be there now
Since I bought a cellphone a few weeks ago, my life has started to look some fictional phone commercial:
Use our amazing services to meet new people and expand your social circle!
To be fair, all the new people I’ve met have been through one friend who has a lot of friends, and the highlight so far was yesterday. Following an enjoyable afternoon at the Dublin Horse Show with my first friend, I ended up at the movies with two beautiful girls on each arm, to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Even stranger: I was totally comfortable around them, and vice versa. One thing I’m realizing now is how, in the past, I’ve been surrounded by apparently intolerant people, which has left me with rather low expectations of society.
I don’t mean explicit intolerance; I’m talking about a more general sense of acceptance. The people I’ve been hanging out with in the last few years, and especially recently, have just allowed me to be around them, in contrast to my more common experience: I’ve always been made to feel that I have to have a reason to be around people, that I have to justify my presence in some way, and leave when I’m not wanted.
I say “apparently” intolerant, because it’s hard to say where the fault lies, if there even is one. Here in Ireland the most common place people hang out is the pub, and that is something I’ve definitely lost patience with. The recent change in tone, since the ban on smoking was introduced, has not made it any easier: in a typical pub session I know more smokers than non-smokers – the way drinking and smoking go together – and in our office local we non-smokers feel socially obliged to join the smokers outside.
But my lack of patience is, itself, a problem in these circles. I expect more from a night out than a few drinks, some tipsy conversation, and a challenge to get home afterwards. It’s got to the point where I need an explicit invitation to go to the pub – if I’m not actually wanted there, why should I go? The beer is hardly an attraction: I could get better beer at a lower price from the supermarket or drink store, and serve it properly chilled, though I rarely have any drink at home. Nor do I enjoy the effects alcohol has on me, physical or mental.
No, my more rewarding social experiences have not involved pubs, or alcohol, at all. In my office, however, my attempts to organize other social gatherings have fallen on deaf ears. There’s something of a worldwide Texas Hold’Em Poker craze on at the moment, but can I find anyone else interested in a game? Even one person? The movies are so far my best bet for sober fun, as the last fortnight has shown. Sure, it means sitting in a dark room staring at a screen, but we’ve had fun discussions before and after, over coffee.
As I get more used to meeting people outside the office here in Ireland, the experience is very different to the office world, and so are the challenges. Patience is the biggest one for me: to not want, or expect, or demand, anything from an outing, over time. To be there, not just when needed, but also when wanted – a truly rare experience in my life so far.