Back before kids and staying at home and momhood, I worked. Who knew? On any given day, I got to the office by 8:00. Two cups of coffee and 100 phone calls later, I lunched with clients, high powered executives at some of the nicest restaurants in Dallas. I worked, and I was great at my job, which is how I won this strange contest between my office and our sister office in Kansas City. It wasn’t a company based contest. Basically, we (my boss and I) made a bet with the team from Kansas City that we would make more money in a month than they would. They met our challenge and said that if we did, they would fly us to Kansas City for a weekend and pay for us to have a good time. Winning a trip to Kansas City? That’s what I thought, but I had no kids, so why not take a flight out to spend a weekend in a city that I’d never seen? Done. We won.
Fast forward to six weeks later when my boss, Joie, and I arrived in Kansas City. My first order of business was to get some Kansas City barbeque. We didn’t. We met up with the losers from Kansas City who were required to buy us dinner and then take us out for drinks. We ate at some weird upscale restaurant where I ended up tasting things that I didn’t know were cookable. Like flowers. They were delicious, but what I really wanted was some fall off the bone ribs. Whatever. Tomato, tomahto.
We finished dinner, which included at least two bottles of wine. Heads spinning and still light since the flowers weren’t so filling, I suggested dancing. Surely there was a place in Kansas City where a girl could spin around on a dance floor. Our loser colleagues weren’t up for it but pointed us in the direction of this quaint little club. We walked down the hill in what is called the Plaza, following the crowds of twenty somethings over sprayed with cologne and sparkling with glitter lotion.
We stood in a short line at the door waiting for a bouncer to deem us acceptable for entrance. I’m cute and blonde, and Joie had a really nice rack. I knew we would get in, so as we waited our turn, we discussed the plan. See, I always have a plan when I go to straight bars. Even back when I was young and dumb and single, I had a plan.
1. Be adorable so that all drinks are paid for by random people admiring your cuteness.
2. Never ever tell said admirers your real name or profession
3. Never leave with someone you meet at a bar
I schooled Joie on the plan. “I’m Grace.”
“What?” She asked.
“Tonight, if anyone asks, I’m Grace. That’s my name,” I said with conviction, “What’s your name?”
“No, stupid, what name are you going to give if anyone hits on you?”
“No, not Joie, what’s your middle name?”
“Hmmmm. Pretty, but not adorable. You’re Ellie.”
“Yes, you’re Ellie, and I’m Grace. Got it. What’s your name?”
We moved up in the line a little but were still not to the door.
“When someone asks us what we do, we’ll play it by ear. Just follow my lead.”
I was an expert liar in bars. Once I convinced a man that I was a professional surfer. I’ve never surfed a day in my life, but the Saturday before, I was hungover and sat on my couch eating cheese-its watching a surfing competition all day, which made me an expert. And apparently a professional. Another time, I convinced a guy that I had a fake leg. He so badly wanted to touch my leg all night. I laughed internally every time he glanced at my thigh.
With our plan in motion, we made it into the bar, each ordered a vodka drink and scanned the room. Typical night club, bass thumping from the floor to the ceiling, lights swirling around us, and people everywhere. A song that Joie loved came on, so she pulled me to the dance floor. I love a good dance partner. Someone who can follow my lead without having to say a word, and Joie was perfect. She and I danced like we had been dancing together for years and not in the rubbing each other’s bodies and humping backs kind of way. It felt like slow motion, as if the crowd parted so that we could take over the floor. We spun and swayed and dipped to the music all in perfect harmony with each other. She was fabulous, the ying to my yang on the floor. It looked like something choreographed by a professional. I may or may not have high kicked over her head. More than once. We were fabulous.
We danced until neither of us liked the song and then headed back to the bar to refresh. There, we met a foursome of thirty-somethings. Four guys. We sat down next to them, breathless, laughing, when one of them said, “Can we buy you a drink?”
Joie stepped in. She’s so much nicer than I am. “No, thank you. You’re so sweet to offer though.”
And then it happened, “I’m Matthew,” one of the guys said and reached his hand out to shake mine.
“I’m Grace. Nice to meet you. This is…” Joie interrupted me.
