“No,” I say. “What’s a Meetup thing?”
“It’s when you go someplace and a bunch of strangers go there too and you socialize. The point is to meet new people.”
“So it’s the same as going to a regular bar, only you don’t have to come up with an excuse to talk to people.”
“Basically,” he says. “Everybody at a Meetup thing signs up before hand and you wear name tags.”
“Where did you find out about this?”
“On the Internet,” he says. This is no surprise. The Internet seems to have been created to help strange people meet each other. “Anyways, there’s a Meetup thing in Seoul Saturday night. It might be interesting.”
“Right on,” I say. “I’m in.”
A few days later Saturday rolls around and Cooper and I hit up the Meetup event. We arrive an hour late. Enough time, we feel, to seem cool. As soon as we walk in we realize the place is packed. There are tables full of people, all talking to each other. The Meetup organizers are in the front and we pay them a cover fee, then get name tag stickers to place on our shirts like we work at Staples.
“Okay guys,” the Meetup organizer says. “Now go around and meet people!”
This is easier said than done. There are no empty tables and everyone seems to be locked in conversation with whoever they’re sitting with. Cooper and I go to the bar and buy beers. Then we circle around the place two or three more times.
“We should’ve come earlier,” he says. “There aren’t any tables.”
“Should we go and sit with someone?”
“I don’t know, man.”
“Have you ever come to one of these things before?”
“I think we’re supposed to sit and talk with people,” I say, looking around. “Who do you want to talk to?”
“Nobody, bro,” Cooper says.
“Dude, why did we come to this if you don’t want to talk to anybody?”
“I have no idea. Do you want to talk to anybody?”
“No, not really.”
We go outside and smoke cigarettes. About fifteen minutes have passed since we arrived.
“We just got here,” I say. “We’re going to look like the two most anti-social people in the history of Meetup.”
“I don’t care. This sucks.”
“Well, let’s just go back in and talk to somebody. One person. I don’t care who it is. I feel like we paid the cover so we should at least say something to one other person.”
“Cool,” he says. “Then we’ll leave.”
Putting our cigarettes out, we open the door and go back into the Meetup event. We decide to stand in the corner. Eventually a Korean girl comes over and talks to us for a few minutes, then leaves to go talk to people who are actually friendly.
“She was cool,” I say.
“Whatever,” Cooper says. “This place is whack.”
Right as we’re about to go, a big Korean guy comes over to us. He’s young and speaks a little English and he begins asking us questions.
Q1: “Where are you from?”
Q2: “Do you like Korean food?”
Q3: “Do you like kimchi?”
The Meetup event has now become torture. I mean, yeah, the guy is nice and everything – super friendly – but I just don’t want to have this conversation. A few times I elaborate on my answers and he becomes lost, unable to understand things when they drift too far from the short answers he expects.
“It’s nice to meet you,” I say. “But we have to go.”
I look at Cooper and nod my head towards the door.
“Um,” I say, “I just got my phone. I don’t have a number yet.”
He looks at Cooper.
“Yeah, me too,” Cooper says.
The friendly guy smiles, totally unfazed.
“What is your Kakao Talk ID?”
Cooper and I exchange glances. We both mumble the same thing.
“Yeah, sorry man, we don’t have Kakao Talk.”
Obviously it’s a lie. We’ve both been on our phones half the night. I hope the friendly guy didn’t notice this.
“I see,” he says. “I will friend you on Facebook.”
“Oh, shoot, we don’t use Facebook.”
It’s awful. Downright shameful. We shake the guy’s hand and slide by him out of the place. Afterwards, I can’t help but feel really bad.
Here’s the deal – it’s one thing to reject someone’s romantic interests…but to blatantly reject someone’s friendship is way worse. We’d basically just told that guy that we had absolutely no interest in whatever he had to offer. No interest in chatting. Hanging out. No interest in getting to know him. No interest in merely having each other on Facebook and never communicating apart from liking some status updates. None of that. No, we’d rather lie and make up stories than enter into anything resembling even the slightest of friendships with this guy.
And all this was at an event where the purpose was to make new friends. I felt terrible, maybe worse than I’ve felt breaking up with someone.
“I think we just failed at Meetup,” I say.
Cooper shrugs. We go to another bar, one where the people stand there silently ignoring each other, and everyone seems comfortable.