Anyway after browsing the list I decided on a wine tasting event. That sounded innocuous enough, and more like a real life event rather than something so strangely staged (like speed dating). I signed up and forgot about it for awhile.
The night finally rolled around yesterday. I treated myself to some Poncho 8, a casual Mexican restaurant near my work that resembles Chipotle (which I miss terribly...they have it here but I feel like I'm cheating myself by eating something I could easily get at home):
God it was good. I got pulled pork and beef and all the trimmings (and I mean all the trimmings, I even spent the ridiculous £1 extra to get guacamole, which I lust after in strange ways now). It was glorious and I was full. The only thing missing from its otherwise similar Chipotle-like experience was the glorious glorious corn salsa. When I go to Chipotle in the States I'll always get a carnitas bowl with as much corn salsa as they will give me. Oh I get the other trimmings too (though never paid for the extra guac)...but there's something just so genuinely cracky about that corn salsa. My god the corn salsa.
I make my way there, only to be waylaid by someone throwing themselves onto the tube tracks at King's Cross Station (which was between where I was when it happened and my stop for this wine tasting). I know this is a regular occurrence in London (apparently people throw themselves on train or tube tracks around 160 times a year...really), but it still strikes me as slightly horrible and the way Londoners deal with it is:
I jest. But this was made by an agency for the London Underground (which naturally they rejected but I thought would have been great to see in real life).
So I took a bus. This made me 20 minutes late but I figured better late than never. And I texted the event coordinator to tell them I was on my way. No response.
I get there and it's in the basement of a bar called All Bar One. It's a chain set of bars that sell half-price cocktails and other forms of surprisingly nice but relatively cheap boozing and eating. I've enjoyed them on more than one occasion. The coordinator was obviously in the middle of explaining how things were done as I walked in.
...that's when I figured out that this was once again another speed dating event. Damnit! I thought I was going for easy wine tasting and mingling rather than being bamboozled into this strangely constructed social necessity.
And the wine was all gone by the time I arrived. Things were not particularly looking up.
But I did not let that deter me, instead I took it with a grain of salt. I've done this before, I'll get to meet new people, and whatever, I could go home straight after and feel fine with the way I used my £8. Not a terrible night by any means. And I had been strangely calm and fine with being so late (whereas normally I would be stressing out). Priorities in life. Remain calm.
And so the 4 minute conversations started. There were only 14 pairs this time. The basement was surprisingly well-lit and it was a comfortable environment, unlike Funky Buddha. I settled in for easy conversation and that's exactly what I got. Because I was calm and relaxed, they were calm and relaxed.
And what an interesting bunch they were. Three Bulgarians, one Italian, a Norwegian, an Aussie, a few from the UAE, two British guys, a Canadian, and perhaps a few others. It was especially interesting to me that it seemed the neighborhood of the venue made a huge difference on the demographics of our participants. Perhaps this is just a fluke though; two sets of data is hardly a conclusive finding.
Some interesting tidbits from the night before I continue my story:
- The Norwegian wrote me a poem. It eventually ended in the word "ass." It was kind of hilarious.
- The Italian was very Italian (from Sicily, I understand they're technically different), but looked very much the British hipster part. Small very circular black specs, neatly dressed, articulate. He wasn't my type but he seemed nice enough. Sort of like a mole rat. But not terrifying.
- The Bulgarians were all large tall men with a strange stiffness about them. Most of them were friendly, some of them were shy to the point of untalkative. Not the best for a 4 minute sell situation.
- One guy, who was fantastically nice, gushed about how much he loved his job directing children's films. It was one of the nicest talks I had that night. It was great to see someone so happy about their work.
He apparently thought my business was fascinating. After two and a half hours of conversation it became obvious that he is very much a philosopher. We talked about the future of humanity and how he believed it would come down to all of us being part of a collective consciousness. I didn't buy it for a number of reasons but it was an interesting idea. Very much bordering on a spirituality that could be crazy. But he was interesting, and it was certainly the deepest talk I'd had with someone in a very long while.
And so the night ended and I tubed it home. Not a wasted night after all.
I'm completely done with speed dating now, time to do something else.