
  • The gym. As long as you don’t mind navigating around a few mopey gym rats, it might be a great evening to try a new workout or get back into a healthy habit. Or just binge on crunches until you nearly black out on the low-pile carpet. When you can’t feel your legs anymore i guarantee you won’t care that you’re dateless on some silly, over-merchandised holiday, and if you need extra motivation just remember that maybe you won’t be alone next year if you can lift that last 20 pounds.
  • Dive bars. If there really is an endless, aching hole in your heart that can only be filled with booze, belly-up to the well-worn walnut at your local pub and unload your sorrows on the grizzled, equally-forlorn bartender. When you’ve started stacking pyramids with your empty shot glasses or you’ve forgotten what day it is, mission accomplished; time to go home and sleep off those VD cooties.

Whatever you do today just remember that being single means you’re free to do whatever you want, that you have zero responsibility for the evening, and that you’re spared the expense and hassle of this Hallmark holiday. And if you’re going to send balloon bouquets to yourself at work, just make sure they’re anonymous.