|Courtesy of Debspoons - |
Last Saturday afternoon, I attended a beer festival in a neighbouring town and, as it was a pleasantly warm evening, decided to walk the four miles home rather than order a taxi. As is often the case, my five pints of fine cask ale had induced a mellow mood and I welcomed the opportunity for reflection during the homeward hike.
When I reached the half-way point on my journey, around 7.30 pm, I passed an Indian restaurant. The sweet smell of chicken tikka masala caressed my nostrils and triggered a hollow, burning sensation in the pit of my stomach, so I decided I was in urgent need of a curry.
Despite the restaurant seeming less than half full, several minutes elapsed before the manager greeted me.
“Good evening, sir”, he said, while glancing over my shoulder, as if searching for my dining companion. “How can I help you?”
This struck me as a bizarre question; I resisted the urge to say that I’d like to buy two litres of matt emulsion and hog-hair brush.
“A table for one, please.”
“Have you booked?”
“No, I’ve dropped in on the off-chance” I said, while scanning the empty tables around us.
The manager seated me near to the exit, directly across from the ladies’ restroom. A swift swoop of his hand cleared away one set of utensils, leaving the undersized table set for one diner.
As I read the menu, I could not help but notice the reactions of other customers to me, Billy-no-mates, sitting alone. Two young women exiting the toilet seemed to stare at me as if I was a reincarnated version of Ted Bundy. A couple entering the restaurant looked, and looked again, as if they had observed something ghoulish. I reassured myself that I must be succumbing to paranoia, and that it was all in my imagination.
Once the food arrived, the process of eating only amplified my self-consciousness. The crunch as I bit into my poppadoms seemed to reverberate around the restaurant. Despite my best efforts, my lamb bhuna insistently dribbled out of the corner of my mouth. After all, eating out is a social activity, where food intake should be punctuated by conversation and the exchange of pleasantries; but without anyone opposite me, to distract andshield, I felt exposed.
Towards the end of my meal, two children, a boy and a girl both aged about 6, appeared in front of me. I nodded and smiled; thankfully they smiled too. Suddenly, their mother appeared, glanced suspiciously in my direction and, without any word or gesture of recognition to me, grasped their hands and led them quickly away. I felt like the child-catcher from Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang intent on snatching children off the streets of Vulgaria! I stifled an impulse to scream, “Come along my little ones; come and get your lollipops.”
It is rare for me to eat out alone in a restaurant, particularly in the evening. My impromptu stop at the Jewel of Bombay provided me with empathy of how single people might feel when in the same position. I wont be repeating the experience in a hurry; thank goodness for Mrs Jones!
I often eat alone in restaurants, usually lunch, and I haven't had an experience such as yours. I imagine it's worse for women. Since you like Indian food, as do I, I hope you've seen the movie "The Hundred-Foot Journey." Thoroughly enjoyable.ReplyDelete
Perhaps it's me then; I must be a bit odd. I've not yet seen the film but I'm aware it has an Indian restaurant theme; thank you for the recommendation.Delete
Daphne Wayne-Bough explained how should you behave if you're eating alone in a restaurant. You've got to act like a restaurant critic and intimidate everyone, including the other diners. I suppose you managed the intimidation, but not quite in the right way.ReplyDelete
Steven Hayes must be American - they know how to serve customers over there.
I'll retain that information, GB, to use the next time I'm in that situation. And you're right, Stephen Hayes is an American - the far north-west, I think.Delete
So you've finally done it. You turned into a creepy loner dude scaring children at restaurants and freaking out strangers. I salute you!ReplyDelete
Also...this gives me a number of ideas for hidden-camera pranks. Look out for me on TV, or, more likely, keep an eye out for my mugshot on "Interpol's Most Wanted."
