By November, as the Dow plummeted to lightless depths, the pickup scene had grown darker still. Aaron (not his real name), a 26-year-old mergers-and-acquisitions associate in Manhattan, remembers a recent trip he took to Vegas. He was getting along well with a pretty brunette until she asked him what he did. "Just like that, she went from distantly interested to visibly repulsed," he says. "She was furious. She said, 'You guys ruined everything!'"

While it may be gratifying to hear the sob stories of newly humbled titans, there are less sadistic reasons to embrace the new era. As the symbiosis of black-AmEx flashers and their vapid hangers-on falters, something long forgotten may be emerging in its place: actual human connection.

"The last three or four months have been good for me," says Hamaad, 26, a New York-based consultant in the finance industry. "I think people want to get out of this low. Maybe before, more women were going to lounges and bars looking for guys who could splurge. But those guys aren't around as much anymore. The focus has shifted from people who can just show you a good time to men who make interesting conversation." Then again, if one of the effects of the recession is to force high-net-worth individuals to perfect their A-game, you should fear the day the Dow bounces back.