#28 Never Have I Ever: Eaten alone at a restaurant
Foreplay: One of my favorite things in college were sit down meals in the dining hall. Growing up, my parents were always working late and my brothers were scattered amongst their friends so mealtime came and went individually without anything fancy like china or dinner table conversation. So when I got to college and witnessed people actually sitting at a goddamn wooden table with other humans rather than in front of a TV with The Simpsons, I was completely enamored with this habit.
However, I am not in college anymore and have since resorted to eating my dinner in front of my laptop while catching up to episodes of United States of Tara or Project Runway. Why no, it's not as sad and pathetic as you think, Tim Gunn is a great dinner buddy. Oh, excuse me as I down half a chocolate cake.
The Down and Dirty: Tonight I was hungry and hankering for a hatch burger from Umami Burger so I grabbed my book bag and trekked down the street.
I've never eaten alone before because I feel that when I pay for a meal, I'm not just buying the food but the service and the atmosphere -- most of which, in the latter, is highly influenced by my choice of dining partner(s). Plus, being so obviously alone at such a social place seriously makes me want to flip my skin inside out just so patrons are too distracted to notice that I don't have any friends.
I get to Umami and it's surprisingly packed for 8pm. I put my name down on the list and then hesitantly add a tiny "1" next to it. A bald, burly bartender calls at me from behind the counter, "How many?"
Just me, I say. He pauses to assess me, probably wondering what the hell I did to repel my social circle from joining me for dinner. He offers me a seat at the bar. I didn't plan on sitting at the bar but during such a rush, I'd hate to be that pathetic yet annoying girl claiming a 4-top for herself. I took my place between a couple who was waaaay too into PDA and a pair of sexually questionable yuppies.
After I ordered a Hoegaarden (a repeating occurrence recently), a hatch burger, and cheesy tator tots (there's melted cheese INSIDE the tots, people! If I'm going to be eating alone, I'm going to do it right), I broke out my borrowed copy of Water for Elephants. However, I didn't realize it was the ADD/geriatric version where each chapter is accompanied by a picture and it's printed in size 24 font. As if the only way to convince a person to read was to give them an incentive: Ooh, I'm turning a page! Ooh, I'm turning another page! PICTURE!! So not only was I alone, but now I appeared to be blind and mentally deficient.
My food arrived, smelling like pepper and cheese and naked angels, and I enjoyed it thoroughly while flipping through my book. That is until I came upon a chapter describing a corpse. Doesn't mean I slowed down on showing that burger who's boss. I'm just saying my rare beef took on a whole new appearance.
One of the possibly gay men beside me finally turned and asked what was in my burger but before I could answer, the charismatically acerbic bartender replied and then proceeded to emasculate the men for ordering wine with their barely touched meals.
"Don't tap out now! I mean, look at her -- she already finished her burger and beer," he goaded, gesturing at me. Alright, so add "fatty" onto the lonely-blind-and-ADD list.
Ok, so it wasn't as horrible as I'm making it out to be since it got us talking and joking around. I didn't put my book down, but it felt nice to finally be acknowledged.
The Afterglow: It really wasn't bad at all. I had a decent time and the bartender kept stopping by to crack jokes and make sure I was alright.
I would probably do it again but on a smaller budget. I still believe that I'm paying for more than food and although the bartender was quite entertaining and my book was captivating, neither can replace familiar human interaction.
This is one of the most difficult parts of post grad life though: all your friends are spread out and even though all you want to do is call them to ask if they want to grab a bite to eat right now, it's just not possible without some forethought. I appreciate it when we're able to get together for some soon tofu or doner kebabs though -- however, with becoming an adult comes a job that forces you to plan your meals together and usually on the weekend.
I guess my laptop is my comida comrade these days. Tim Gunn isn't the best replacement for dining partners, but you can't have your cake and eat it, too.