Social Skills, Spotlight

My New Policy on Bars

I like bars. I like alcohol. Moderate drinking is my vice and I accept that about myself. There are few activities I like doing with friends as much as chatting over wine, beer or good liquor.

But some bar experiences I really, really don’t like. Usually the really busy kind. It’s hard to explain this to enthusiastic friends, so I say things like “I’m an introvert” or “I prefer small groups” or “it isn’t my scene.” Those work, but they all basically make it sound like I’m the one not fitting in, and the bar scene itself is great.

But this piece by Tim Urban at Wait But Why says I’m not the problem. His thesis is that a cool bar, on a busy night, is by definition a bad life experience. It’s bad no matter who you are because of the combination of loud, dark and crowded:

The first moment you walk into a scene like this brings a distinct mix of dread and hopelessness. It’s an unbearably loud, dark, crowded cauldron of hell, and nothing fun can possibly occur here.

After wedging your coat into a nook in the wall and saying goodbye to it for the last time, it’s time to go get your first drink. You were the first one of your friends to walk in the door, so you’re in the lead as your group works its way through the crowd, which means you’re the one who’s gonna drop the worst $54 a human can spend on a round of drinks no one will remember. But that’s the end goal—first, you need to figure out how to get through the three layers of people also trying to order drinks.

The problem isn’t the frat-ish guys or any of the other stuff people usually blame. The bar gets 0% more fun if it’s all interesting people in there, because you can’t have meaningful contact with any of them. The problem is the specific combination of being loud, dark, and crowded.

There are a couple of exceptions to this:

  • If you’re young and just the sensory experience of a cool crowded bar is awesome because it’s like you’re coming of age
  • If you are there primarily to dance—like for real, you’re going to be moving on the dance floor the whole time. But it better be some truly earth-shattering dubstep or really trancey house music, or the L/D/C mix will still make it terrible.

When I think about it, Loud/Dark/Crowded is the common factor of every bar I’ve ever disliked. Sure I’m an introvert, but I’ll have a good time with my friends and even talk to strangers if it’s not loud and not crowded. I do like small groups, but I’m fine with 100 people at a large house party with a quieter atmosphere.

So I’m posting this here first of all so you can go read the hilarious full article. But secondly because this is my new policy whenever I get invited out. I’m just not going to Loud/Dark/Crowded bars anymore. And when someone asks me why I don’t want to go, I’m not going to say it’s because it’s not my scene, I’m going to say “It’s because loud, dark, crowded bars are never fun.” I’m going to say it like it’s a scientific fact.

Full piece: Why You Secretly Hate Cool Bars

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