Table For One, Please…

Being alone in a town such a Kingston on a conference affords one with certain unique opportunities, such as experiencing the crushing loneliness of walking into a restaurant alone and asking for a table for one. Still, after a day filled with considerably positive energy, I was prepared for it, as the night prior, I had successfully eaten alone in my hotel's restaurant.

I had participated in a yoga class arranged by one of the conference's delegates in the afternoon, enjoyed a swim in the hotel's pool, took a few thrusts down the water-slide that was available and soaked myself in both the hot tub and the sauna. I was invigorated and, shortly after nine PM, decided to walk out into the environs and eat at the nearest restaurant that wasn't a KFC or a Golden Griddle.

Aunt Lucy's was the first restaurant I found in the relatively sparse area surrounding my hotel, which was located on the outskirts of town.  It appeared classy from the outside and I had heard good things about it from a coworker who often travels to Kingston.  So I opened up the door and stepped inside, ready to once more utter those fateful words… "table for one, please."

It took a few second for anyone to notice my presence.  There was a table just ahead with a few people sitting there.  A young man who was tending bar approached me.

YOUNG MAN: "Hello Sir."

MAN SITTING AT TABLE (quietly, to young man): "We're closed."

YOUNG MAN: "I'm sorry, we're closed."

ME: "But on the door it says you close at ten."

YOUNG MAN: "Uh, we actually closed at 9:30 tonight."

I glanced at my watch, confused.  The man at the table spoke up

MAN AT TABLE: "Ted, it's actually quarter after nine."

I paused, getting the sense I was being jerked around.  The man at the table stood up, and I could tell he was the manager.

MANAGER: "Sir, we decided to close early tonight, as there weren't any customers."

ME: "Then perhaps you should have locked the door."

MANAGER: "Let me go see if the chef's still here. Are you here for dinner?"

ME: "I came here for a meal, yes."

He walked away and into the kitchen.  He soon returned.

MANAGER:  "Right this way, sir."

ME: "No, don't worry about it, there's no need to bother yourself."

MANAGER: "No, no, sir. Please.  We never say no to a customer."

Thinking to myself, you just said no to be twice, I took a seat.  Before I could even open the menu, the manager came back and asked me: "What can I get you?"

ME: "You know what, I'm just gonna take off instead."

MANAGER: "Please sir, that's not necessary."

ME: "It's okay, you guys take the night off."

MANAGER: "I hope you'll join us again."

I walked out of the restaurant still hungry and lonely, and now scorned.  Now, I'm normally not the kind of guy who gets mad at service workers, but the thought of everyone in the restaurant waiting for me to order and eat so they could go home made me pissed off.

I walked back to the hotel and came to the computer to write this.  Now I think I'm going to go to my room and do the second most depressing thing on earth:

Order room service and read in my bed.


4 Responses to “Table For One, Please…”

  1. April 21, 2006 at 1:51 pm

    Nick that was the saddest story ever. If I could I would give you a big hug. I have many a times asked for a table for 1. I even go to the movies alone sometimes. I try to go in the afternoon however, less people.

    With the Brit gone, it’s back to tables for 1, and can I have one ticket please.

    However, I have been asked out on 2 dates in the past 2 days. Still sitting on those.

  2. April 21, 2006 at 2:04 pm

    Cristina, It’s good to know that the blogosphere can produce such sympathy between virtual strangers, and I thank you deeply for your support in this time. I am happy to say that I am back at home now and I look forward to regaining some of my lost dignity.

    Best of luck in your dates!

  3. 3 Paslibe
    April 22, 2006 at 10:21 am

    Ya, I must agree that eating alone at restaurants in strange cities is in fact the most depressing thing for a human being.

    The worst for me happened in some lonely motel near WAWA, in Northern Ontario, many moons ago. And yes, the moon was out that night as I, very tired, arrived at about 9:30 PM, after a long day of driving and visiting clients in small hamlets and regional routes.

    As I drove up the laneway in what appeared to be a ghost motel with only a few rooms, there was only one light lit in what was supposed to be the lobby. The door was ajar, so I pushed it, no one at the table, not a front desk, with one pen and one piece of paper and a tiny bell (to be rung for service). I did just that, ring the bell and waited nervously hoping for someone to “give me service”. It seemed that a long time passed and no one, (not ever a faint noice was heard), arrived so I dared ring the bell again with more power.

    Finally, I heard a noice in the room next to the “lobby” and then footsteps, four, five, six, toward the swing door which led to my room. My mind filled with pictures of faces which might appear as the door opened but one became more visible and real: an ugly old man with a gun.

    The eighth step brought the face and body of an old woman, instead, very old, almost one hundred it seemed to me (I was but a young man then), with wrinkles, dark eyes, long white hair:

    “Good evening”, she uttered in a soft, internal kind of voice, the lips not really moving.

    “Oh, hi”, cheerfully, in high pitch, I retorted.

    “Are you here for the night?”, she asked.

    I hesitated, thinking that maybe I could find another motel up the lonely, deserted highway, closer to WAWA. But then, thought, that it may take too long and I was really exhausted. I could not dare go back into my car, the old companion which had difficulty starting. What if it would not start and I would be faced with the the only choice, to come back in and accept the invitation of this lady-whitch who might not be, by that time, as welcoming as she was now.

    “Yes, I am here for the night”, I said, even more cheerfully with a much higher pitch, trying to influence her demeaner. Maybe, she could be happier in her lonely motel with a “happy” customer.

    “I am also very hungry. Do you serve dinner?”, I encouraged myself, trying to start a conversation.

    “Yes, I could get something ready for you. A sandwitch, a salad, some french fries or hamburger”, she answered, with what I dared to notice, a faint smile off her burned lips.

    “Oh, that would be great. A sandgwitch and a salad would be wonderful”.

    I was happy as I did not have to ask: A table for one. There were only four tables in the tiny restaurant and they were all empty. I took the one closer to the exit door, just in case I had to get away quickly.

    I was too tired do much more thinking that night.

  4. November 17, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Hello, Nick. I’m still waiting for you to start posting again. In the meantime, I’ve been amusing myself with your archived posts.

    I’ve been on the other side of this story- the bored-off-her-ass waitress who has only served two tables all night and has been earning a staggering $2.15/hour between tips. Eventually, you get to the point where you don’t want another table, because it won’t make a difference in the overall crapfest of your night. You just want to go home and drink a glass of wine or smoke a bowl already.

    That being said, they really should have locked the door.

    But room service and good book sounds heavenly to me!

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