Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lunch Amongst the Twitterati

Another check mark on my Life Experiences List: today I attended my first Tweetup.

For those of you who have not yet been inculcated into the Twitterworld, "Tweetup" is an overly-cute term for an organized meeting of two or more Twitter users, in the Real World as opposed to online. OK, I'll accept the overly-cute term. At least it makes me feel better about myself than if I were to tell you I attended a "Twitup".

Anyhoo, there is an ever-growing group of Twitterers here in Lancaster, PA who have been deemed Lancaster's "Twitterati". And how, exactly, does one become a part of this esteemed group of highfalutin' folk? Live in or near Lancaster (or at least, be able to locate Lancaster on a map), be on Twitter, and ask to be listed. As curator of the list @danielklotz notes,

"On the whole, we are a coffee- and beer-loving crowd that can be easily coaxed into spontaneous Tweetups. If you’re from out of town and need a recommendation on what to do or where to go, these are good people to ask...We’re also useful if you’re bored, or want to know what the weather’s like, or if you’d like to keep up with what’s going on in Lancaster when you’re away."

I can attest to the fact that it's a warm, friendly, and accepting group of people, and I've gotten to know several of them well online. But, despite the fact that we are all local, I had met very few of them in person before today.

Our Tweetup was organized for lunch at a little "see-if-you-can-find-it" Spanish restaurant called Antojitos, which opened up on West King Street about three months ago. I am a fan of Spanish cooking, and the food that was served was very tasty...but it was clear that the 20+ folks who attended the event were a larger group than the staff was prepared to handle. Our first clue to this appeared when we were asked for our drink orders. Those who asked for water were promptly served bottled water; those who asked for regular sodas were given cans of Pepsi or Sierra Mist; those who asked for diet soda sat waiting until one of the staff came running in with a plastic shopping bag filled with cans of diet coke. Had he run down the street to the store? Probably better not to ask.

After initial attempts to provide each person with their own plate as ordered proved futile, our hosts began bringing us large platters of rice, beans, pork and chicken to pass around and share. Oddly, rather than bringing salad, they brought us one large plate of lettuce, one large plate of tomatoes, and a dish of lime quarters, prompting me to comment that we had reduced them to bringing us random plates of food. It added to the conviviality of the event, though -- so many of us meeting each other for first time were passing food and laughing like a family at a holiday meal. Really, the owners of the restaurant went out of their way to make us feel welcome and did their best for us -- even providing the table with a complimentary flan (and how often do you get complimentary flan?)

My fellow Twitterati proved to be as enjoyable a group in person as I have found them to be while interacting online. A range of ages, backgrounds, occupations and hobbies provided a wide variety of conversational topics. This is a creative, intelligent, and downright funny group of folks, and I am honored to be among them.

I am one who, especially over the past several years, has dealt with sometimes horrendous social phobia. I am diagnosed OCD (far more obsessive than compulsive), and hand-in-hand with that has been a growing fear of social situations. It has caused me to go from a once very social life to very hermit-like one. In recent times, I have consciously made efforts to turn that around.

That said, today was a bit of a personal victory for me. There was a time - as recently as six months ago - when I would have found or created out of whole cloth any excuse at all not to go by myself to have lunch with a group of people I'd never met in person before. And sure, this morning, I had the nerves going and had to give myself a bit of pep talk to get moving. But I went, and I had a great time! And you can bet I will be at the next one!

If you are in the area, or even just on Twitter, and want to find and follow a great group of people, you could do a lot worse than those listed on the Lancaster Twitterati page found here. Please feel free to follow me on Twitter - I'm @berutt.

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