You walk in, nervously, hands scrunched into your pockets.
Immediately you notice the sign – laminated, shiny and on a pedestal. It directs you upstairs, a narrow, winding, spiral staircase next to a crowded, beer-smelling bar. Pub food wheels around you as you slowly saunter through the crowd, finally climbing the stained steps upward.
You’re immediately greeted on the second floor by two sets of beaming smiles.
“Welcome!” they say, hands stretched out with gloriously white smiles. This is a little better, you think. These people look … normal. Sort of.
They thrust paperwork in front of your face. You’re a bit overwhelmed, and you skim over it, feeling slightly flustered by all the attention. You sign it, hand over the money, and are ushered into the party.
The first thing you see is that everyone is talking. People are spread out across the room, chatting away. You get the impression some important people are here, but you aren’t quite sure who they are, or what they look like.
Immediately two smiley, happy-clappy types approach you. “Hi!” they say, in almost perfect unison.
“Hello,” you say nervously, your hands clutching the inseam of your pockets.
One of them grins that plastic smile again, and slicks back his hair. He rattles off some big title, it goes over your head though. His hair is wispy, thin and he seems very … ‘keen’. Yeah, that would be the word. He begins chatting about why he first joined up, all the benefits of being involved, and grabs you a beer.
Talking intensely, he finally stares at you. “So, what do you think?”
You pause, aware that every second of hesitation casts your commitment to the cause into doubt. “Um, yeah. That makes sense.”
That seems to make the man happy, and he smiles, grinning, clasping your shoulder. He talks about how much talent you have, how much promise you have, how you’re going places. You begin to wonder – how can he know all this from a mere 30 second conversation?
As the night drifts on, you have the same conversations time and time again. You begin to experiment. To vary your opinion. Whenever you do, people nod, they listen to you. You begin to feel like a leader.
As the night draws to a close, you feel a little bit bewildered. Did they actually agree with you? Did you actually change their views? Or is this a group that lacks conviction, that is afraid to confront you with their true beliefs?
You’re not sure. But you agree to come to the next one, anyway.
This could be about a cult, a political party or a particularly bad family reunion. We’re really not sure.