So I says to Mark I says, “Mark, I’ll go but I don’t want to pull in before you. You see, at the risk to confirming stereotypes, I’m a bit of a wallflower when it comes to these things. I could regale an auditorium filled with strangers, but put me in a small reception where I must talk to people face-to-face and I sort of stay to myself, speaking not, unless first spoken to.”
Mark reassured me I could arrive after 6:30pm and find him already on hand.
The first thing I discovered didn’t surprise me. I circled into the Schoen Place complex (don’t let the “State Street” address throw you, Label 7 resides in Schoen Place) only to find a dearth of parking spots. Personally, I get really turned off when a place doesn’t have adequate convenient parking. It’s why, for the most part, I tend to avoid city venues. For someone who doesn’t like to mingle amongst a crowd of unknowns, the lack of room to stow my car gave me ample reason to simply return home. I nearly did.
But, alas, logic got the better of me. I had to buck up and brave the unfamiliar. I snagged a distant spot and, with a faux casualness (obviously betraying an aversion for this particular destiny), sauntered through the black night. My feet crinkled the tiny moist stones on the wet pavement until I came to the well lit door. Upon entering, a very nice looking restaurant greeted me. The proper patrons seated at the elegant tables certainly didn’t appear as daring as typical members of the Rochester Social Media Club. I was sure of one thing, though. None of them was Mark. Of course, God gave us five (or was it six?) senses for good reason, and what the eyes didn’t see, the ears certainly heard. “A room up the stairs,” came Mark’s words back to me, the only clue he shared in our earlier conversation.
And so I followed the sound to a wooden staircase. Looking up, I saw my fears – a close-knit crowd cozily cackling with chummy familiarity. I didn’t see Mark, but knew this small horde represented my ultimate destination. As I reluctantly ascended the staircase, I hoped my dark pullover would provide a cloak of invisibility lest the party-goers discover an alien had invaded their territory. Reaching the top landing, I quickly slipped into the mass before anyone asked me to explain my awkward presence. Still I couldn’t see Mark.
But I did see Lee sitting by himself. Sanctuary! I felt, and made a beeline for him before someone caught his ear. I knew Lee from business events. We both shared an affinity for computers as well as an Ivy League sheepskin. We had a great conversation ranging from my daughter’s interest in Cornell to the entrepreneurial environment in Western New York to posting job offers on Facebook.
As I spoke with Lee, Nick brushed by and we exchanged polite pleasantries. I’ve known Nick since my computerAccess days in the early 80’s (I think he had something to do with PC-Cubed). He’s famous. He probably doesn’t remember me or those ancient days of The New Beginning – a revolution of the individual best (ironically, it turns out) exemplified by the sixty second one-and-done Apple advertisement shown during the 1984 Superbowl.
Then Dan popped in, asking, “Aren’t you a finance guy? What are you doing here?” Ouch! I’ve been exposed! cringed my silent brain. But Dan instantly withdrew his tease and we talked of his working for Lance, today a successful entrepreneur that I once hired as a programmer (and he was a good one, too). By this time, I had spied Mark but chose to defer joining him until I had finished this particular jaunt down memory lane.
No sooner did I return from the past then I immediately plunged into the future with Mike. I met Mike this year by accident at the Rochester Business Journal’s Best of the Web presentation in February. Mike’s an amazing guy and perfectly oriented to the world as it will become. We happily began sharing ideas at that winter breakfast and continue to do so. It was Mike who understood what I sought and thoughtfully introduced me to Mark.
Finally, my attention solely on the reason for my attendance, I asked Mark how long the Rochester Social Media Club had been around. “Well, we had our first meeting at the German House,” he started before I abruptly interrupted.
“The German House?” I spit out incredulously, “You won’t believe this, but my entrée into the world of computers began there more than a quarter century ago…”
But that’s a story best left for another time.
Turns out, this group did not represent some wholly different tribe as I originally suspected. No, these folks more than embodied the revolutionary band I first hung out with as a raw college graduate and budding young professional in the early 1980’s. These folks were that group, in spirit and, in quite a few instances, in body. And I was there at the beginning, The New Beginning. After I told Mark my yarn, he paused, unblinking, as if I had put him to sleep. Then, the metaphorical light bulb flashing deep within his neurons, he perked up and blurted, “Man, you’ve got to blog that.”
Rather than epitomizing the outsider, I stood the ultimate insider.