The Friday after Thanksgiving was the ten-year reunion for my High School graduating class. It actually worked out for me that they had it on Black Friday, since I was in Buffalo to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my family. I figured it would be interesting to see how my classmates had ended up, who married who, and who had kids.
My knowledge of downtown Buffalo is almost nonexistent, since I moved away in 2006, so my buddy Paolo offered to drive and carpool to the bar.
I’ve known Paolo for years and he’s a solid guy. His wife would’ve come along with us, but she was 8 months pregnant with their second kid. She didn’t think she would have a good time not being able to drink and being hugely pregnant. She told Paolo to have a good time and sent him off (Did I mention that Paolo’s wife is awesome?).
Originally I was going to wear a suit. However, I changed my mind to a still dressy, but casual Navy blazer (with pocket-square), light blue dress shirt, dark blue jeans and black shoes. I wasn’t dressing to impress my former classmates, but to wear something I wanted to wear to look good and be comfortable in. For the most part, I was dressed better than most of the guys there.
Anyways, Paolo picked me up at my parents’ house around 18.30 and we went over to Giacomo’s to convince him to come with us.
A month ago when we talked last, Giacomo was stoked about going but then bailed at the last-minute. Giacomo has menagerie of animals in his house (he does educational shows for kids) and one of his excuses for not being able to go with me and Paolo was that he hadn’t fed them yet. I really didn’t understand why he didn’t want to go, but two of his Canisius friends showed up (early). So he made his decision before we arrived. Nothing we would’ve said could convince him otherwise.
Whatever, I was going to have a good time regardless. We left and drove to the bar, which was on the same street as Shea’s. The place was pretty small, whoever organized it very prudently rented out the upstairs area (which wasn’t big either). So for $40 we got an open bar from 20.00-23.00 (no vermouth, and I really wanted a Manhattan that wouldn’t cost me $9) and a small spread of roast beef, pasta bake, chicken wings and sushi. Not a bad deal, if you ask me.
Even though I wasn’t planning on drinking that much, I experienced one of my rare “no-effects-from-alcohol” nights. My metabolism must have been running hot that evening or the Thanksgiving left-overs in my stomach lessened the numbing effects of the alcohol. Either way, I didn’t feel anything even close to a buzz the entire night.
I drank Blue Light in a can, if you’re curious.
Mostly I caught up with people I personally knew (most of the girls were either married or engaged) and was enjoying a chill, relaxing atmosphere.
Here’s a few highlights from the people I talked to.
Guy I’ve known since first grade, Suffered through the same Latin classes as me, Very intelligent (Engineering, MBA)
(After telling me he was living with his 40-year-old girlfriend)
Beppo: “I hope you’re not planning on dropping a ring on her.”
Guy (Looking at me like I’m an idiot): “Beppo, I’m not stupid.”
Beppo: “I know. Just making sure.”
Girl 1, From Chorus, Hugged before talking, Married, One kid (boy), Former cheerleader, Still hot, Real smile throughout the conversation(Following telling her that I became a Chemist)
Girl 1: “Wow, a Chemist! You know that really suits you.”
Beppo (quizzically): “Oh, really? How so?”
Girl 1 (thinking she insulted me, qualifying): “I didn’t mean for you to take it the wrong way…”
Beppo: “No, no, no. No need to apologize, I didn’t think you were being insulting. You misunderstand, I’m curious by nature. I just wanted to know the reasoning behind your observation.”
Girl 1 (smiles): “Oh! Well…”
I never did get her reason, as the conversation ended at that moment with the announcement of for the Split Club drawing.
I didn’t win.
Girl 2, Was in a few of my classes, Single? (not married), Former cheerleader, Still hot, Hiring person at some local company
I was standing at the bar talking to Paolo and nursing my fifth beer when Girl 2 came up behind Paolo to pay her tab (non-well drinks you had to pay for). Somehow I caught her eye and she smiled at me. I said “Hi” and we started talking. Paolo moved aside to talk to someone else behind me.
[Note: Throughout this conversation, I’m looking directly into her eyes.]
A few minutes talking about the turnout and quality of the venue, she dropped her eyes and then brought them back up to mine.
Girl 2 (sheepishly): “I feel bad about saying this, but I don’t remember your name.”
Understandable, It had been ten years. I had maybe two classes with her and our social circles from then didn’t overlap to boot.
Beppo (slight grin, sticking hand out): “Beppo.”
Girl 2 (smiling, grasping my hand): “Beppo, I’m Girl 2. Sorry about that, some people have changed so much since we graduated.”
Beppo: “I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve changed that much in ten years, besides not having my curly and highlighted hair I had in high school. We look older, obviously, and some of us like [Former Thin Guy] have gained some weight. ”
Girl 2 (giggling, slight slap on my arm): “Ooh, you shouldn’t say things like that!”
Beppo (smiling): “As an example of course, based on observation. For the most part though, the people we graduated with look the same to me.”
About ten minutes or so later of conversation about jobs and life in general, her friend walks up (it was near 23.00 at this point). Girl 2 greeted her.
Girl 2: “Hey [Girl’s Name], do you remember Beppo?”
Beppo (extending hand): “Hey. How’s it going?”
Friend (over the top familiarity, shakes my offered hand): “Oh yeah, of course I do! I’m doing good!”
Beppo (thinking): “I highly doubt that.”
Friend (to Girl 2): “I think we’re heading out in a bit. (To me) It was nice seeing you.”
The friend left and Girl 2 turned back to me.
Girl 2: “We’re going to go out after this, you should come.”
Beppo (shaking head): “Can’t. I’m leaving to go back to Columbus tomorrow and I carpooled with Paolo.”
Girl 2: “Aww! That’s too bad! We could catch up more somewhere else.”
I almost said fuck it (I had the money for a taxi, if necessary), but decided against it. Leaving on Saturday would ensure that I avoided the holiday return volume traffic that would definitely occur on 71-S on Sunday. I shook my head again.
Beppo: “I want to be alert for the drive tomorrow. Maybe another time?”
Girl 1: “Okay. It was nice talking to you!”
She hugged me (unexpected on my part), we said good-bye and I went to go find Paolo.
The interaction with Girl 2 demonstrated for me the power of strong eye-contact and body language. I barely knew this girl in High School. Now I had a 20 to 30 minute conversation that would’ve continued further (how far, who knows?) if the party didn’t end and I didn’t need to leave the next morning.
You know what else I noticed was gone? The nervousness of talking to girls whom ten years ago I would have stood around mute, wearing a stupid smile while my heart beat a mile a minute. I was being social (even though I don’t know how to “work a room”), but I wasn’t invested in an outcome. I was having a good time catching up with former classmates.
And that’s all that mattered.