I couldn’t even think about drinking tap water in the hotel after that incident. I immediately headed out, wandering down 6th street but finding most places still crowded with drunk college kids. It wasn’t as bad as Friday night, but still crowded enough that I felt little desire to take the plunge and enter any of the open bars and restaurants.
By then it was close to 9 o’clock. The day had rained off and on; it was still muggy, and every now and then it began to drizzle. I wandered down to other areas closer to where Atlassian had been, figuring it was best to get away from 6th St if I wanted to get away from the college kids.
I kept walking, finding myself facing two options: a steakhouse or a place called Uncle Julio’s. Considering I earlier had Texas BBQ for lunch, it seemed that I had to give a Tex-Mex restaurant a shot.
Inside, the hostess told me it would be a 30 minute wait for a table, but I was welcome to sit at the bar and order. I didn’t want to spend a half hour waiting; it was already close to 9:30. I set myself down at an empty corner of the island bar (it was u-shaped).
The bartender brought me a menu, asked if I wanted something to drink, but I said I’d need a few minutes to look over the menu first. I’m not a drinker, really. I forced myself to have a cup of wine at the social hour but didn’t particularly enjoy it. I see this place has a dozen different kinds of margaritas. Interesting. Not sure I should order a drink, and I move on to the food menu.
There are things I recognize (beef enchiladas) and plenty of things I don’t, which I assume to be Tex-Mex.
Around this time, the bartender interrupts, “Excuse me, are you ready to order a drink? The ladies at the table over there would like to buy you a drink.”
Completely caught off guard (I take it was the universe’s sign I should have a drink), I just order the first margarita name I can remember. No one has ever bought me a drink before. It is sexy, exciting, and terrifying all at once. I keep glancing at the table of ladies who have bought me a drink, and I do not recognize them. And one of them, the only one facing me, keeps glancing back me at me. The others are facing away from my direction.
My memory is good, and I had been chatting with the women from RunKeeper at the social hour. Did they go home and change? Is this them? It really, really, really doesn’t look like them. Am I about to be surrounded by lesbians?
Just then, I feel a hand on my shoulder, and a woman’s voice says, “Excuse me, but I was wondering if you could do me and my friends a favor…” I turn and see an older woman with short hair. I immediately panic, wondering if Uncle Julio’s is a gay bar (did I manage to wander into the outskirts of the gay district and not know it?) and maybe I should have paid more attention to Yelp.
Thankfully, the favor was just taking a photo of her and six friends. Whew!
But as for this drink situation… this girl and I keep looking at each other (I am still trying to figure out who the hell those ladies are). She waves, and I awkwardly wave back. The girl laughs and runs over.
It is clear we have never met; she is not a familiar face from the conference at all. From her voice, it is apparent she is very drunk, but she still manages to say:
“I’m sorry, we don’t mean to be weird! We just wanted to do something nice. Someone paid for our parking ticket and told us to pay it forward, so his was our way of paying it forward. We really don’t mean to be weird!”
I tell her that’s very kind and thank her.
Relief. Sort of. That was kind of thrilling.
What a funny way to start the evening, and the gesture was sweet. I, in turn, pay it forward with the bartender and leave her with a 50% tip.