My job rarely requires I travel far, but this week had me going out to Pittsburgh for a day. I didn't have to drive, but I did have to show up at my ride's house by seven in the AM sharp.
Not too early, except that departure point was almost two hours from me. I decided to stay at a friend's house in that area the night before and subsequently, the night after the trip.
I went with two other guys, associates on this project. I find man groups can be like dogs; two is a certain dynamic of push and pull, but at three you have a pack, with a totally different vibe. The trip went well, and I enjoyed the experience of traveling with two other men who had similar interests (architecture/design) but at the same time might as well have come from the moon.
These were guys I have not had much experience with; guys that talked sports, women and all the crazy topics that lay in-between. To my surprise I found I could keep up a conversation with them for the eight-plus-hours we were together, and not only that, it was enjoyable.
As we headed into the final minutes of our trip, I confirmed via phone with my hosts that I would be returning to spend another evening with them. I could see one of the guys paying attention to my conversation; "So you are not going home this evening, you'll be around tonight?" he asked when I hung up. I affirmed that, and he replied "You should come out with us; it's wing special at this place we go every Wednesday night." He then spent a few minutes on his phone, asking others if they were joining him tonight so he knew what size table to reserve.
Once back at his house, I said would consider it (to be polite) even though I knew once I was back at my friends' I probably would not want to go out; I was tired. He carefully wrote the directions and called out as we parted "Hopefully see you there!".
Once back at my friends I showed them the piece of paper with the name of the place and directions, "Oh, that place!", they laughed.
I did not give it much thought, until later in the evening the female of the couple I was staying with asks me "So are we going out or what?" It was understood her husband, my other friend, would not go as he was a reformed alcoholic, and from the description you did not go to this place for the food.
I wavered between the comfortable option of staying put and going out, but something inside me made me say immediately "What the hell…let's go!".
We got there late, but found the place nevertheless crowded. I found the familiar baseball-capped outline of the guys and joined them at a table with a few other men.
The place was full of screens…several on each wall, and a ballgame was on. They seemed very much into the game, and all of sudden I realized I had no idea how to act. The waitress came over; my lady friend suggested we order a pitcher of beer (I could tell that met with approval) and then it was my turn to order something to eat…I wavered for a moment, and again, thought, what the hell! I ordered a plate of wings…hot.
For those who know me, I don't eat wings. I don't watch sports on TV. I don't hang with guys. Not that I don't want to; that's simply not how the chips fell in my life. That night, I discovered, as a plate of sticky wings appeared before me, this alien experience that so, so many men do all the time without a second thought.
I was one of the guys.
But how to watch this game and not look like a dork? Well, the lady friend I came with luckily happened to be a sports nut. I simply followed her cues, cheering when she did, and hoping that her total, demonstrative involvement masked the fact that her buddy was fairly clueless.
The game finished, the pitcher empty, my belly was full of wings, which I found delicious, if a bit of work to get all the meat off. The guy who invited me wished me well, telling me he was happy we came out. "We do this every Wednesday, it really does a great job of breaking up the week". He spoke like some underpaid intern, yet in reality he was the head and owner of the company we were working with on this project.
We shook hands in parting, and I noticed it was a different kind of handshake: his hand came around in a big, companionable swing before it met mine. It said "I like you, let's do this again".
Next day at work I felt groggy from lack of sleep but happy because I was out with the guys.
It just took a woman to help me discover how fun that can be.