As a follow up to my last piece, here is a guide I never considered that I might have to write – How to Go Out. As someone who can, at a minimum, organise a piss-up in a brewery, here are a few pointers on the lost art of how to do one of the most obvious things in the world.
First things first: organise and book something. It’s a brave new world out there – a lot of places will still let you simply rock up, but don’t rely solely on that. You’re going to miss out on a lot of stuff without a booking these days, so plan ahead. Depending on your friends, this might be either the easiest or by far the most difficult aspect of the job. You feel like a meal? Or an activity? Drinks? Coffee? All of the above? Figure it out, plan around all of your work hours, eldest children’s sleep schedule, youngest children’s sleep schedule, prior engagements, changes of plans, changes of mind, changes of weather, and lock it in. Next, peel yourself off of the couch, your computer chair, wherever you’ve worn your groove over the past… Christ, how long has it been? – and prepare to leave the house. This can be more difficult to do than might be assumed – it’s been so long, it’s so comfortable, and all your stuff is there. You may already have beer, or food, or music, even someone with whom to converse. Regardless, you should begin making your preparations. This includes, for the love of god, a shower.
Next step – put on some pants. No, not those ones. Those ones. Yes, they are less comfy. Yes, they’re a little tight. Just suck it in.
Following this, you should be about ready to leave the house, assuming you have correctly followed the first step. A yum-cha booking, a two hour window in the beer garden of the pub – whatever it is, go boldly forth and do that. While you are en route to your engagement, if you are on the tram, train, bus, footpath, whatever – take your goddamn headphones. No-one wants to be part of your zoom call, no-one likes the tinny jangling of your music and no-one finds your wannabe influencer friend’s TikTok’s entertaining from the other side of the carriage.
While you are in transit, consider: have you looked at anything but the same four walls since you last saw everybody? Did anything new and exciting happen? Or have you been churning a hamster wheel for so long that time has lost all meaning and your grip on reality has become tenuous at best? If so, try and think of something to say that isn’t something you saw on Netflix. You could try the weather – it is springtime in Melbourne so you’re bound to get a few minutes out of all this unexpected heat/rain/storm/cold/pollen count we’ve been having. Of course you can talk about the shows you’ve watched, but remember: a playlist is not a personality. Share the hidden gems you’ve unearthed, your opinions on a show they’ve been recommending to you for years but you never quite got around to until recently – go nuts. Loudly proclaim with an undeserved iconoclastic pride that of course you haven’t watched the recent social/cultural phenomenon or popular thing if you’re… one of those people. But do remember, you’re out here to get away from Netflix, so try to leave it at home as best you can. Try to sharpen your Uber-back-seat level small talk too – yes it has been a busy night, and yes bartenders are already aware that it is nice to be out again, and yes they had a hard time of it, and yes they’re glad to be back in amongst it, and yes it has thrown up a lot of new obstacles.
Once you arrive, Proof of Vax certificate ready to inspect, it is possible that you will need to ascertain some individual new greeting protocols in a post-pandemic world. With some people, you may need to respect a recently established expectation of distance with a wave or a polite elbow or even a fist-bump. Or you may have people so hungry for human contact that they will squeeze the breath right out of you, all over their filthy, contagious bodies. Once established, greet your people. Pro tip: don’t ask ‘how’s it going?’ or ‘how are you?’ unless you are willing to hear the answer ‘not good’ and spend the next however long unpacking that. Usually innocuous, this question has become… somewhat loaded of late. Of course mental health is important, and if you feel like you’re the right person and that this is an appropriate time and place to have one of these chats, go right ahead and do so. Just a heads up.
Next – satisfy your craving. What’s been in you head? Cold, hoppy beer, fresh poured straight from the tap into a frosty pint glass? Steaming, slippery dumplings slick with chilli oil, black vinegar and salty soy? A big, dirty parma? An actual print newspaper with the puzzles and quiz page pristine and unsullied, next to a proper coffee in the sun out the front of the cafe? A bustling home and kitchen as you cook a feast for your friends again? A deafening set from, just, any band, any band at all in a real, live bandroom with sticky floors? Smash it. Get that thing into your head, and revel in it. Share your joy. This is important. We all lean on each other, but it isn’t only for the bad things. Share the great or even small joys among your people. They want that for you, and they will even get a little bit of a contact high from you.
That’s about it. Hope it helps kick-start those of you whose social wheels have rusted into place and haven’t yet been sufficiently lubricated back into good working order. You can figure out the rest. Be good. Be kind. Get amongst it, and have a blast.