“Table for four?” asked the restaurant hostess. I turned and smiled at the three people behind me.
“No, I’m together,” I said, pointing at myself. “A table for one would be perfect.”
The few times that I eat out alone, I find it helpful to silently repeat a few reminder mantras:
- Don’t talk to yourself. (the dogs aren’t here to listen and vouch for your sanity)
- Don’t stare for a prolonged period. (your eyes widen; you’ll make a spectacle of yourself)
- Don’t eat too fast. (this one is more about avoiding indigestion than how others perceive me)
Reminders acknowledged, I sat down and picked up the menu. I glanced at the two boys sitting across the aisle.
“Dude, last weekend I went to a wedding,” said one of the boys.
I observed discreetly.
His friend squeezed the ketchup bottle, filling over one-third of his plate. It wasn’t clear if he was listening.
“The actual wedding, well, that was pretty boring, all that talk about love and cherish and stuff.”
I coughed to cover my laugh.
The first time wedding-goer enthusiastically continued. “I went to the reception, though, and that was a whole new deal. There was lots-a food, the band was loud, and stuff like that.”
His friend crammed several ketchup-soaked fries in his mouth.
“They do this thing called The Arch,” said the wedding-goer.
I noted the pronounced emphasis, and anticipated a punch line.
His friend took a big bite of his hamburger.
“People dance around the room and line up across from each other in twos. Arms go up like this” said the wedding-goer, and propelled his arms straight up above his head.
His friend glanced over briefly and went for another bite of his hamburger.
“Then you touch hands with the person across from you,” continued the wedding goer. He bent his arms forward at the elbow and his hands at the wrist to demonstrate. “That’s what makes the arch. It’s almost a tunnel really,” he said, in a serious tone.
I smiled—but not so wide as to draw attention.
“Anyway, the people at the end of the line dance through the arch—and as the girls go through, you can kiss ‘em!”
His friend took a big gulp of soda.
I coughed again.
The wedding-goer leaned forward a bit. “Myself, I must have kissed 20-30 girls!” he said, raising his voice and his eyebrows. His grin was as wide as a pumpkin mouth carving. He waited for his friend’s response.
His friend also leaned forward, took a deep breath and asked, “Are you going to eat your fries?”
I bent my head down and smothered my laughter with a napkin. I decided right then and there to make an addition to my eating-out-alone guidelines:
- Treat yourself to a slice of life. (allow yourself to eavesdrop)
I looked across the aisle. The two friends were sharing the fries in contented silence.
It was a touching moment—a picture-perfect ending to the lively recount of the wedding activities.
As observed from my table for one.