I’ve been regularly going to bars as a single guy for 14 years. Hardly any sort of record, but more than some.
I’ve been to bars in Europe, bars in Central and South America, bars in the Middle East (though I was decked out in armor and an assault rifle and wasn’t there to chat), and bars in the states. Here in the states, I’ve been all over–west coast, east coast, midwest, north, south, southeast, southwest, Cali, New York (city and state), etc.
You see a lot of scenes in a lot of scenes. Most are harmless, some get you into fights, some get you new friends. There are the different crowds, depending on the time they patron (happy-hour vs closer crowds) as well as the type of bar (hipster/”seensters”, microbrew, dive). There are the married people there with kids (you’d be surprised), the married people there without kids, the married people there without spouses, angry divorcées, old creepy leering guys, old guys dressing young, sugar daddies, brooders, the desperates, single women looking at smartphones …on and on.
When I’m out with people, I enjoy people. I laugh, live it up, tell wild stories, get everybody going–enough at least to regularly be invited out. I’m the Josh most people know.
When I’m by myself though, I’m much more reserved. I’m boring Josh. I’ll make eye contact and chat, sure, but I’ll mostly just take it all in.
I’m years past picking up girls at bars, so I stick to my drinks and chat with the bartenders about the wisdom picked up from a 1,000 conversations. I go, stay late, stay still, tip well and stay polite.
When you’re a man alone at a bar, there are few comparable moments of sheer isolation.
There, in the crowd, you could as easily be at the bottom of the sea. No one is hitting on you (at least not often); no one is buying you a drink; dressed in t-shit and jeans, no one is impressed by how you look. You are unplugged and alone. You get to feel everything going on in yourself, be it depression, serenity, anxiety or elation.
And after you accept how you are in that moment, you are able to observe people. After a few years, you start to notice patterns.
Last night was a great example of one of these (on to the actual post, I suppose…long intro).
I’ve seen this scene several times and haven’t come up with a name for it–maybe I should find who else has already named these types of things…I’m sure it’s out there.
Anyway, I was sitting at the bar. Small place, in the basement of a restaurant–speakeasy style. Dark, with a few scattered lights and candles. A friend of mine was playing music, loud but not ear-splitting. It was late, almost midnight on a weekday, so the crowd was committed and already well on their way to whomever they were going to be with. Was pretty busy, bar itself was mostly full.
Two women walked in with two muscled guys in t-shirts and sideways hats. They grab a booth and the women head to the bar to get the drinks. Guys stayed back and watched, like German shepherds told to “stay”.
One was a blonde, one a brunette. Very cute. Young. They worked in and sat right next to me at the bar. They started making eyes and smiling at me and the other gentlemen around. I turned back to my drink.
The boys in tow were joined by a couple of other guys wearing the same getup. The girls had some time before any barking might start.
Two guys, early 40s let’s say, both in dark button-down shirts and jeans, one heavier with teased out thinning grey hair and one more in shape and bald, take the bait and start to talk.
Sure enough, two older guys get in and start their thing. Bald guy is more assertive and tells story and joke after joke. The group is laughing. Blonde has turned away and her back keeps pressing into me as she laughs. Now and then she’ll linger in her leaning. She’ll turn her head to make eye contact and smile. I smile and look back at the bar.
A few minutes go by. Older guys have loudly said “another round” a couple of times. They’ve paired off, leaning in and chatting more intimately. A few minutes more and girls pack up to move back to the booth in the back. Older guys follow along.
I turn back to listening to my friend play. Not two minutes go by and the bouncer is being called over. Older heavier dude is fighting one of the meatheads. Older fit guy is standing his ground. Meatheads are out and ready to rumble. And the girls? They’ve got their arms around their respective young boys.
Sorry to the older gents, but you don’t buy drinks and flirt with pretty girls who came with guys.
Just one of those patterns. “Stay alert stay alive” and all that.