The parameters of acceptance change as the years pass. First and second year of varsity are generally of the “How drunk did you get?” persuasion, whereas third year and well into the working world appear to stress the quality rather than the quantity of drinking (meaning that it’s where you got drunk and with what, not how much, that counts). No longer content with the boring yet reliable fun that is offered by our staple club diet, we venture further afield, shelling out exponentially larger sums for cover charge as we go. The more exclusive the establishment is reputed to be, the better.
To my dismay, however, I found myself the unwilling participant in one of these endeavours one Friday night not long ago. I was persuaded due to the occasion being a friend's birthday, and because she had taken the care to organise a guest list, without which our chances for getting in were, at worst, highly unlikely, and at best, possible provided we part with a cover charge equivalent to my weekly grocery budget.
Our night at this particular version of cool begins well enough: my companions and I arrive at the entrance while my other friend, the birthday girl (and more importantly, the one with the guest list) is already in deep conversation with the bouncer and the hostess. A word on hostesses: These creatures only exist in the parallel universe that is the cool club. Is it a job requirement that they be blonde? (Doesn’t this have some kind of nasty employment equity implication?) Being politely cruel also appears to be part of the job description, along with the thinly-veiled sneer and haughty attitude. I think the idea is for them to exude an air of sophistication that says, “I’m so cool they actually pay me to be here.”
Anyway, snapping out of my ruminations I am delighted to see that my friend has made progress, as the tiny blonde rolls her eyes, sighs, and beckons for us to come through. Standing on the other side of the ropes from the entrance, I make the ill-conceived suggestion that they simply unhook one of the ropes to let us through from where we are standing so that we don’t have to go all the way around, prompting an incredulous “no” from the waif, who looks like she might have a coronary at this impudence. Don't I know the rules? We practically run upstairs lest she change her mind about letting us in.
Once inside, I am surprised to find that the club's clientele is not nearly as sophisticated as they'd have us believe in the queue. For one thing, it's surprisingly empty, considering the block-long waiting line, and for another, none of these people is nearly as pretty or well-dressed as you'd expect them to be. For the most part, our fellow clubbers appear to be a good few years younger (and in some cases, a good few too many years older) than we are. Most of them are wearing an air of reverence, like they can't believe they actually got in here, instead of the expression of weary disdain you see on socialites in the papparazzi photos from posh clubs in New York.
Well, our status as guest list members and hence VIPs (according to the stamp on my wrist) grants us access to the VIP lounge upstairs. Maybe if we head up there we can get away from these imposters. I lead us over to the entrance to the lounge, show the bouncer my VIP stamp and make my way upstairs.
It is definitely cooler up here, there is way more seating, as well as a private bar so we don't have to fight with the riffraff to get a drink. What is distressingly strange about this oh so effortlessly cool lounge area, is that there is practically no one in it. There are a couple of guys at the bar who look up hopefully when I wander in - they have the same expression as the only patrons of a restaurant seeing a passerby stop to pick up a menu. It's that look that says, "Please, please come in!"
Except that we can't, apparently, because when I turn to point this oddity out to one of my friends, I find that none of them is there. Returning to the entrance, I find the birthday girl embroiled in a heated argument with the bouncer. It seems that when he saw that it was not just me going upstairs to the hallowed empty halls of the VIP lounge, he suffered a small-scale heart attack, from which he recovered quickly enough to deny everyone else entrance. Apparently he absolutely cannot have too many people in the VIP area, and apparently five is too many. Dawdling at the top of the stairs, I am torn between rejoining my friends and taking advantage of the impossibly empty bar. My conscience gets the better of me, and I reluctantly go back down the stairs.
After one R50 drink, we're all pretty much over it. On our way out, one of my friends asks the woman who takes the cash what the VIP stamp means if it's not to get us into the VIP area, to which he gets the enigmatic answer, "You need a stamp to get in, but sometimes you need more than a stamp." What does this guy want, sexual favours?
That was our awesome Friday night, as young carefree city youths are supposed to spend their Friday nights. I would have had more fun playing scrabble with my cat. Save your money, kids. It's so not worth it.