July 29th 2018
Today I woke up in my car, in the car park of a pub seventy miles from my house. Let me give some context:
I went to a house party in Wokingham last night. It was supposed to be more of a garden party, but the weather forced it into a house party. A friend of a friend was throwing it to celebrate moving into his new house (and garden).
There were about 50 people there, and not enough room for everyone to sleep inside. Originally, we were supposed to be sleeping in tents outside, but the aforementioned rain, as well as the fact that none of us had brought tents, caused us to find alternative arrangements. In our case: the car.
I couldn’t call it the worst night’s sleep I’ve ever had, mainly because it wasn’t a “night’s sleep”, but more of an “early-to-mid-morning’s sleep”. I think we got back to the car about 6am, and woke up at 9am. Plus, there wasn’t much sleeping.
The party was great fun. The only people I knew there were the friends I came with. I don’t even really know the guy we came to see, I’ve just met him once through a friend, and our mutual friend was told to invite whomever he wanted. And so there I was.
To make up for the fact that I didn’t know anybody at the party, I spent most of the evening introducing myself to literally all of the people I didn’t know at the party.
There’s this new thing I do to overcome my traditional anxiety in social situations: confront it.
At a wedding in April, after seeing my sister’s boyfriend being so effortlessly charismatic and outgoing with strangers, I made the decision to introduce myself to all of the people that I didn’t know. I perhaps didn’t nail the ‘charismatic’ part, but I made a good attempt at ‘outgoing’.
And so, I repeated that act last night. And this time I had a prop device to aid me in my bid to not look too creepy and/or weird: I was in charge of The Aux™.
Usually, The Aux™ refers to the auxiliary cable that connects an iPhone to a speaker. On this specific occasion, and because this is the 21st century, The Aux™ setup was my phone’s Spotify app connecting wirelessly to the speaker system. It was my role to queue up the next song, and the one after that, and the one after that, and so on until et cetera.
The guy in charge of The Aux™, is effectively the guy with the most power at any party (or in any Uber). But, to quote someone’s Uncle, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”
Choosing the wrong song can massively derail the atmosphere/vibe/mood of the attendees. And so, to combat that, I shed myself of any responsibility and left choosing the right song to those very same attendees. I was just the facilitator. The guy who just happened to have the right combination of the phone, Spotify Premium and the wifi password.
My introductory statement to each guest was something similar to “Hi I’m James, what song do you want to listen to?”
I found it a very enlightening way of finding out about a person. Music has a particularly unique way of revealing one’s true self. And when you ask someone about it, they’ll tend to respond in a few ways, depending on the person, and depending on the music.
Some simply named themselves, and then named a song, but many people said “Nobody else will like what I want to listen to”, and to that I responded: “We only have two rules here: we do not judge, and we do not skip.” And that seemed to lighten everybody up.
There was only one person who flat out refused to name a song, stating rather aggressively, and in my eyes untruthfully, “I don’t know any songs.” Coincidentally, he was the only person at the party whose name I cannot remember.
It was really quite heartening to see other people’s reactions to a song chosen by any one individual, and it turned out many of the people who said “Nobody else will like what I want to listen to” were wrong, and people started to connect over a shared enjoyment of a band, or piece of music, or genre.
And me? I got to connect with people. And a completely new and eclectic bunch of strangers at that.
Until tomorrow, that experience alone was almost worth sleeping in a car for.