Buy Photo

Felix Adamo / The Californian

Bakersfield Californian staff reporter Jason Kotowski.

When dabbling in Bakersfield's dating scene, it helps to have an escape plan.

Seriously, arrive early and take special note of where the exits are. You never know when you'll have to make a quick getaway.

I've spent some time in the city's watering holes recently, and I think the search for someone special often results in meeting someone ... interesting.

Part of it probably is my fault. Despite the presence of beer and music, maybe bars aren't the best place to meet the opposite sex. Or maybe it's just that the bars I choose to hang out at aren't the best place to meet women. I should branch out to places where my shoes don't stick to the floor and the house special is something other than $2 mugs of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Whatever the reason, I've had a few close calls. More than once I've been grateful that the girl I just dropped off doesn't know where I live.

So what better day than Valentine's Day to celebrate the beauty of love or, failing that, a few hours spent getting to know someone followed by the solemn resolve to never call that person again? Without mentioning names or locations, I'm going to provide a few tips, some telltale signs that scream "danger ahead."

While I usually don't advocate lying, in these circumstances it's often necessary. To end a night heading toward disaster, you might have to fib a little and say you suddenly remembered you were supposed to help a friend move, or you left the dog outside, or Friday evenings are your designated time to commune with an entity known as Bazelzog the Righteous. No excuse is too pathetic.

And let me address any charges of sexism right up front: The red flags listed below certainly are not gender specific.

If you're a young professional, chances are you're looking to meet another young professional. What you don't want to hear when you ask your date what she does for a living is: "My job is trying to regain custody of my four kids." While a noble undertaking, that response leads to about a dozen followup questions, the answers to which probably aren't pretty.

If you're halfway done with your first beer and she's finished her third, either you're an exceptionally slow drinker or she's a lush. If you're five minutes into the date, it's the latter.

A first date is a time when two people should be getting to know each other's interests and background. A background involving five arrests is a strong indication she may not be right for you.

Getting inundated with nearly a dozen texts the day after a first date may sound romantic. It's not. End it before full-blown stalking ensues.

There's nothing wrong with your date taking a minute to say "hi" to someone she knows. But she's probably not interested if she walks out of the room with that person, doesn't return until 15 minutes later, and then says she was just catching up with her ex-boyfriend.

It's usually a good sign if your date invites you inside. Walking into her living room and being greeted by her mother and five dogs makes it a slightly worse sign. Said mother then offering her daughter a not-legal-without-a-prescription mood-altering drug -- followed by a white pill -- is a sign to leave. And quickly.

Nothing can be more fun than getting to know someone. Or more terrifying. So, buy some flowers, slap on a little cologne and hope for the best.

And make sure you have a clear path to the nearest exit.

These are Jason Kotowski's opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian.