Jeremy Glazer read his story Club Kid at a live event produced by Under the Sun and Lip Service at the Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables. The sold-out event featured true stories about life in South Florida. Jeremy is a legislative analyst, a former high school teacher and a Miami native.
I live on South Beach. But I’m not gay and I don’t go to clubs.
It’s weird, I know.
I’m used to being mistaken for something I’m not. So it didn’t surprise me when I got a call from Raquel, at a market research group, looking to interview “regular club goers.” I was about to hang up when she said it paid $60.
I was teaching high school at the time. Forget what you’re hearing about inflated teachers salaries. It’s a lie. I made 500 dollars a week. After rent and student loans, that left 86 bucks for groceries. School lunches were the nutritional highlight of my day.
Raquel asked, “How often do you go to clubs? Often, relatively often, somewhat often, seldom, or never?”
“Relatively often,” I said. “Maybe once a week.”
“Oh, I’ll write very often,” she said. “That must be fun.”
I had no idea how to end that sentence.
“And how often do you use table service?”
One benefit of hanging around high school students is I learn stuff I would otherwise never know. Table service is when you pay 500 dollars for a 25 dollar bottle of alcohol.
“Oh, I use table service often,” I said.
I was in. Raquel told me where to show up for the focus group.
She said. “We need you to bring in five images—like from magazines—that represent the club experience for you. You can’t participate without the images.”
I was too poor to subscribe to magazines, so I downloaded some pictures and printed them out in my classroom.
When I got to the focus group waiting room, one other guy was there. We nodded to each other.
Two more came in, then a third. We had all taken the embarrassing step of dressing like we were going to a club. I had on a Ben Sherman shirt, with the signature on the seam.
I had gotten it on store credit after trading in some birthday gifts at Bloomingdales when they wouldn’t give me cash. I didn’t even know who Ben Sherman was. One of the other guys had on a tight v-neck, and the others were in black button-downs.
I suspected they were imposters too.
We were all trying a little too hard.
The door opened and a smiley man and woman invited us in to a room flanked by two easels with huge pads. They asked us to take out the images we’d brought and explain how they represented the club experience. V-neck went first and talked for about ten minutes. The rest of us took his cue and gave detailed explanations about our clippings.
The facilitators took furious notes on the giant pads.
They asked us which clubs we went to.
We named clubs that used to exist, that exist now, that might one day exist. Bed, Tantra, Switch, Drum, Mansion, House.
Then, they asked why we use table service.
I stepped up.
“You know, you want a place for your friends to hang out, a home base to operate from.”
I went on, channeling my inner club kid. I described nights I had spent with my boyz, camped at a table with excursions onto the dance floor, returning with beautiful women. The other guys nodded.
Finally, our facilitators revealed the new product: power vitamin water. It would be offered with table service—an extra $10 would get you a bucket of ten bottles.
As a group, we evaluated the importance of electrolytes and hydration. Then we were done.
We got a check and a thank you package. We rode down in the elevator together.
As we parted, I said: “See you at the clubs.”
Out on the street, I saw one of the guys drive off in a bigger piece of shit than my late 80s Volvo. I laughed at those marketing people we had fooled.
Why would anyone who can afford table service come in for a lousy $60 bucks?
I opened the package we had gotten. I expected it to be announcements for VIP events I’d never be able to afford.
But I was wrong. It was coupons for toothbrushes and toothpastes, deodorant, and toilet paper. Each coupon had a small coded seal so marketers would know who buys what.
They didn’t think we were high-rolling club kids. They were after people who wished they were club kids, people who might be stupid enough to buy power vitamin water.
We were the ones who got fooled.
It was worth it, though. Sixty bucks plus coupons.
That meant extra chocolate milk from the cafeteria for the rest of the school year.