Since quitting my job I tend to spend a lot of time inside. I don’t interact with people very often, so the threat level of embarrassing myself remains pretty low. If I do embarrass myself, it is most likely in front of my cats, who just sort of tilt their heads, and go back to cleaning themselves.
But when I go out into the real world anything can happen.
On Friday I found myself at the St. Paul Art Crawl, a giant community-oriented art show. My friend and I focused on the Schmidt Artist Lofts, nestled into the old Schmidt Brewing Company building. Artists participating in the show open their apartment doors, put out snacks, wine, and other drinks (“I can make a screwdriver, if anyone wants one,” one artist offered when I wandered into her loft), and make awkward small talk about their pieces. Despite the initial strangeness of it, it actually is pretty fun, if cramped.
There I met many wonderful artists, shared a glass of wine with a man with phenomenal eye contact, and visited with my writing friend. All-in-all, the night was great and confidence boosting (thanks eye contact dude).
My friend and I decided to continue the evening (which ended around 10) by grabbing drinks close to her apartment. In the chilly fall weather we walked across the bridge and wandered into the bar. As soon as we entered, I saw someone I knew. We’ve only met each other a handful of times, but we’ve hung out occasionally. I noticed him in passing, too distracted/embarrassed/self-conscious to say anything. I don’t usually say hi to people I only know casually, too worried that they’ve forgotten me, found me ridiculous, or are too distracted to pay attention. When I sat down I whispered the news to my friend.
“Do you remember Natalie’s friend, Jonathan?” she nodded slowly after I elaborated. “That’s him, down at the end.”
“You should say hi.”
“I will,” I decided. “When we leave.”
I texted Natalie, who agreed that I should say hi. In all caps.
I enjoyed fried jalapeno cheese curds and a black IPA with perhaps too high of an alcohol content, on perhaps too empty of a stomach. I kept looking at my friend Jonathan, distantly hoping that he would wave so I would feel less awkward.
When it came time to leave, I’d made my decision. Natalie is a touchy-feely person (please note: I am not), and she often grabs people on the shoulder to say hello to them. I thought this would be a great way to get Jonathan’s attention as we left the bar.
With his back to me, I grabbed his shoulder, intent on a bit of small talk, or a quick hello.
Jonathan turned around. Only, it wasn’t Jonathan.
“Heyyyyyy,” we all sort of shouted at each other. Me, terrified that I had just grabbed a random stranger in a mostly empty bar, him confused by why an awkward woman was holding his shoulder still. Thankfully, my legs kept moving, carrying me away from the face of the man I didn’t know. I made it to the atrium of the bar before I bent over in hysterical laughter.
“Want to here a secret?”
“What?” asked my friend.
“That wasn’t Jonathan.”
The hysteria lasted for the rest of the evening, but a wonderful lesson remained. I am mostly terrified of this mistake, of saying hi to someone I don’t know, of waving at the person waving at the person behind me, of answering a question not directed at me. And I accidentally did it. I grabbed a random stranger in a bar, and I couldn’t be happier for the ludicrous story that came out of it. And hopefully the same goes for not-Jonathan too.