My experience with Meetup.com – AKA: the adventures of being ostracized in a public gathering.
First, a little bit of back story… Meetup.com is a site where people in a certain spot on this vast planet can decide to make a virtual group – usually themed – which allows any other person in the area to join up. Once a group has formed, this themed group of humans makes plans to meet in person. Thus, the premise being, that you get to meet people with similar interests, and you get to do something you enjoy in the process.
I had first heard of group meet ups from my lovely friends Kim and Edicson, both of whom had moved to a new area, didn’t know that many people, then ended up having some pretty good success in making local friends. Similarly, Luuk used meetup.com and was able to hangout with people all the way in the Netherlands, by joining a themeless group of meetup.com people.
So, last summer I decided to try and meet some people. I’d follow the formula that seemed to be working for my comrades:
Sounded simple enough. It had fewer steps than making a frozen pizza. I thought I had this one in the bag; if there were an election for person-who-could-make-most-best-friends I would have been president. Or at the very least…prime minister.
Now, the meet up groups at the time were very limiting. The ones that had themes were often times hobbies that I wasn’t exactly 100% into. I saw book clubs, film maker clubs, coding clubs, knitting clubs, outdoor activities, singles mixers, couples mixers, and pet owner clubs. Now, as much as those sounded interesting (except let’s be real here, I’m not going fucking hiking…) I could not see myself realistically fitting in to any of those groups. I mean, I’d probably get along with coders, but I fucking hate coding. I don’t know if I want to base my entire friendship with someone on knitting… I also noted that other groups, like classical music or jazz listeners, were more of an older crowd. While all the young-ins seemed to be flocking towards sports-related clubs. I was shit out of luck.
As I kept scrolling, I noticed a table top gaming group, and then another…and then another. Holy shit, I had no idea people were so into table top gaming. Closer investigation showed that some of these were held in comic shops (oh fuck, I love comic shops) and some at restaurants (oh fuck, I love food). So, naturally, I signed up immediately.
I chose a meetup that was in a restaurant, because it was the closest to me, and it seemed to have a good mix of people (based off of the pictures). The description mentioned that it was for people who were novices and veterans of a variety of games. Despite being an avid monopoly and game of life player, I had a feeling that these board games were nothing like them. They were more of the Dungeons and Dragons type of board games. And, at that point in my life I had only played DnD once…and that was in high school…and I barely remembered what happened besides me shooting some magic missiles. But, screw it man, I wanted to learn! I was very open to expanding my knowledge of any and every kind of board game.
So I showed up to this burger joint and I saw a crowded table of people. Automatically I knew this was the crew. They had a little stack of 5 to 6 games on the end of the table, none of which I recognized. And it looked like the group had two or three games going on at the moment because there were boards stretched across the table as well, board game pieces seemed to mix in with the baskets of fries. It was kind of awkward at first because I was trying to remember the face of the person who was the “leader” of the group – but I didn’t see him. Instead were ten or twelve faces that I didn’t remember the names to. I sort of shoved my hand out to people, introducing myself, and a couple welcomed me to the group. The obvious, and obligatory, question was asked – “What’s your favorite game?” to which I responded by nervously laughing and saying I had never played any before. It felt like I had parted the red sea, cause everyone kind of politely smiled and then ceased to talk to me. So I turn around to order some food.
Then leader guy shows up and looks at me, I introduce myself and he asks if I RSVP’d. “Uhhh” think self, did you RSVP? DID YOU? I vaguely recall a button saying RSVP on the meetup group site. But, I don’t think I clicked it. “No.” I say. “We may not have enough space or turns, but I’m sure we can try and fit you in.” He says. Fit me in? You know your group is open to the public bro, right? “Thanks?” I say and kind of do a visual 360 to see if anyone hasn’t yet started a game. I see that the group has kind of taken over smaller tables since the long, main table has filled up. One lady, who is like really excited, asks me to join her and her table. I accept and sit down happy that someone is letting me play.
I’m going to make up names to protect the privacy of the people in this story…but mostly because I forgot everyone’s names since this happened a year ago.
So from just some basic conversation starters I learn that Sally (late 30’s), Ashley (early 40’s), and Olga (mid 40’s) are regulars to this meetup group. Another five minutes of conversation somehow turns into ranting about being single. After everyone finds out I’m a nurse, it turns into ranting about going back to school cause they all hate their jobs. I’m starting to feel a lot pent up anger vibes from these ladies. I am quick to change the subject back to the board game options, which apparently isn’t really an option because they’ve already decided on what to play.
We end up playing a game called Alhambra.
I’m not going to spend time talking about the game itself, because you can just wiki that shit, and it’d be explained way better there. What I am going to tell you is that it was the weirdest second place victory I have ever accomplished in my life.
The reason I felt so weird coming in second, was because these ladies had no fucking patience for me and verbalized how upset they were for not winning. All three seemed pretty on-board about explaining the directions, but they were also just as quick to verbally attack me when I made a mistake or took cards/blocks that other people wanted. I believe the term “beginners luck” was thrown around more times than necessary, right before two guys asked if they could sit in on the next round. I mean, I’m no sociologist, but I understand social cues enough to pick up on their disdain for me. I “sat” the next round out, and watched the younger gents play with the cranky older ladies. A lot less yelling I noticed, but other than that the cut-throat-ness of the game seemed to be on the same level. I think I gave it like twenty minutes and then bounced…
Yep. So, I didn’t go back to that group.