Tonight I pushed myself to get out and jog with a weekly community group that is sponsored by a local athletic shop. It was a blast, and a good challenge both physically and socially.
I went by myself, to meet up with this crew that runs regularly, is in top shape, and for the most part all know one another.
Naturally, I fell behind and got lost along the route. It was through a well-lit but unfamiliar neighborhood, so I just continued doing loops until I figured out where I was and headed back in.
Well of course it would follow that I was the last person to finish. So last, in fact, that I almost literally ran into the meet organizer as she was on her way out to find me & make sure I was OK. What a killer first impression! I got a few claps and smirks upon returning to the designated gathering spot…which wouldn’t you know it, happened to be a pub.
I felt mildly embarrassed for being that guy — but also not really, because pretty much everyone sucks the first time they engage in new territory. All the runners were actually extremely friendly, and I will definitely be going back for more of their weekly sessions. Seems like a tight crew & great way to make friends (a skill I have lazily shrugged off in favor of having a best friend for a roommate and no shortage of work hours at the job). So much so that the organizer genially offered, “Hey, can I buy you a beer?” I still don’t know the best way to decline that question without seeming impolite; when a stranger offers to buy you a drink, it’s almost like a little investment in shared bonding, and the courteous response is not “No…”. I mean I was polite enough (“Thank you, but I’m good with my water!”), but there’s no denying it’s a social more, that alcohol-imbibing.
Anyway, I was past it pretty quickly. Let’s consider for a moment what would be (much, much) more embarrassing that a winded finish & polite declination of a brew: for me to oblige, proceed to continue chuggin’ ’em down, get obnoxiously drunk, and alienate an entire group of strangers in less than a few hours. There was a time when that was the only way I knew how to behave in a bar. As I’m thinking about it, I realize that in sobriety and in personal growth, I tend to have so many more interesting conversations in bar settings now…because I can actually hold them, and I’m far & well removed from the “college frat” approach to the scene. Grateful that I have worked my program in such a way that I get a second chance to try out that connected socialization, in a safe & dignified manner.