Meet your new BFFs (or not, if you’re me)!

Song: Casey Jones by the Grateful Dead

I run a Meetup group. I’m probably the worst Meetup group organizer, ever. At best, I schedule something once a month, attend the event, and respond to approximately 33% of the emails I receive within three weeks of receiving them.

I do one thing right, though. My Meetup group is public. Many Meetup groups are private. When a group is private, you can’t see where and when the next events are. If the group looks promising, you might decide to join, because that’s the only way you can find out whether you’re interested in attending the group’s events.

Why are so many groups private? Maybe it’s because organizers want people to have to join their groups to find out about the events so the groups get more members. Maybe it’s because organizers are paranoid and don’t want random people from the internet showing up to their events — oh wait, those people wouldn’t be on a website designed to allow random people from the internet to show up to their events. Right? (As a side note, the internet privacy thing is really stupid, because anyone with half a brain, a book of matches, two sticks to rub together, some baking soda, a surly feline accomplice, and an internet connection can figure out your real name and where you live in approximately five minutes.)

The process of joining these private Meetup groups is a little more elaborate than you might expect. Many groups require you to answer a bunch of questions before you can become a member. Over the past few years, I’ve joined several private meetup groups, most of them relating to dogs or babies. So I’ve answered many questions about my dogs or baby. More often than not, the process goes something like this:

You find a Meetup group that sounds good:

Welcome! This group is for awesome people just like you who have awesome dogs and/or babies and like to do awesome things! We meet regularly to do fun stuff at awesome locations and hope our members and their dogs and/or babies will be BFFs!

This sounds good, but of course I don’t know who these awesome people are or what awesome things they do at which awesome locations, because:

This group’s content is available only to members.

Of course it is. But it sounds really great, so I click the little red “Join us!” button. Yay! BFFs for me and my dogs or baby are just seconds away! Or not!

First, I must request to join this Meetup group. What, do you think they let anyone in off the street? No. They have standards, people. (I’ll focus on dogs now, because I write about my kid often enough as it is.)

You must fill out your profile and then be approved by the Organizer, Tom Brady, before you join Awesome People and Their Awesome Dogs.

Okay, I can do that, because this sounds really awesome.

Unfortunately, the process gets off to a bad start, because the first thing they want me to do is:

Introduce yourself.

Below this command is a box that says, “Introduction.” That’s it. No question, no prompt, nothing. What do they want to know about me? Do they want to know that I am an awesome person with awesome dogs, or do they need specific facts supporting the assertion that I am an awesome person with awesome dogs? I become paralyzed by indecision and decide to skip to the questions.

What kind(s) of dog(s) do you have?

I start with just the facts:

I have a Rottweiler, a black lab/border collie mix, and a miniature pinscher.

That’s really boring, though, and I worry it makes me sound like some kind of German elitist with an obvious token mixed breed. Tom Brady might not think I’m awesome enough to join Awesome People and their Awesome Dogs if I give such a boring answer to an obviously meaningful question. Let’s try this again:

I have a super-awesome and friendly Rottweiler who will not try to eat any awesome people or their awesome dogs, ever, I promise, and is involved with Habitat for Humanity (Peaches! Isn’t that adorbs?); a black lab/border collie mix who is hilarious and quirky and writes letters of encouragement to inmates at a local correctional facility (Coltrane); and the world’s most amazing miniature pinscher who looks very good in sweaters and in her free time knits blankets for homeless livestock (Sadie).

What is/are your dog(s) name(s)?

Oh, crap. I already answered that. Do I list the names again and make it look like I think Tom Brady is an idiot or do I go back and revise my answer to the last question to remove the dogs’ names? I better revise my answer to the last question.

How did you meet your dog(s)?

Coltrane voluntarily got himself incarcerated in a maximum-security prison just west of Chicago, where his brother Lincoln Burrows was imprisoned after being framed for a murder he didn’t commit. As part of his elaborate plan to escape from prison with his brother, Coltrane developed fake diabetes and often came to the infirmary, where I worked as the prison doctor. Eventually we fell in love and one day I left my keys lying out in the open, where Coltrane grabbed them and later escaped with his brother and a quirky cast of supporting characters including an annoying but lovable Lithuanian kid who stole a baseball card. This is why I no longer practice medicine.

Sadie and I were both contestants on Cycle 13 of America’s Next Top Model (the petite season).

Peaches hitched a ride on the Cannonball Express as it left Memphis. The train was running behind schedule and the conductor, a stickler for timeliness, did not notice a Rottweiler lounging in a boxcar. Ahead of the speeding train and around a curve that blocked the conductor’s view, several cars of a freight train that should’ve been on the passing track sat on the main track, because the passing track was not long enough to accommodate the two freight trains that were there. The fireman of the Cannonball Express saw something on the tracks and alerted the conductor, who, his voice laced with terror, screamed “Jump! Jump!!” Peaches, being a smart dog who more often than not responds to spoken commands, heard this, scrambled to edge of the boxcar, and jumped, just seconds before the train plowed into a caboose and cars carrying corn, hay, and wood, instantly killing the conductor. Peaches and the fireman survived with only minor injuries.

Are you available to attend weekly playdates with your dog(s)?

Yes! Of course! That’s why I’m joining this group. Of course, it depends when and where the playdates are held, because I have a job and many other very important responsibilities, including but not limited to going to the gym, talking shit on the internet, and watching high-quality television programming.

After answering all of these questions, I wait. One night, someone will come to my house, blindfold me and make me sing “I’m a Little Teapot” in front of Old Capitol and then perform one of two seemingly impossible tasks featuring Russian classical music or cinema.

After that, I’m in. Congratulations! I am now officially Awesome People! I see the path before me and it looks like one of two things:

(1) For dog Meetups: Our next Meetup is Saturday at [insert time approximately one hour before you wake up] at [insert address with five numbers in far outlying suburban town here].

What? Listen. We’re downtown people who aren’t going to waste our time driving with our dogs to an address that is so far away from anything it has five numbers.

(2) For baby Meetups: Our next 100 Meetups have been scheduled. They are all for days and times you are at work. Even so, we will send you 900 reminder emails for these Meetups you cannot attend.

Great! Thanks!

*Thanks to Ben for suggesting that I write about my Meetup frustrations and for being obsessed with Casey Jones.