The task seemed easy: Investigate the art of the pick-up line and report my findings. I snatched the assignment from my editor’s fingers and gleefully set out on my quest to discover the magic of this mystical and elusive phenomenon.

The first step was to define what a pick-up line is. By definition, I assumed it would be a single phrase that, when uttered to a member of the opposite sex, would suppress all inhibitions, cause them to get weak in their knees and fall hopelessly and adoringly under the speaker’s spell.

Or, perhaps just allow one to get a phone number from an attractive stranger and an invitation to call.
Could such a phrase exist? Could there be some genetic predisposition toward certain key phrases that work every time on every person? I had to find out.

A Google search turned up nothing more than hundreds of links to databases overflowing with cheesy one-liners. The trusty Wikipedia skipped over pick-up lines entirely and redirected my link to seduction — which takes far more effort than delivering a flawless pick-up line. If the secret of the pick-up existed, it was a closely-guarded one. Unfortunately, my editor wouldn’t have approved a travel request that would allow me to fly to the mountains of Tibet and learn what progress the ancient mystics have made in this area over the thousands of years they’ve been exploring this art form. So, I settled for old-fashioned grunt work and set out to find answers around campus.

Now, if conventional wisdom is to be believed, women dig musicians, and therefore musicians would have powerful seduction kung fu that would surely boost their chances of successfully delivering a pick-up line. So I started with a musician.

“A pick-up line is your best one-liner to grab the attention and persuade someone to come around and hang out with you, and then you can go from there,” explained Zac Johnson, former front man and guitarist for Perfect Orange and a senior in journalism and electronic media.

“It would accomplish whatever you needed it to accomplish,” he continued. “So if you wanted it to be a quick one-night thing, that’d be it. If you wanted this girl to be your love, that would be it.”

I listened intently as Johnson laid out the pick-up strategy used by a fellow musician, whose advice is: “Just go, ‘Hey, wanna come see the van?’ And, of course, they want to see the van. They want you to make out with them. So you get to the van and you go ‘This is where we sleep, and there’s our TV where we play Playstation, and here’s where you make out with me.’ And then you make out with them, and it’s that simple.”

“I’ve seen him do it,” Johnson assured me. “I’ve been standing next to him when he’s like ‘You wanna see the van?’ and they’re like ‘Oh Charlie, yeah, I want to see the van.’”

While the results cannot be debated, short of me taking up guitar lessons myself and joining Johnson’s new band, I had to hang my head in frustration. Even if the van line worked every time, it surely only worked for touring musicians. For everyone else, it’d just be really creepy.

I decided to turn to women.

Now the general consensus among the women I spoke to is that pick-up lines, when delivered with the serious hope that they’ll work, are just pathetic. “Somebody with poor social skills, possibly kind of ‘sleazy’ might use pick-up lines,” said Katie Latham, senior in journalism and electronic media.

Nichole Pendleton, sophomore in art history, described those who use pick-up lines in no uncertain terms. “Guys who aren’t afraid to make an ass out of themselves and guys who are just a little bit desperate.”

Even Johnson admitted that he’s “seen some people fall flat on their face. They’ll be a little tipsy, and they’ll just go straight to the punch line like, ‘Let’s go make out,’ and the girl slaps him.”

So, pick-up lines are generally a bad thing. Do they ever work?

“I think guys are more susceptible to pick-up lines,” admitted Johnson. “If a girl comes up to you with a really clever pick-up line, and you’re just gonna be like ‘OK,’ and she can just be retarded and disease-ridden with four teeth, but if she’s just the slightest bit clever, the dude’s gonna be like ‘Oh, alright, yeah I’ll come with you. Sure, I’ll look at your 7,000-Barbie doll collection. You’re crazy; I don’t care.’”

“I don’t think guys actually think of them being pick-up lines,” explained Pendleton. “Guys just think women are hitting on them, and they don’t actually think ‘Oh, you know, I’ve heard that before.’ But women do.”

“I just think all this is incredibly funny,” she added. “Pick-up lines are just, they’re hysterical anyway, and the fact that people actually use them and they think they’re going to work makes it even more funny. And to think that it’s going to work on every single woman out there — the same line — it’s ridiculous.”

At this point, I came to the realization that my groundbreaking research led me to the completely surprising conclusion (which was surprising because of its complete lack of surprise) that men can be picked up by women who simply show interest, while picking up a woman truly is an art form that requires great skill and expertise. Or, in the words of Johnson: “Guys are definitely more susceptible because we’re not as smart as women.”

With the promise of finding the perfect pick-up line quickly diminishing, I probed for other tactics that might help some lonely souls find companionship this Valentine’s Day (since I had already solved the complete non-mystery of how women can pick up men).

“There’s a difference between a pick-up line and how you pick up women,” Lauren Powers, freshman in psychology, told me. “Guys can say cheesy stuff and not mean it in a pick-up line way, and then there’s the one [line] they’ve used a hundred times — the one they’ve researched.”

Her advice: “A compliment. ‘You have beautiful eyes,’ or something. Something to make you feel special, a compliment so you’ll talk to them.”

For Pendleton, “He’d have to act intelligent for starters and not act like it’s something he’s just doing to impress his buddies.”

“Humor is a good way to go. Girls like a guy with a sense of humor,” Latham added. “Being pessimistic is not a good thing. Don’t criticize anything. Don’t be like, ‘Oh man, it’s hot in here,’ or things like that. Those are bad things to say.”

During my interviews, I was told pick-up lines as cheesy as, “You must be from Tennessee, because you are the only 10 I see.” There were some more clever ones, such as, “Let’s rearrange the alphabet to put U and I together,” and, “If I told you that you had a nice body, would you hold it against me?” I suppose that, all things considered, even the straightforward “You wanna make out?” has something above a non-zero probability of success, given enough attempts and a long enough timeline (a probability, I suppose, that is slightly higher than the probability that Mandy Moore will call my agent to set up a lunch date with me this week).

And so I concluded my research and drew the conclusion that women should have no problem picking up a guy. Guys, on the other hand, should come across as intelligent, be sincere in their compliments and only use pick-up lines for tongue-in-cheek humor.

I could have ended it there, but at some point during my struggle to find the secrets of the pick-up, I inadvertently stumbled on the very thing I thought had eluded me: I found the one-liner that when used on any attractive woman of my choice, worked every single time in not only getting her phone number but having her cheerfully invite me to call her over the weekend.

“So ... can I call you this weekend to get your thoughts on an article I’m writing about pick-up lines?”