Last night I attended a meeting of a local cycling club. It was my first time ever meeting the group.
The meeting was hosted by one of the members in her west Chicago Ave. condo; when I arrived there were already about 15 people seated at a couple of tables pushed together. I walked in and saw that "oh, a new person" look cross people's faces as they saw me and kind of stared, although not in a bad way. I was also wearing an authentic Oscar de la Renta coat I'd bought from my neighbor at a yard sale; it's a riot of black-and white pattern, and tends to catch the eye. It's my nod to high fashion. For ten bucks.
I found the hostess and introduced myself. I then saw two ancient-looking cats curled up in a side nook and spent the next five minutes on the floor next to them before finding a seat and wedging myself in at the table.
Apparently a member of the Chipotle restaurant chain was going to do a presentation on their cycling team, but wasn't able to make it; he did, however, send over a ton of burritos. These were passed out, and we dove in.
I made small talk with the people around me, but was mostly listening. I went to the end of the table to get the ginger ale, and a woman was saying to one of the guys, "it was really a hard time. There were scratches all over my hands."
"My dating life is like that. Drives me crazy," I said, trying to break the ice. The look she gave me told me I was unsuccessful. I heard the man she was talking to snort with laughter, but upon seeing her expression he worked to regain control of himself. I smiled, took the ginger ale, and went back to my seat.
The man next to me, I'll call him Mark, wasn't eating. "I didn't know how many veggie burritos there were," he explained, "and I didn't want to keep someone from eating."
Why is it the only time men have good manners is when they're pussies?
"There are plenty of veggie burritos," I said. I turned to the end of the table and asked them for some, and two were passed along, I handed one to Mark. "Mark, man, you have to learn to ask for things. Just because we're vegetarians doesn't mean we can't be bloodthirsty."
Cue the inevitable Irritating Volunteer of Unsolicited Deprecating Comments, next to Mark. First there was the observation that steak tasted too good to motivate him to be a vegetarian and then, "you know, vegetarians try to claim the moral high ground, but they forget that Hitler was a vegetarian."
"Actually, I didn't forget that, but you know," I said chirpily around a mouthful of beans and guacamole, "I always find it interesting how often vegetarians are portrayed as inflexible and strident, and yet I'm usually the one who has to bite my tongue." I smiled sweetly, and I could tell he was confused as to whether he'd just been insulted. I got hold of myself and was nice to home for the rest of the night. (I have been learning lots of life lessons. Just today someone told me --ME! -- how impressed with my patience she is. WITH MY PATIENCE.)
Mark told me he is the ride leader for the veggie ride, which I had seen but couldn't make. We chatted a bit - he' about my age, maybe a little older, attractive, decent conversationalist.
It was as if the Lord God Jehovah were saying to me, "Behold, I give unto you an age-appropriate, unmarried, attractive, cycling-enthusiast vegetarian who actually seems interested. Live long and prosper." (God and Mr. Spock tend to intermingle in my mind.)
And I thought, "Lord/First Officer, I appreciate the gesture; don't think me ungrateful. But I'm just not looking for anything right now. Thanks anyway, though."
One woman had brought her two very young boys (what the hell) and after the predictable noise and bratty whining persisted she had the decency to leave with them, letting us finish our meal in peace.
At one point members of the group went around the table and told 1. whether they had a bike computer, and 2. how many miles they had logged last year. See, here's the thing: we often think of outdoor-activity enthusiasts -- bikers, hikers-- as these jock-types, but really, they're total nerds. The overnight backpacking group was a comprised in large part of people in the sciences. It's the gear and the self-measurement and the quantification. They freaking love it.
I think three of us did not have bike computers. I'm happy to not measure what I do, because if I do three miles less one week than the one before, I'll worry about it, and I don't need the pressure.
All in all, the people were very nice, and I enjoyed the evening a lot. I have high hopes that I will have some biking buddies this year.
After the meal two people cornered me to ask when I was going to lead a ride. I laughed, and then realized they were serious. I said I'd be happy to assist for a while but I'd rather brush up on how to change a flat tire before committing myself. I think they focused on me because I'm looking for an intermediate ride, say 40 miles round-trip, and they need more people to lead those.
Then I gave my email to someone to add me to the chat list, had some good conversations, and headed home. I got a nice message from the president of the group welcoming me. I think I really like these people. Did I mention everyone was over 30 and most people were close to my age?