I am currently attending a conference and so blogging will be a bit more erratic than usual.
When I travel on work, I often eat alone at restaurants. I don’t mind it in the least and, being somewhat introverted, even welcome the chance to be alone after mingling with people all day. I usually take a book with me as a companion, the main problem being that the lighting in restaurants is usually very dim and I have to specifically ask to be seated at a table near a light. The backlighted iPad comes in useful here.
But according to this report (and one must always treat these lifestyle trend stories with some skepticism) some women feel awkward eating alone and seek ways to either avoid it or mask it, fearing that it makes them look like losers. A website has even been created to try and meet that need by matching up women to eat together.
I am not sure what this says about our modern society, that people care so much about what total strangers might think about them, merely because they are eating alone. Why has solitude become seen in such a negative light?
Having a dining companion can be fun and it is not that I always avoid eating with others. On one occasion, my flight had a long delay at a busy airport and I had to stand in line to get admittance to a restaurant near my gate. While waiting for quite a while for a table to open up, I started chatting with the person ahead of me, making the usual travel small talk. When she got to the top of the line, the person seating the customers must have thought that we were together and asked “Table for two?” The woman hesitated for a fraction, then looked at me and asked me whether I would like to join her and I of course agreed because not only did she seem nice it would have been incredibly rude to decline such a gracious offer. During the meal we had an enjoyable conversation about books, films, even our families, lives and careers, with the kind of casual freedom that one can have with people whom one knows one will never see again. All in all it was a pleasant experience.
I also read some time ago a story about a friendly waitress who used to make small talk with regular elderly single diners, who seemed to be pleased with the attention she paid them. But on days when she was busy and did not have the time for chitchat, they seemed to look a little sad and lonely and she felt that she had let them down. On one such day, she asked one of them if they would like to sit at a table with another of her regular single diners and it turned out very well for both diners and ever since then she regularly puts people together at tables.
Which brings me to an idea that I have and that is that restaurants should reserve at least one table for those who would like to be seated with other people whom they do not know. It may seem strange at first but who knows, in this day when social media connects strangers in ways that would have been unthinkable in the past, the idea of a ‘community table’ may catch on. I have had many pleasant conversations with total strangers merely because we were seated close together for an extended period of time due to one reason or another.
I would think that this would also be a good business decision for the restaurant, since it would enable them to increase the number of people they can seat. When I am alone and the only table that they can seat me at has room for four, I feel a little guilty for taking up so much space by myself.