So, I'm by myself in Philadelphia, at a bar waaaaaaaaay too hip for me. I'm trying to put a little grub in my belly before heading back to my "prison cell" for a few hours of reading and writing.
It's awkward. No, actually, I'm awkward. I don't know how to order. I can't read the chicken-scratch on the chalkboard behind the counter. From what I can tell, my options are seitan (whatever that is) or white bean and roasted red beet dip (ugh).
The bartender mumbles something I don't understand, and I knee-jerk reply, "That'd be great!" She looks at me like I'm a complete and total weirdo. I apologize for misunderstanding and attempt to order a beer. Only, I do it in the most uncomfortable way possible... "Uh.... Sorry... Uh... Do you... uh... could I have a beer?"
"Uh..." she says kindly, yet mockingly, "Yes. You're at a bar."
And then, I sit.
Trying not to make eye contact.
Hoping no one notices how out of place I am.
I can't help but wonder if this is what it's like visiting a church...
I grab my phone. I pretend like I'm typing and engaged with my real friends who actually exist, but just aren't here. I check my email. And then check again. And again. And again.
My nose is buried in my phone, but my peripheral vision is going crazy. I'm trying to take it all in. I hope I'm not breaking any unspoken rules and regulations. But above all, I just hope I'm not in someone else's seat.
And I can't help but wonder if this is what it's like visiting a church...
I drop eaves on the bartender who is talking to a server.
"Will we be busy tonight?" the server asks.
"Maybe, its half-priced burgers."
"It is?! Do you tell tables that?"
"No. Most people know."
"I DIDN'T KNOW THAT!" I scream in my head, "AND NEITHER DID SHE!" But I don't say anything out loud; I'm still too uncomfortable to voice my questions in the open. So, I simply sit and wonder... Is the half-price for members only? If I ask about it will I seem cheap? What else don't I know? Is there a menu somewhere? Is there someone who can help?
I wonder if this is what it's like visiting a church?
I order crab dip because it's the only edible thing I can decipher off the board. I drink my beer and watch as others pile in. Immediately, I notice that they all know each other.
"What's up, bro!"
And now, I realize I'm out of place. I'm the one without a name. The other. The outsider. The transient. The guest. And I can't help but wonder...
Is this what happens when people visit our church?
I hope not, but I suspect it happens more than we know.
In the Way,