Saturday, February 8, 2014

Table For One

Long before I met my wife, Teresa, I would occasionally go out to eat at sit-down restaurants by myself.  It wasn't easy early on.  I was very self-conscious about it, and I figured all eyes were on me as I was seated at a table alone.  But after a while, I got used to it, to the point that I enjoyed it.

It was especially neat when I was traveling solo around the country on my many road trips, and I would enter restaurants looking like a tourist.  That would always create conversation opportunities with the locals, which led to unsolicited advice from the waitstaff regarding things to do in the area.  I know, nowadays, I wouldn't do that, since it's possibly dangerous to let strangers know you're traveling alone.  But back then, it was kind of fun, especially if my server was a young lady around my age.  I had many of them flirt with me.  I guess knowing we'd likely never see each other again caused us to drop some of our defenses.  I remember conversations being very easy with some.

One of my favorite moments was stopping at the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Chicago, and the server, a young lady, single, about my age, actually sat down at my table with me to chat (I guess it was a slow time of day), and asked a lot of questions about where I was going (I was on one of my Route 66 trips).  I really enjoyed the attention, though I was still a little too self-conscious to allow the conversation to get too serious.  She was very nice, and it was obvious she was interested in me.  Usually I was oblivious to that kind of attention.  She seemed to be intrigued by the idea that I was traveling by myself, though less so my destination.

Fast-forward a few years, not too long after Teresa passed away, and I would go out to eat just to escape for awhile (while my parents or in-laws took care of my daughter), and I was back to feeling self-conscious about eating by myself again.  Maybe it was an age thing, or it was just too soon after Teresa's death, but I felt like everyone in the restaurant was looking at me.  I was convinced that other people were feeling sorry for me being there all by myself.  The reality is they likely didn't even notice, but that was the way I felt.  Of course, being so much older, and the waitstaff being so much younger, there was no longer that connection with them that I might have had in my younger days.  I really felt lonely.  In fact, I don't know why I even bothered since it was so difficult for me.

As the years have gone on, it has again become easier, but I definitely prefer having my daughter with me.  There's a sense of comfort having her with me, especially when I'm traveling, and I feel like, if anyone is observing us, they see a father and daughter spending time together.  And that's a nice thing.

Being alone is okay.  I usually take a book with me, or my journal, which I will write in while waiting for my meal.  The waitstaff doesn't question me anymore.  The young women don't give me a second look.  I'm no longer a "single guy".  I'm now an "old guy", even in my mid-40s.  Who picks up women at restaurants anyway?

Have a nice evening, everyone!  Go USA!

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