I was supposed to go to a happy hour tonight. I’m supposed to be there now, but instead I’m sitting at my desk at home in a pair of yoga pants with a decent beer next to me. I was going to go to the work happy hour. It was held for another Erin in my department, and this Erin also happens to be from Missouri. Plus she’s pretty nice, so after work I killed about an hour at a different bar by myself and then walked down to the happy hour bar where I assumed people would be hanging out.
What I did not remember, apparently, is that out here, when someone says that something starts at 5pm, they mean that you should probably show up a little closer to 6pm. Even in public, even when the bar is across the street from work, even when the bar isn’t even a bar, but more like a TGI Friday’s-Shenanigans House of Bullshittery where there’s a bunch of tables but no real barstools.
Anyway. I walked into this happy hour bar, saw zero familiar faces, and immediately turned around and started making my way to the bus stop. I can hang out in bars by myself – I’d just done it for an hour, albeit in a very good bar with terrific happy hour pricing and staff that isn’t required to wear matching polo shirts – but I refuse to wait around for the chronically late in a lame tourist hole where I can’t even get a stool.
I anticipate that I will catch shit for not showing up, and probably even more shit for telling people what actually happened. I did show up, no one was there yet, and the idea of waiting around made me deeply uncomfortable to the point of nausea. I doubt that I’ll tell anyone that last part, partially because it’s none of their business and partially because most people don’t understand it, anyway. Once you’ve tried telling people that you actually prefer to sit at home with books and Netflix and your cats, they think you’re crazy (probably true, but in the really real way that most people incorrectly think you can just “snap out” of) or a loser (again, true, but who the fuck cares?). So if telling them that is difficult enough, imagine what it’s like to tell them about how crowds of people you don’t know in places you don’t like make you feel sick to your stomach, and that spending even ten more minutes in a situation like that requires about an hour (or more) of time spent curled up in an immobile ball on your bed at home, staring at the wall with eyes that barely even blink and lungs that can’t quite catch a normal breath because your body can’t figure out how to take the edge off. I’m not an agoraphobe and I think the words “my anxiety” get used as a shitty excuse for a lot of dumb things, but I am 32 and I know what makes me feel okay and that situation was not it. When I say that I’m uncomfortable, I don’t mean like I’ve got a rock in my shoe. I mean that I’m having what feels like a bone-deep reaction to something I can’t control and every single impulse in my body is telling me to run for it.
And, I mean, who shows up late at a place like that in the first place? What am I supposed to do, ask for a giant table? Or wait it out at a tiny one? And make small talk with the server and smell fryer grease the whole time? Gross. Not into it.
But like I said, I won’t tell the people at work everything. They neither need nor would likely want to know. I won’t tell them that I’m not like that all the time (most of the time yes, all of the time not really), and that in situations where I feel okay, I’m fine. Charming, even. I have friends and I go places and tourists from other countries seem to enjoy asking me questions (Tokyo hipster dudes in Fremont tasting their first Seattle coffee are adorable, btw). But I do not want to sit at Rooty Tooty McMegaturds to hang out with a bunch of people from work whenever they feel like showing up.
I have a desk and some beer of my own, and that makes me happy enough.