Saturday, January 5, 2013

On being the first to arrive

I approach the entrance with the graceful swagger of a man who is extremely self-aware of his graceful Friday night swagger, the straightening of the back and the loping gate that says he's totally not overcompensating for some crazy social anxiety (though the glass of wine before I left my apartment certainly helps).

The nightclub bouncer is waiting for me. Personally. I'm pretty sure of it.

"Hello, Mister Bouncer," I say. Mister Bouncer? What the fuck, brain? "How much is it to get in?"

"It's open now," comes the reply. Helpful response to the wrong question.

"Oh, right, no, I was asking-"

The bouncer waves me in. Since failing to obey the every word and gesture of nightclub muscle means almost certain death, I step through and pay at the table inside. Stamp on the wrist.

Wait, was that supposed to be the left wrist or the right one? She's looking at me funny, did I stroke one of her fingers by accident or something? Oh dear god, she thinks I'm a freak. I've creeped out the door lady.

I shuffle up a flight of stairs and skitter over to the bar. Then it hits me. They've just started accepting customers. I'm the first dude in the nightclub. Out of all the drunk, sweaty bodies gracing this establishment over the course of the evening, mine will be the first.

Panic stations.

What do we know about making a standard nightclub entrance? Keep your eyes on the bar, grab yourself a Hunters and for the love of god, don't be seen without a drink in your hand. Nightclubs are awkward enough when fully-equipped, but there's a definite sense of nakedness without something occupying the hands and mouth -- beverage, conversation or another human body, in order from most to least awkward.

Right, bar. This should be easy. I'll have the tender's full attention and don't need to worry about messing up my drink order by shouting over everyone else. Two wins right there. Getting in first at the nightclub is fun!

R20 down on the bar, and one I'm-not-awkward smile. "Hi! I'd like to start with a Black Label please." I'm drinking beer tonight. Because I'm a man. A sexy, shoeless god of clubbing. Such a wild party animal, I'm first in line at all the fucking clubs. Look at me -- outta control.

Bartender asks, "You the set DJ?"

Horror. Meltdown. Oh Jesus, what kind of fucking question is that? I wasn't warned about this. In all my bar interactions ever ever, I was never ever ever given any warning about this situation cropping up. What do I say?

The other bartender pipes up, "Yo, we're open now. Serving customers."

"Right," Bartender 1 turns back to me. I'm still making fishfaces at the complexity of his question. "So that's a Black Label, right?"

"Uh, yeah." Goddamn, he's so much more handsome than me. I need to work out more. I've been eating a lot of salads recently, so that counts for something, right?

Drink acquired and tip awarded (two rand off sixteen, I hope he doesn't think I'm a cheapskate). Next problem is figuring out where to go.

The club is still empty. I'm the only one there. I refuse, on principle, to go to the dancefloor by myself. It will only further convince the bronze Adonis behind the bar that I'm quite socially challenged. He'll tell every single person he serves about that weird guy in the black T-shirt. "Yeah. Him. Dances when there's no one around."

I also don't want to go upstairs. I mean, I think I just saw one or two people go up there, but were they employees or just the next customers of the night? Is this like an antechamber to the true potential and glory of the club, and I'm just hopelessly missing out (under the judgemental watch of Adonis)? Or does that staircase lead to some sort of staff room instead. If I find myself accidentally trespassing, will I be arrested?

No, best not to go upstairs.

I see some doors to an outside balcony area, but is that an actual inhabitable bar space? What if I try to open the door and it's locked and then everybody sees the twerp who thought people could go onto the balcony? Death from embarrassment.

Clearest course of action: stay at the bar. Stay at the bar and hope against all odds that the very next people walking through will be the friends you're waiting for.

I avoid eye contact with the barman. I don't want him to think I hitting on him. I mean, not to say that I think he's gay, but what if he thinks that I'm gay? People tend to think I'm gay. What if I have to explain to him that I'm not, and then break someone's heart somewhere along the line? The emotional burden is too much.

Am I standing too stiffly against the bar? More people are coming in, and I'm one of the first things they'll see. They'll judge my posture. What's the right one? Legs together, stand straight? No, no, of course not, I'm not in a fucking office. Legs spread? ... sounds dodgy. How about: stick out butt, hand on hip, half leaning on bar. Does that make me look sophisticated / gay / just weird?

More people arrive. I've finished my Black Label. The bar area is filling up. I wonder if I should order another one. But if you have two drinks before talking to anyone, haven't you officially Failed The Evening?

I decide to stay on the safe side and keep the empty beer bottle with me instead. So now I have a hand prop that I hope nobody inspects too closely. The only thing more embarrassing than no bottle is an empty bottle. I mean, you can bluff for a while and say that you've just finished it an are totally going to put the container down now, but that can only hold out for a little while, at best.

I've observed people successfully moving through the balcony doorway, and take it as a sign that the going is safe -- unless there's a VIP party out on the balcony, meaning I'll stumble in uninvited. And get arrested.

Outside. Beautiful warm evening air. Cape Town's Long Street is really quite lovely when you're standing on the balcony of a local night spot. You can look all along the street and see nothing but a bustle of cars, party-goers and decorative lights. You can also wave across the street, towards balconies of revellers enjoying the night at some other hotspot. All in all, it's the holy grail of good vibes. There aren't many other places I've been to where the entire street of a CBD lights up and celebrates the evening so vividly (though I suppose I'm just taking my perspective from the Durban point of view -- the CBD there is scary as hell).

I'd like to do this more in the coming year -- going out and enjoying the vitality that surrounds these sort of evenings. I just, er, need to sweat the small stuff a little less.

Pic found on this pretty cool blog

Speaking of which: I've maximised my time on the balcony. People are probably going to think that I'm on drugs if I just keep staring out at the city like this. I need to find a new distraction before things get awkward.

And right there it is, my last hope and saviour: a moderately secluded couch on the far end of the balcony. Electronic sanctuary within my grasp, I whip out my cell, flop onto the couch and spend the next 30 minutes pretending it's as fascinating as an iPhone.

Friends arrive. Fifty-percent relief.

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