Learning to Mingle

As mentioned in my last post (2013-02-17 The Joys of Nature….. and the Opportunity for New Experiences), I joined the Atlanta Outdoor Club as a way to meet other people and have new experiences. (More detailed information can be found in that post.)

They also have a monthly social event where you can meet other members and event leaders. I kept an eye on the registered guests list and saw there was a mix of ages—including some folks in their 50s and 60s and I decided to attend their February Social. They had 101 people registered.

So, a couple of weeks ago I headed over to the social which was at TacoMac near Roswell.  When I got to the Prado I turned before I should have and almost missed the parking garage area. (In my defense, it was dark, raining and lots of traffic which meant lots of car headlights and I could not see well and I did not really know where I was going.)

When I parked my car, I realized there were 5 police cars and a bunch of policeman in the row next to me on their walkie-talkies. I had no idea how to get from the parking garage to the TacoMac. I watched the policeman and they were talking to group of young men but as I saw no evidence of blood and heard no gun shots, I decided to walk over to one of them to find out where to go. The very nice policeman told me I was on the wrong level (of course I was) and to take the elevator two floors up and walk across the street.

I followed his directions and soon found myself entering TacoMac. The AOC Social was on the outdoor patio which was covered with plastic all around the sides and had heaters and I took a deep breath and walked in. They had a sign-in table and I introduced myself and told them I was new and they said to sign-in and put on a name tag…..which I did. The very nice lady at the table introduced herself, smiled, waved her hand towards the people in the room and told me to go mingle.

Go mingle?????  GO MINGLE??????????  WHAT????????? Are they kidding me?

Oh my gosh……..just go mingle? As in “cold-call mingling”?  I do not know ANYBODY in this room.

So, I smiled and acted as if I knew how to do this and I turned around and looked at the people in the room. I saw a lot and I mean a lot of what appeared to be 40+ year olds…I guess the 60+ age hikers were still at home watching reruns of Happy Days.

And…to make it worse….. there were several tables with 4 people at each table…all chatting with each other and laughing…and there were standing groups of 3 or 4 people and they were chatting.

Now, when it comes to mingling at work (which is “acquaintance mingling” versus “cold-call mingling”)… well…… I can do that just fine. I work for Cobb County government and know a lot of people.  One can always ask general questions such as “How are things at the Police Department?”  Had any drug busts recently?”  Or….. “how go things in Fleet?  Doing a lot of oil changes?”  And depending on the season, there is the fall-back “how ‘bout them Braves?” Or “How ‘bout them Dawgs?”

When I was married and had to attend social parties, I knew the rules for executive-wife mingling. You never say “Good to meet you” but you say “Good to see you” as you could have met them once before at another business function. “Good to see you” is the safest mingling phrase.  And my ex-husband was with me so I was not totally on my own.

The closest I have come to “cold-call mingling” is when I went to visit Sunday School classes at First Presbyterian Church of Marietta as I did go by myself. But when you walk into a Sunday School class, it is pretty obvious that you are new. And most members make an effort to be kind and greet you and even act glad if you come back the next week …. I think it is the Jesus influence.

But… “cold-call mingling”?  Aughghghghghgg

So, I just looked out at the sea of faces in the room……….. What do I do? Go up to them and say “Hi…I’m new. Can I please mingle with you?”  I felt the panic rising in my throat….. all I could think was “Run Bambi Run”. If I could have turned around and walked out the door, I would have.

But instead, I took a few steps into the room past a group of 4 people and just stood there next to a bar stool style table. They had a big TV hanging above me from the ceiling and I looked at that.  I stood there by myself for 2 or 3 minutes and kept looking around trying to decide if there was a group I could go stand next to and act as if I belonged to them…. If I could only stand there and just smile and nod my head and not talk but look like I belonged. …. I would have been so grateful for that!

About that time a much younger woman (as in 30+ year old) came up to me and introduced herself to me. She has been a member for about a year and I started asking her about hiking and what trails she liked. And then the bar waitress came over and asked me if I wanted a drink.

Yes…………I did. I really did. In retrospect, I should have stopped by the bar before I entered the room.

So, I asked her if she had a beer list/menu which she promptly gave to me. The only problem is that it was 2+ pages and the print was little. I did not want to hold the menu up to my eyes and squint in a room full of 40+ year olds so, remembering my experience at the Downtown Disney Irish Pub, I asked her if she had a chocolate beer and she informed me that they had a Red Brick black cherry chocolate porter.

I had no idea what that was or what she was really saying to me……….but I ordered one. (I knew my son Chris would be proud of me for this—when he found out that I was going to TacoMac, his first response was.. “That’s great mom….they have a lot of different beers.” It is truly pitiful…I bond with my son by going out and trying beers….not sure that will get me a Mother-of-the Year nomination. )

So, I got my beer and kept smiling and “mingling” and sometimes the conversation flowed and sometimes it stopped but over the next hour, I actually did meet a few people.  

And before I knew it, it was 9:15 PM and I decided I better head back so I could get home before the bewitching hour of 10 PM.

The next day I found my sense of humor was still intact as I told some of my co-workers the “go mingle” story. But the truth is…..I did somehow mingle…. I hung in there and met some really nice people and I got some hiking tips. It really turned out to be a good evening.

As readers know, I keep trying to step out of the boat (2012-11-15 To Walk on Water, You Gotta First Get Out of the Boat) and the AOC Social was one of those “out-of-boat” experiences. I will have to say that I did gain some very important hiking tips at the social.

Probably the most important one was given to me by a very nice gentleman with a wonderful sense of humor. We were discussing clothing and hiking equipment …….. I mentioned that I had this wooden hiking stick.

He looked at me and smiled and told me that I should never bring my wooden hiking stick to an AOC hiking event as it would label me very quickly as an old-timer…. I needed a metal walking pole.

An Old Timer? Me? Eh? As I do not want to be labeled as an old timer I need to take some action………I see a shopping trip to our local REI store in the near future. I should be able to handle that just fine.

Just as long as I do not have to mingle…..

jfh