“I’m Joie.” I looked at her annoyed. She was so terrible at this game. Luckily the bar was loud, and our new friends didn’t hear, so I reintroduced her as Ellie. Crisis averted.
We had the customary small talk conversation. They were impressed by our dancing and even asked if we danced anywhere professionally. This was a first for me, so I ran with it. I looked at Joie with big eyes, willing her to follow my lead. “Actually, we work for So You Think You Can Dance, behind the scenes,” I said and took another long drink of my vodka. The thing about telling stories to strangers is that when you say it like you believe it, they almost always will. And they bought it. The show had only recently started, following in American Idol’s lead. Joie and I were huge fans of both and even had parties in my living room where you had to audition to participate, so she fell right into the fib and fed them all kinds of garbage, and they ate it up. Every Single Bite.
We left the club feeling ten feet tall even if we had only convinced a foursome of drunks we were professionals. It felt good. We decided to call it a night and headed up the steep hill to our hotel. I could see it from where we walked but with all of the dancing and the heels now uncomfortably tight, I began to regret the high kicks and low squats. My legs ached, and the hill to the hotel got steeper with every step.
“I can’t walk anymore,” I said to Joie.
“Sure you can,” She slurred as we slowly made it up the hill. Then I stopped. I hit my wall. My feet hurt, my legs hurt. I was tired and more than a little bit buzzed, so I sat down on the sidewalk in my very expensive tailored to fit pants.
“I really can’t. I need a cab.” Joie, my hero, hailed a cab, and shuffled me into the back.
“Cash only,” the driver said before either of us could tell him where we were going, which was not even a quarter of a mile away.
I looked at Joie who looked at me. Neither of us had any cash. I sighed, a big heavy defeated breath and wobbly climbed out of the cab, and then I saw it. A beacon on the street. In shiny neon letters I saw ATM.
“Cash. There. Be right back. Don’t move,” I said to Joie and the driver. A burst of energy hit me as my feet carried me the ten feet to the ATM. I swiped my card, typed in my code, requested my cash, and waited. “Beep, beep, beep,” The ATM sang. I looked down and read, “Out of order.”
I banged my palm on the machine and then laid my head on its cool outside closing my eyes. Joie saw my disappointment and waved the cab driver away. Then she convinced me to keep walking. My legs felt like concrete blocks, heavy and exhausted. I complained with every step.
Two young well dressed guys walked out of an ice cream parlor in front of us. They must have heard my whining because one of them turned around and said, “Huuuney, are you okay?”
I shook my head. I couldn’t even make words at this point.
“What’s the matter?” He asked and started walking toward us.
I summoned all of my strength to tell him that I was tired and couldn’t walk up the hill to our hotel.
“We can take you,” he said and opened the door to his red BMW offering us a ride like we weren’t two single girls on a street in a strange unfamiliar town.
Joie started to decline, but before she could even utter the n in “no,” I had buckled my seat belt.
She hesitantly climbed in the back seat. “You’re crazy,” she mumbled as the two boys in front asked us where we were going.
I shook my head. “I can take them,” I whispered to Joie as the driver pulled the car away from the curb. While we drove the very short distance to our hotel, the two boys talked to us, asking constant question after question. We ditched our charade and just went with the truth with these two. Trust me, they were not interested in either of us. They were together, and it was obvious, and I fell in love with both of them. Britain, a short dark haired boy (maybe 22) was funny and very flirty, where Tyson, tall, lean and blonde, was more reserved and conservative. They mentioned they were going to a gay bar in a different part of town. Now that I wasn’t walking, my energy returned, and at the mention of a gay bar, my ears perked up.
Joie shook her head at me and mouthed, “We are not going to a bar with them.”
I smiled and kept talking to my new best friends, passing them my lip plumper as we exchanged easy conversation. When we arrived at the hotel, they let us out and hugged us like we hadn’t just met. Joie and I started through the revolving door, and as we did, she said, “It would have been fun to go dancing with them.” I looked at her. She looked at me, and we kept going until the revolving door led us back outside to the parking lot. We sprinted after the BMW, yelling, “We’re coming with you!!” They heard us, stopped, and for the rest of the night until the wee hours of the morning…I danced.
Kansas City offered me one of the best nights of my life, but I still have yet to try the barbeque.