Metro's Going Out editor Eva Kis had her routine interrupted by Heineken. This is what happened.
The brief email arrived the night before: Am I free at 10 p.m. tomorrow?It’s more notice than Heineken's Routine Interruptions contest winners receive — those phone calls are typically made in the late morning or early afternoon the day of the event.
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Between covering Metro’s Wellbeing and Going Out sections, my days are booked from morning (trying out new exercise classes) to night (openings and events). So while I’d known about Heineken’s contest, I hadn’t entered. But my appreciation for surprises (and a little rebellion against the tyranny of my day planner) made me say yes.
The confirmation email read simply that a car would be waiting in front of my apartment at 10 p.m. to take me "to a location," and a password with which I was to gain entry.
Work kept me late, and I rounded the corner onto my block to find a black Town Car already idling at the curb.
My driver was Andre. He had a Russian accent thicker than most James Bond villains, and hedidn'tknow what was happening either. "I am only here to drive you to your destination; beyond that I don't know." This was both mildly reassuring (I'm not alone in my confusion!) and worrying (the lowest guy on the totem pole is never told the identity of his kidnapping target).
His directive was to take me to the Gansevoort Park Avenue. I was very glad our destination had an address, instead of a park or a corner or a pier. He didn't understand my relief. But he did note that this was awfully late to be going out on a Wednesday night. He wasn't wrong — my alarm will be set for 7:30 a.m. no matter how late I'm out.
On the way, we talked traveling — he visited my hometown of Budapest in 1993 and loved it — but he's lived in the U.S. for 20 years and has no plans to leave. "For me, America is like resort: Anyplace you go, you can find a McDonald’s, anything you want." Wonder if he appreciated the irony that his steady life was, at this moment, instrumental in shaking up my own. But I don't have the university degree oralcoholtolerance to try talking philosophy with a Russian.
At the door
The downside of mystery events was immediately apparent when we arrived: You can’t dress for them.
Still wearing summer's version of business casual, I looked ridiculous standing in the cavernous Gansevoort lobby, which with its geometric carpets, high-backed chairs and giant fireplace looks like the Deetzes' house from “Beetlejuice.”I futilely approached three employees with the password before my PR contact (and Shailene Woodley’s doppelganger) found me.
With a Heineken red star hand stamp, I skipped a half-block line of would-be partiers who may as well have stepped off the Fashion Week runway. The adventure had officially begun.
The main event
The Park Lounge isn't even listed under the nightlife section of the Gansevoort's website. It's a strictly VIP event space that holds conferences by day and at night becomes a long glass-walled room of low couches with a DJ booth at one end and a bar at the other, next to the rooftop pool.
The event that Heineken's five winners (and three journalists) were crashing that night was the hotel's S S W I M pool party, which is itself spontaneous and usually involves a celebrity DJ. The man at the turntables neededno introduction — Questlove’s ample ‘fro was already bobbing over his laptop when we arrived.
Lacking a bathing suit, I settled at one of the reserved tables stocked with a bucket of Heinekens, as well as carafes of juices and packs of almonds, granola and something called "cracko de jacko," which is the Gansevoort's touch. I first ended up chatting with two people who turned out to be the two other reporters (we have a sixth sense for our own kind), then obeyed the siren call of a killer "Jungle Boogie" remix that brought the house to its feet, then kept it there with a mashup heavy on "Smells Like Teen Spirit." I can'tsaywhether Kurt Cobain would be pleased.
I did eventually find one of the winners (nobody in our group was introduced to the others, and the other guests were largely Questlove and the other guest DJs' entourages). The 58-year-old entered the contest less for the element of surprise thanout of curiosity about the marketing campaign. He got his call at 1:30 that afternoon and was also told only when a car would arrive for him, but not the destination. But he approved of jolting people out of their routines and intended to enjoy his night.
Of the other winners, a young couple I found on another sofa inside (it seems no one took the "water world" password as a hint that there would be a pool) were enjoying each other more than the party. They exuded the effortless, wholesome cool of Tommy Hilfiger models, and had come from a show at Webster Hall that was definitely not Questlove's style of music.
The other couple were in various states. The man, smiling and speaking over the deafening music easily with his booming voice, was making the most of his interruption, taking in the atmosphere and the free beer — while his date nodded off in the chair next to him. Not a standard Wednesday night for seven out of the eight of us, at least.
Around 1 a.m., as the crowd around me was only getting thicker, I conceded defeat and texted comrade Andre.
The idea of Heineken's campaign — be more impulsive, seize opportunities, don’t get so locked into your routine that you miss out — is great, maybe even important if you're letting the chance for something great slip by because it seems inconvenient.But the reality, especially in a city like New York with its unforgiving pace, is that stepping out of your life is not always as easy as picking up the phone and saying yes.
In the end, the S S W I M party was as much about experiencing something we normally couldn't access as our willingness to give it a try at all. And in our own ways, we all made the most of the night. Wasn't that the point?