The girl with the bang

Meps with a pink and purple stuffed snake

The giant snake called out, “Meps!”

For the past six weeks, I’ve been living in Vero Beach, Florida, focused on art, writing, and family. But I still want to have a social life. How do you launch a social life in a small town that rolls up the sidewalks at 9 pm?

My answer is, with a bang.

According to Wikipedia (not the best source, but it will do for now), the exclamation point has been called, in the printing world, a “screamer,” a “gasper,” a “slammer,” or a “startler.” The term that is most familiar to me, from hacker culture, is a “bang.” What I have discovered in Vero Beach is that my name is not “Meps.” It’s Meps-bang.

My forays out on the town started with Meetup.com, where I joined a group called the “Vero Beach Babyboomers Singles.” I’m only marginally a Baby Boomer, since I was born the same year the Beatles made their debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. But I figured that worst case, the members of the group would treat me like a pesky little sister.

The Boomers were “meeting up” to go dancing on Halloween. A little nervous, I dressed up and drove to The Patio, a restaurant I had noticed but never patronized. When I walked in the door, a voice sang out “It’s Meps!” I had expected to be anonymous, but it was not to be. I was noticed and made very welcome by Chris, the organizer.

Two days later, on a Sunday morning, I walked into a tiny church I had discovered earlier this year, the “Love Wins” church that welcomes absolutely everybody. I opened the door, and Todd, who has become a friend of mine on Facebook, greeted me enthusiastically. “Glad to have you back, Meps!”

It was time to rejoin Linda Graham’s yoga class at the Vero Beach Athletic Club. They’d moved, and I had some trouble finding the new location. So I was about five minutes late, but when I walked in the door, Linda announced to the entire class, “Hey, everybody, it’s Meps!”

I was starting to see advantages to being the only Meps in town.

This past weekend, I went to my first Toastmasters Club meeting in Palm Bay, a group called The Florida International Talkers. I loved the friendly group full of excellent communicators, but I wanted to see what was available closer to home. On Tuesday, I drove to another Toastmasters Club, just up the street from the house.

I was about five minutes late, and I took a slightly nervous breath before walking into the room full of strangers. From across the room came a loud and clear, “Hi, Meps!” It was Becky, whom I’d met at the Sunday meeting, 50 miles up the road.

So far, there was only one exception to “Meps!” That was at the Zumba studio, where they already have plenty of exclamation points. “Your name is “Meps,” right?” I just smiled and nodded.

One of these days, I’ll set them straight. Bang.

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