Table for One Please

Having flown well over a million miles in my career and having conducted business in some seventy countries; I am no stranger to eating in new restaurants.  Unless I am entertaining a client or breaking bread with a sales partner, that typically implies that I will be dining alone too.  I have never had a problem with the pleasantness of my own company; but truth be told, it can be a little lonely at times.

I usually find myself seated right next to the large table filled with business associates.  The loud roars of laughter permeate the air as they celebrate a colleague’s latest promotion or hold a retirement party.  The other scenario invariably puts me across from the lovestruck couple, holding hands and gazing deeply into one another’s eyes.  More than once I have been the witness to an unexpected marriage proposal.  The good news is that I have yet to endure the tragedy of hearing the woman proposed to say no!

Imagine my delight one day in Italy when an unexpected turn occurred in my usual dining routine.  I approached the maitre de and politely requested a table for one.  His eyebrows arched and he restated my request with a puzzled look on his face.  In my most elegant Italian, I assured him that I was indeed dining alone that evening.  He spun around on the heel of his well polished dress shoe and beckoned me to follow him.

As we wound around the dimly lit and somewhat cramped bistro, I began to take notice of the clientele.  It appeared that I would be eating in Rome’s version of “Lovebird Central!”  Every table seemed a replica of the previous one; the dapper young man seated across from the cosmopolitan well dressed lady.  Giggles echoed through the establishment, the result of fledging romance blossoming everywhere.  I suddenly found myself homesick!

Tall by European standards, my host stopped at a corner table and drew a chair out for me.  My attention mercifully diverted away from what I was sure would end up being another nuptial proposal; I was astonished by what I saw.  There was an elderly woman already seated at my table!  I pulled the maitre de over to one side and again explained that I wished to have a table for one.  Drawing his fingers across a well-trimmed moustache, his exasperation became evident.  There was only way I would be enjoying a meal in his restaurant, and that was by taking the seat offered to me!

I considered walking out at that point.  More than once in my life I had relished the solitude of a room service meal.  The hotel I was staying at seemed to have a very robust menu from what I remembered when inspecting my room after check-in.  I looked back at the candlelit table to see the elderly woman smiling.  Her warm eyes were beckoning me to join her.  What else could I do?  Thanking the host, I took my place at the table.

The next hour can only be described as one of the most enlightening episodes of my life.  My initial suspicion had been that the restaurant enhanced its seating capacity by doubling up lone patrons.  I was confident that it was a ploy to increase their revenues.  Much to my surprise, this premise did not hold true.  My charming companion for the evening, a Tuscan blueblood by birth, explained that it was socially irresponsible to allow somebody to dine alone.  The enjoyment of a well-cooked meal was meant to be shared with others; much the same as life was intended to be celebrated in groups!

Every day is an opportunity to join a fellow lone diner.  How often do we see somebody off in a corner by themselves?  Do we take notice of the countless others who yearn to share a few moments of companionship?  Are we driven to isolate ourselves from the possibility of having to encounter a complete stranger?  Do we sequester ourselves to the relative comfort and safety of complacency?  Or dare we open ourselves up to the beauty of interaction with others, even if they are entirely unknown to us?

As we finished off our potent cups of cappuccino, my default dining companion for the night, made a simple toast.  She gave thanks for a wonderful meal and the gift of a new friend.  I walked her outside, my arm offered to her in respect.  We made our way to a busy taxi stand, where I waited with her until an empty cab stopped for her.  Assured she was safe and on her way back home, I stood waving to her until the taxi’s tail lights disappeared into traffic. 

Walking back to my hotel, I looked up into the sky.  It seemed that the stars in Rome were shining a little brighter that night!

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About Jerry V. Dollar, Author, Humorist, Observer of the Human Condition

When not trekking around the globe, Jerry Dollar can be found in Colorado Springs, CO where he lives with his wife Robbi. Besides an affinity for writing and travel; he is also an avid bodybuilder, a very prolific reader, and an enthusiastic observer of the human condition. Jerry has published two books which are available on: Lulu, Amazon, Kindle, Nook, and IBook. "Announcing a Flight Delay" is a hilarious recap of the author's experiences as a million mile flyer. "A Dollar's Worth" is a collection of observations on the human condition, which originally appeared as blog posts. Dr. Dollar has served in various senior executive management capacities over the past 25 years. He has previously worked within the healthcare, insurance, software, and several other high technology industries. Jerry is recognized for his expertise in creating the foundations for emerging organizations to succeed in complex sales environments. He is also well known for his leadership in guiding technology companies through rapid growth phases. Jerry speaks five languages and has conducted business in over 70 countries on six continents. He holds particular expertise in the Latin American and Western European geographic areas. Dr. Dollar holds a BA in International Affairs, a BA in Spanish, an MBA in Marketing, and a PhD in Organizational Development. He has authored numerous professional articles, various training courses, and has conducted seminars and conferences around the world.
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3 Responses to Table for One Please

  1. Nice one, Jerry, but there are occasions when you do, to quote Garbo, ‘want to be alone.’ Maybe within the background of a restaurant, or simply because you want someone else to do the preparing, cooking and washing up for you. To be waited on while you ‘people watch’ even. Not obviously of course.
    Nevertheless it IS a nice idea, but it would depend on the companion you had to share with. Wouldn’t you agree? Best wishes, Joan.

  2. laynieking says:

    Jerry, I’ve gladly dined alone on purpose on many occasions, but on a recent trip through DFW airport,en route to Michigan for my mother’s funeral, I was “forced” to share a bar table with another patron. It was a delightful experience and one I would not have traded for anything. Apparently, at that point in time, I wasn’t meant to be alone. The gentleman of the evening was a chaplain and offered some wonderful insights that I was desperately in need of. Sometimes we entertain angels unaware! I enjoy your your insights, by the way.

    • Laynie,

      Thanks for the kind words; they are appreciated. It never ceases to amaze me how we are confronted with a stranger in our times of need. Usually that person ends up becoming an angel to us in one way or another! Thank you for sharing such an inspiring story.

      My blog posts are now in book form: “A Dollar’s Worth.” The book is currently available on Lulu.com and will soon be on Amazon!

      Wishing you the very best in life,

      Jerry

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