Saturday, April 22, 2006

I Missed My Saturday Night B-Movie on the Sci-Fi Channel. Insert Sarcastic Frowny Emoticon Here.

And they were showing some Tom Skerritt vehicle called Mammoth, too, about "a museum curator [who] helps authorities battle a woolly mammoth terrorizing a small Louisiana town." Actually, even better, it's really an alien that crash-landed into the natural history museum and morphs into the first thing it sees. I'd like to remind you now that someone wrote that gem down on a piece of paper, and probably made a lot of money for it, so remember that the next time the boss is riding you down in accounts receivable.

My usual Saturday night lying in bed was interrupted by the New Jersey Young Professionals, who were throwing something called a "Just Wing It" mixer at a club in New Brunswick. I hadn't been to a club since freshman orientation at college, so it's not exactly my sort of milieu, but I'll explain the concept if you're my mom and even less worldly than I am. (Mom: "A club? You mean a comedy club? A chess club? Why are you looking at me like that?") A nightclub is a big dark room with a bar at one end, retro European furniture around the perimeter, and color-changing mood lighting that looks like a rainbow on an acid trip. There's candles for ambience and a super-bright swiveling spotlight hanging off the ceiling for temporary blindness. They've got someone spinning tunes in the booth in the corner, the better to show off your unabashed fly Caucasian dance moves. You head out to the singles' mixer to meet new people, and I'm certain I would've gotten a whole yellow pages' worth of phone numbers if DJ Squiggles or whatever wasn't spinning a mixture of the hottest hip-hop and house hits in central New Jersey at a hundred bazillion decibels. Yes... it's Squiggles's fault that I didn't get lucky.

Truth is, despite having to wear a nametag, the whole night surpassed my expectations. I'd like to say that I really just went so I could mock the whole event afterwards, but I wore my new pair of trendy jeans, so maybe there's something subconscious going on. Still, I've learned that if you keep your hopes down for things, you can lead a pretty disappointment-free life, and with these sorts of social gatherings, as long as I don't wet my pants, pretty much anything meets or exceeds my expectations. Plus, the whole idea behind the "Just Wing It" theme was that there'd be "wing men" and "wing women" specially trained to go around making introductions. I don't know how they were trained, like if there's some sort of matchmaking boot camp they went to or what, but I really do need someone else to be a catalyst and facilitate the awkwardness. You know the wing people have the self-confidence and moxie to do that because they're all wearing super cheesy flashing necklaces but don't seem to mind that someone's looking to humble them.

I got there early and before I could even order a drink, this amiable but oblivious flashy necklace dude accosted me with the classic uncomfortable conversation starter, "What are you doing sitting here all by yourself?" Like there's an answer to that question that doesn't make me look like a total puss — "What? I'm by myself? I hadn't noticed! Thank you, good sir, for pointing out how aloof I am. How about you make this little discussion a bit more awkward by asking me what my sign is?" But I tell Blinky that I'm gonna be all mingling once I've got some liquor in my bloodstream. This gets rid of him for a little while, but I realize now that I need to come up with smarter retorts, ones that don't commit me to either introducing myself around or facing another one of Blinky's inevitable inane observations.

I pick up my drink, and now Blinky's coming over to make me friends, and I'd frankly be a whole lot less uncomfortable in this situation if I hadn't just accidentally stuck those mixed drink mini-straws up my nose while trying to drink as much black Russian in a single sip as humanly possible. I spill some on my shirt, but who cares — I just figured out why it's so dark in here! Blinky asks me what I do, and this would be an awesome time to be an astronaut or a NASCAR driver or, I don't know, the pope. Instead, I've gotta tell him that I'm a freelance web developer, which actually doesn't sound too bad compared to the lame jobs other people have — recruiting, database administration, facilities management, human resources. Of course, I haven't done web design for any sites that anybody might actually know about, so the conversation pretty much dies right there. No matter, it's Blinky's job to introduce me around, and in no time, I'm shaking hands with pretty much the computer geek squad that sat at my middle school lunch table. (No offense to anyone I ate lunch with in middle school, but it's not like any of us were playas or, uh, girls.)

Yeah, so I'm gonna need a second drink. I'm obsessed with figuring out what show they've got on TV there.

I spent the rest of the evening sort of aimlessly wandering from one side of the big dance room to the other, hoping I might remain inconspicuous. Occassionally I'd accidentally make eye contact with someone and it was weird — but I had to introduce myself cause it would've been more weird if I didn't. Name, hometown, approximate geography of my hometown (note to self: from now on, make sure you know which cardinal direction and how far Fanwood is from wherever the event is taking place), and I'm a web designer. Then I'm officially out of conversation, and I'm struggling to remember the conversation starter questions they laid out in The Fine Art of Small Talk, but the only one I can recall is "How can you tell if that melon is ripe?" which seems a little inappropriate.