Sit at the Bar

Apr 5, 2014 by

“There are seven billion people on this earth. I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t make an effort to meet every single one of them.”

Andy Balram


          Of the people I met in Cuba, I found Esleila (beautifully pronounced Ez-lay-la, and officially a potential name for my hypothetical future daughter; because, yes, I have baby names at the ready, despite not wanting kids #typicalgirl) to be the most interesting. She’s from Paris, hence my bias. She could have stopped at, “I’m from Paris,” and she’d still be my fav. She lives in the centre of the city (she’s a doctor), and confirmed that Parisian food – or gastronomy, as she put it – is incredible. As a girl with Paris topping her to-go list, I had many questions for Esleila. Most importantly, I wanted to know which arrondissement would have the cheapest apartments to rent. She recommended the fifth, but warned me to keep my purse under my jacket on the metro. Economical living accommodations and potential for exciting stories about getting jumped? The fifth arrondissement sounds like a steal! – Oh my God, a literal steal! (I love unintentional puns.)

          However, it was Sylvia who I found to be the most thought-provoking. I met Sylvia on the bus to downtown Varadero. She was sitting across from me, so I said hello and we began chatting. My first impression of her was that she seemed uncomfortable. I would soon find out why. She had come to Cuba with her boyfriend, who returned home to work after a one-week stay. Because she had to use her vacation time before the end of March, she decided to spend an extra week in Varadero by herself. It was evident that she regretted her choice. She explained that her boyfriend is the social one of the two of them, so she hadn’t met anyone since he left. I could see why. Everything about this woman exuded a lack of confidence and a strong desire to go home. She gave off a please-don’t-notice-I-exist vibe. That’s hard for people to approach. (I know I did, but I’m not going to disregard someone who is right in front of me.)

          “Every day, I wake up and tell myself that I’m going to meet someone today,” she told me, “but I never do because I don’t know how.”

          “Sylvia, it’s easy!” I tried to assure her with a smile and downward wave of my hand. “Look, we’re talking, and we just met on a bus. Just sit at the bar and say something to the person beside you!”

          I could see uneasiness in her face. I understood it. A year ago, the mere idea of initiating conversation with another person would have given me anxiety. Because I used to be afraid, there’s years’ worth of wonderful people out there that I missed out on meeting. In thinking about this, I recalled a conversation I had with my friend Andy a couple months ago. We were at a pub with his friends, talking about how we befriended each other through OKCupid, the online dating site. He and I never intended to date. We had some things in common, so we met up for coffee as friends. It was simply because he and I are both open to making new friends that we became friends. (Actually, I’m going to his house party tonight. I haven’t seen him or his lovely girlfriend, who I hit it off with immediately, since January.) Just as easily as he and I met each other, we could have never met each other, had we not been open to it.

          I began writing this post with the intent to share one of my favourite social tips, the one I shared with Sylvia: sit at the bar. Sitting at the bar situates you next to people you don’t know, heightening your chances of meeting someone new. At restaurants, I opt for bar seating over tables. Even if I spend the entire night lost in conversation with whoever I came with, I like the social vibe of the bar over the secluded vibe of a table. I feel more open and approachable.

          Through writing this, though, I’ve realized that openness and effort are the more significant tips. If someone is not open to meeting new people or is unwilling to initiate conversation, they could spend night after night sitting at a bar and never meet anyone. Sitting at the bar is an excellent way to ensure that your circumstances optimize your chances, but you are your own best chance. I’ve met people while sipping drinks at bars, but I’ve also met people at airports, at Starbucks, in the street, online, in elevators, etc, etc, etc. Thus, I must conclude that it is not the bar that makes one social; it is the person.

Happiness Tip: Be open to making new friends by making an effort to meet new people.

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