Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Table For One

Eating alone is lonely. Eating out in public alone is humbling.

I don't mind dining out alone. But for the experience to be dignified, you have to plan for it and you have to have contingency plans. Even the most seasoned Table For One sometimes messes up and vows never to return.

The first rule of dining alone is to bring a distraction (i.e., reading material). So you look busy - at least too busy to be bothered with company. You are in control and content in your own skin. But my decision to dine out on Saturday afternoon was an afterthought really so I didn't have any reading material with me. Aha! But the restaurant has a City Paper. That would be perfect. Except...there were no more papers to be had. I had no reading material! I decided I would persevere anyway. It was early enough and the restaurant was empty enough. I thought I could be in and out rather quickly.

So I amble to the hostess' counter and meekly say, "Just one, please." She looks at me then proceeds to talk to the other hostess. Huh? I stood there for a good whole minute before another girl - a third hostess - comes over and asks if she can help me. I say again, more confidently this time, "Yes. Table for one, please." She seats me. And she gives me a choice. It was a difficult one. I could sit right in view of the front door. Or by the window - away from the eyesight of the door or passerbys on the main street. This choice is crucial. I was going to need scenery (what with no reading material). I could stare at the front door and people watch. Or I could select the window area - which is more secluded. I select the window. Again - I was going to be in and out quickly....right?


Nobody is taking my order....I have been sitting here for - what - five whole minutes! (When you are a Table For One With Nothing To Read, that can seem like an eternity.) I didn't even need to look at the menu. I said I was ready to order right away. So I wait. Minute after minute. For someone. Anyone. To take my order. My drink order? Hello? Water. Thhhirsssty. De-hy-dra-ted. No one. There are three waitresses (or are those the hostesses?) huddled at their post. I try to wave their attention. Nothing. Bitches. Ten minutes later, I make eye contact and ask if I can order. They nod. Two minutes later, a completely new girl goes to the table behind me to take their order. Their whole party wasn't even seated! So she mosies my way. And yet, I politely order my food. I don't want any funky kitchen scrap or bodily excretion ending up in my food on account of some sassy attitude. It's key. Restaurant staff can treat me like shit, I am always going to treat them like gold.

In hindsight, I should have ordered it to go. Because - horror of horrors - what does a Table For One With Nothing To Reading NOT want more than anything in the world? A Table Of Three sitting ON TOP OF THEM.

And so the bitches (who clearly hate me) sit a Table Of Three at the table right next to me. When there are about 30 other tables - the whole restaurant really - where they could have sat. This table is ON TOP OF ME. Really. They are so close I could reach out and butter their bread. Or stick a finger in their eye. Now, why? And why didn't they just say, "Could we have this table over here?" Why did they have to sit right ON TOP OF ME? If I enter a very empty restaurant and they want to seat me right ON TOP OF another person. I politely ask to sit somewhere else. It's called personal space.

So, as I am waiting for my food, I am just staring into space because again, I am Table For One With Nothing To Read. I would like to look around. But Table Of Three is, like, blocking my view of the whole restaurant so I would just be staring at them. I thought that might seem impolite. Or stalkerish. So I decide to just sit there and mind my own business - get my chopsticks ready. Look in my purse. Fiddle with my napkin. Take sips of my Coke. You know - general time killers. And then you know what Table Of Three does? They look my way - out the window - right over my head and through my head. And started talking about the weather. And looking outside. La la la. Looking outside. Through my head. While I just stare at the phantom person across the table. (And we are telepathically telling Table Of Three - LOOK AWAY!)

So forget it Table Of Three. You sat ON TOP OF ME. You stared my way for eternity. I'm listening in!

Conversational themes I heard from the table ON TOP OF ME:

Food is my friend!
Guy #1: I just eat when I get hungry. And then I stop when I'm full.
Girl: Me too! I never eat that much so that I get that full feeling. I know when to stop.

I want spicy but not spicy!
Girl to waitress: What should I get? I want noodles. I want spicy. But I can't do Rendang. This indecision is killing me.

We are vegetarians!
Guy #2: I'm vegetarian.

Guy #1: I am too!
Girl: We are all vegetarians! Waitress we are vegetarians - no meat products can touch our plate or in the vicinity of our meal.

{Waitress brings me my meal.}
Table for One: Singapore PORK Fried Rice. Yum! Hi Table Of Three! Maybe you should have taken one of the other 30 TABLES in the restaurant! Bon appetit!

You see, I wasn't alone after all.


Morgan said...

Yes...that is why I tend to dine alone at the bar. And no, not just b/c I am an alcoholic. I'm just a drunk.

Lucy said...

Whenever I have dined alone I have received really, really poor service. Do you think its because they know that you are not going to have a huge tab? I think it might be discrimination.

Next time, wear some sun glasses and blatantly stare at others. It will totally creep out other customers and serve as a nice distraction if you do not have reading materials. I LOVE people watching.