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The Stranger I Met Today

You can learn so much, even in a karaoke bar, by asking questions. Sometimes, it just takes time to get to the right ones.

The thought of standing up in a crowded room to sing a song to bunch of strangers terrifies some people. If you think of karaoke and shudder, jumping on stage and belting out Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead or Alive is probably not something you’re going to do anytime soon. But, if you think of karaoke and immediately begin to mentally compile a song list, you’re one of the crazy ones who enjoy singing to strangers. I recently found out that I am one of the crazies. 

Kate, Hannah, and I had decided to treat ourselves to an overnight getaway in lieu of exchanging gifts for Christmas. Atlantic City always has something going on as well as plenty of spa options, so we headed south. This was how we ended up at Planet Rose Karaoke Bar. 

After scouting a location the perfect distance from the stage, we sat down, ready to listen to the musical stylings of anyone who wanted to offer up their talent. No one did. At first. Then, two adorable twentysomething girls visiting from Russia braved the quiet and offered a passionate rendition of Madonna’s Like a Prayer.  This song warmed up the crowd. Two more girls decided to perform a song from the musical Rent. The crowd fell back to sleep. Next, a middle-aged gentlemen, who had Coronas in both hands before setting one bottle down to take the microphone sang a version of Johnny Cash’s I Walk the Line. The Corona man was followed by a group that incoherently and unapologetically screamed a song by The Killers. After that group finished, the room collectively sighed and I wasn’t sure that the audience was going to rebound. Thankfully, a song written by Nikolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, performed by a duet revived the crowd.  The high energy, well-known song, recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell in 1967, was Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. It took one song and everyone was off their barstools and on their feet, dancing, singing, or rushing to sign up for a chance to rock the house. 

Hannah, Kate, and I watched the transformation from the bar. We, well, Hannah and I, were still trying to decide if we were going to take the stage. In between pours, the bartender leaned against the back of the bar, her arms crossed in front of her. She was unfazed by the performances, regardless of whether they were good or bad, and yawned at least twice per song. When I had ordered my first drink, I mentioned the subdued crowd and she simply nodded. When I ordered my second drink, I asked her how long it takes the average person to choose songs from the mammoth songbooks. She shrugged. (As Hannah and Kate mentioned to me that night, I ask a lot of questions. This was my first time at a karaoke joint and I wanted to learn all that could.) I knew that I had one more question to ask the bartender. Before I took the stage with Hannah, I motioned for the bartender. 

“What’s the worst song you’ve ever heard and if you could, you’d make sure no one ever sings it again?”  Without hesitation, the words popped out of her mouth. 

Any Way You Want It, Journey.”

“I promise,” I said, “I will never karaoke to that song or any other Journey song.” 

“Thank you,” she said with gratitude. 

 

Lesson Learned

No Journey songs at Karaoke.  Ever. 

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