March Madness. I know the term well. You don’t grow up in a basketball state with the NCAA headquarters 15 miles from your house and not know about March Madness.
I remember going on a roadtrip during Spring break when I was probably ten. IU had made the final four. It was game day, and we pulled over for gas. A stranger looked down the line of six family members wearing red IU-gear, and said, “I guess you guys are from Indiana, huh?” Later that day, my dad checked us into a hotel several hours before planned, so he (we) could watch the game.
The point is, I can get into March Madness.
However, I usually don’t get into the bar scene or the strangers scene, and I especially don’t get into a combination of the two.
But last Friday, I found myself doing just that.
I heard about the event the day before on Facebook. It was a viewing party for the IU-NC game at a bar in Santa Monica. I didn’t think much of it, but the next morning, I had a random thought: I should check out that bar. I almost laughed at myself. I don’t go to bars even with my friends. I don’t do late nights very often either. That means I’m definitely not one for late nights at bars with strangers. I said I’d go, but I had every intention of changing my mind.
But then I didn’t.
I kept thinking something would turn me around. I’d “accidentally” leave late, and then just decide it wasn’t worth it. I wouldn’t be able to find parking. Parking would be too expensive. None of these things happened. (Parking was a dollar.) (A single dollar!)
I made it into the bar, tugging on my IU sweatshirt. And then I smiled because I saw red and white peppered around the bar. Friends!
I made my way to the “fan” section, and on the way a stranger gave me a high five. Ah, bars.
Now, the whole day, I had this crazy thought—don’t tell me you’ve never had this—where I was fairly certain I’d find my soulmate that night. After all, I was going to an IU game. I’d probably meet someone who went to school the same time I did. What are the chances?! We’d kind of hit it off:
“Did you take that awful abnormal psych class?”
“Yes, it killed my GPA!”
In reality, I sat with two very happy couples and a woman in her fifties.
In reality, I still loved it.
I ate cheese sticks and yelled at the TV and made small talk and yelled at the TV more. (It wasn’t a very good game.)
I said bye to my new “friends.” (I didn’t even Facebook friend them after.) And I drove away.
Then I took inventory. Did I just have a good time at a bar with strangers? Yes. Really? Yes, I did.
I don’t know where to take this story at this point.
I think I’d just like to document that I can still surprise myself. I like that.
Maybe going to a bar isn’t that big for you. I don’t think it was that big for me really. I don’t have a sudden interest to hang out in bars or do a bunch of meet-up groups.
But on my way home, I was just struck by how strange it was that I had just spent an evening like that and enjoyed myself. Surprising. I like surprises.
I couldn’t help but feel that even though my team had lost, I could still be a winner.
(That was all sorts of mozzarella cheesy.)