It was only a matter of time, Daniel; I've been on a downward spiral for a while! I look forward to your new career as a TV prankster.Delete
I had to eat lunch in a cafe by myself a few years ago and I felt VERY odd there amid all the couples. Thank God I brought a book and pretended to be engrossed in it as I ate.ReplyDelete
Maybe I'll try taking a book if I ever find myself in that position again. I suspect the discomfort and awkwardness of a female dining alone may derive from different sources as compared to a bloke.Delete
Hilarious! I feel your pain, Billy-No-Mates. You realize you have to take the Mrs. back there right away?ReplyDelete
Yes, perhaps I should go back with my wife to try and prove I'm not a sad pervert!Delete
I eat out by myself often and find it relaxing and a relief at times as there is no forced conversation. Heck, here in NYC it's easy as we bring a book, or just do things with our cell phones such as email or facebook.ReplyDelete
Then again, it hear it is much harder for women to eat alone. Maybe they fear us creepy guys eating alone in the same places!
I imagined you'd eat out alone a lot, given all those splendid reviews you deliver on your blog. Maybe the climate for the lone eater is different in the USA.ReplyDelete
You should have started a conversation with yourself. Hey, if they're going to think you're a creepy dude, you may as well give them something to talk about!ReplyDelete
I'll try that the next time I find myself in that situation - but knowing my luck I'll probably be sectioned and carted off to the nearest psychiatric institution!Delete
After my dad passed away, my mom said eating out alone was the hardest part for her. Still, 6 years later, if she wants a quick meal, many times she'll order food to go and eat it at home.ReplyDelete
Sorry you had a bad experience though. The mom could have at least given you a smile before ushering her kids away.
I suspect the source of discomfort for the lone eater might might be different for women. And yes, a smile of recognition from the mother would have been nice.Delete
I appreciate your time and interest.
So feel you on this one. When I used to travel a lot for business, I had to eat out alone or do the fast food thing in the hotel room. I usually had a book or magazine to entertain me. But I just love the eternal question, "Just the 1?" No, I have a guy in my purse who didn't want to pay full price for his meal. Sheesh. Then I got married and it changed to, "Just the 2 of you?" Unless you're counting the chickens that haven't hatched. *sigh*ReplyDelete
My guess would be that the "Just for one?" query would be even more likely for a female diner than a male? And I can never think of those witty responses at the time; they come into my head some hours after the event.Delete
Thanks for reading and commenting.
I have no problem being alone. In fact, I have my moments when I am in a totally crowded room and I am still alone. I smile at people. I watch them watching me at times. Makes them feel uncomfortable. Me? I just do what I do.ReplyDelete
You're clearly made of sterner stuff than me. Perhaps from now on I'll refer to myself as "Bryan Wimpy Jones"!Delete
You should have glanced at your watch forlornly every few minutes and stared broken-hearted at the door now and then. Asked to have a table set for two. Then people would pity you as the sweet jilted man.ReplyDelete
What an excellent idea! I would then at least attract sympathy rather than antipathy. I might give that a go if I should find myself in a similar situation.Delete
You paint quite the word picture! I think it was either the place or just bad timing. I and several of my single friends dine and have gone to the al movies alone. You do get the occassional side eye, but depending on the place you also could get more people talking to you. My friend goes on trips by herself and has met good friends all around the world. They actually plan trips together now and they met when she traveled alone.ReplyDelete
I suspect you're right, Joy, when you suggest that it depends on the place. Traveling alone is less problematic in a general sense. I still believe there is something distinctively awkward about eating alone in the evening in a formal restaurant.ReplyDelete
I appreciate your dropping by.
I hate those tables near the restrooms or the kitchen. So much traffic.ReplyDelete
The last time I ate alone was while alone in a hotel this summer during my daughter's college orientation. It was a complimentary breakfast filled with business people and a few families with "busy" kids waiting to use the waffle iron.
I was glad to have my newspaper.
As always, you've managed to give humor to a thought provoking experience.
Eating alone in a formal setting in the evening is, I suspect, an occasion that might evoke similar feeling to my own. And a female might feel a different range of reactions.Delete
Thanks again for your interest.