How to turn a disastrous date around

After meeting online, Bob and Janet hit it off fairly quickly.

For their third date, they planned a big night out: Dinner and theater, followed by drinks and dancing.

But late the afternoon of their date, things started turning disastrous.

"Janet called me to tell me she was nursing her distressed sister, who had just been dumped by her boyfriend," Bob recalls. "She was running late."

"The couple decided to skip dinner and just have drinks before the show. "Then, after getting dressed, Janet couldn't get her car started," Bob says. "Then, she got oil on her dress when she tried to figure out what was going wrong with her car. She was frantic that we would miss the beginning of the show."

Bob knew what he had to do. He called the theater and was able to switch the tickets to a later night. He threw some jeans and a sweater in a travel bag. He stopped by a small gourmet market and picked up a bottle of wine a few salads. And then he showed up at Janet's door.

"I told her we would try again some other night for our big night out," he says. "That night, we stayed in, changed into our comfortable clothes, lit a fire, and had one of the nicest nights together."

Wisely, Bob turned around what was quickly developing into a disastrous date. It's not hard to turn a calamitous get together around, even those that occur on the upcoming date-heavy Valentine's Day. Just follow the four "I's."

1. Improvise
Remember there is always another option in this era of choice. For example, did the Board of Health close the sexy French restaurant where you reserved a table? Simply move down the street to that old neighborhood standby where the host will be happy to seat you.

2. Improve
For example, car won't start on a big night out? Let it go until the next day and call a taxi or a limousine service instead. Although it might cost more, you can have an extra cocktail or two and also have time for a bit of back seat romance.

3. Idiot-Proof
Spending a few minutes preparing for a date will go a long way in case of a disaster. For example, write down the 800 service number for your credit cards in case you lose your wallet. By answering a prearranged question (such as what's your mother's maiden name?), they'll advance you through the evening. Or hide a spare key somewhere outside your house so you're not locked out before a night of passion.

4. Ignore
The really-irritating-waiter-with-the-bad-attitude or the rapidly-dwindling-menu-choices are two things that could normally send a special evening into the abyss of date hell. The best bet with these small but potentially-devastating annoyances? Pretend they are not there. Instead, concentrate on your partner and the way she looks tonight.