Lessons Learned One Night in Springtime
As printed in Proteus, the Journal of the Delaware Valley Mensa  (May 2012)


       I was a few days back from a week abroad, and hoped to stay out late to force myself back onto a regular sleep schedule. Since my return, I had been falling asleep in the early evening and waking up at 3:45 a.m. It had to stop. So, since I was going to hit one of my favorite karaoke spots with fellow-addict Jenny anyway, I packed a salsa dance bag in case I still had the energy to hit the dance floor afterward. We’d be singing for hours, and adding a bout of salsa would keep me awake even later, ensuring that I could not possibly awaken in the dreaded threes, fours, or fives the next morning.

       My usual salsa prep involves packing not only a pair of dance shoes and the snazzy fan I bought in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, but also a modified wallet – with just the essentials – in the form of a zippered band around my arm. In my rush to pack, for the first time ever, I left out my ID. Of course, I did not realize this until I reached for it, after walking through the door of the 21+ only karaoke bar, and after paying for the ideal parking spot right there by the entrance. And now, now, I was faced with having to go home for my freaking ID.

       Just as I started to tell my sob story, the lady squinted for a second and waved me in. “I recognize you. Go ahead.” Jenny burst out laughing because I’d just been busted on my last column’s karaoke addiction sign #1: The greeters/waitstaff/karaoke hosts recognize you. Laugh it up, Jenny. Be glad you didn’t have to drive me home to get my license.

       Lesson #1: Mild, non-concern-causing addiction has a plus side.

       I’ll hold fast to “the code” and not reveal any of Jenny’s song choices since I have named her here. And I’m pretty sure there’s only one Jenny in Philadelphia, so her reputation is totally at stake. As for me, though, I got in some of my favorite hits from the ‘80s, including “Cult of Personality” by Living Colour, “I’m Free” by Kenny Loggins, “Endless Love” by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie (a duet with our illustrious karaoke host), and “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton (imagine the double-takes I get with that one). We had a fabulous time, and I had lost 60% of my voice by the time we decided to head out.

       I decided to hold out for at least another hour at the salsa club to conquer my jetlag for good, so Jenny dropped me off and went on her way. Just as she pulled off, I noticed the line. Had the weather not been so clear and springy, I would have skipped dancing and called it a night; I’m usually there much earlier and fly right through, but this was prime clubbing time. I’d have to wait my turn. Well, maybe – there are two clubs there, and I wasn’t sure if only one of them had a line. You know how much it sucks to wait in line, and realize you were in the wrong line all along? Or to find out you didn’t need to wait at all? Yeah. That’s not gonna be me.

       I walked up to one of the bouncers to find out, and he confirmed that the line was for both clubs. I thanked him and went back to the end of the line. As I waited, I pondered whether it would suck more to wait and find out you were in the wrong line, or to wait and not get in because you had forgotten your filth-flarn-filthing ID. Probably B since you’d spend your entire trip home kicking yourself for having forgotten it in the first place. Soon enough it was time to find out, because I was next.

       I saw the same bouncer, smiled, and said, “Hello again.” The guy was flabbergasted. He said, “Wow. I made you go to the end of the line, and you’re still smiling.” He looked at the other bouncer and said, “Do you believe this?” The other guy shook his head. I started to feel bad for them because, really? Is it this rare? Are people that unpleasant to bouncers? (Slow nodding from my bouncer readership.) I said, “Well, it’s nice out, it’s not raining or anything, and it wasn’t a long line....”

      Right here, the next thing out of my mouth was going to be “Anyway,” as a transition into my ID sob story, and how the woman just inside the door would know me since I’m there all the time, and blah blah blah, would he be willing to let me in, please? And I would have been ready for him to say no. But I didn’t get to any of that because he said, as if I’d asked, “You know what? Forget about the ID.”

      Let’s pause here for a moment. This has never, ever happened to me before, and bam, out of nowhere, “Forget about the ID.” Can I get an amen? In fact, let’s make that

       Lesson #2: Recognize and appreciate a blessing when you receive one.

       He went on to say, “Where are you from?” Hold your horses, folks. This wasn’t like an eyebrows going up and down, “How YOU doin?” type of where-are-you-from. This was more like a baffled, “From what star system do you hail?” where-are-you-from. Bouncer #2 added, “Clearly not from around here, right?” I hesitated before saying, “Ohio,” and they both went, “Ahhh,” like of course, that clears up everything. I was quick to add, “But it’s not normal there, either.” “Oh,” and “Wow,” they murmurred, fascinated. This is when the cashier lady called me through, so I shrugged, smiled again, thanked them, and went inside.

       Lesson #3: Smiling at other people sometimes confuses them, but still generally makes them happy.

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