‘Solo Texter’ (photo credit: Ant Rosetsky)
I still remember the first time a solo diner sat down next to me at a restaurant talking on her cell phone. She ordered her meal, ate it, paid her check, and left the restaurant still taking to her invisible companion. That sort of thing does not happen as often now as it did ten years ago (nice restaurants forbid the talking-out-loud part), but it’s rare to see a solo diner who is not reading or tapping something on a cell phone. The temptation to do it myself is huge. The only reason to resist is because I miss so much when I am looking at a small screen instead of my dining companions.
I don’t mean the ones who are sitting with me. I mean the ones at other tables, like the man two tables away who orders a second Bloody Mary to go with his ice cream sundae. I admire his style. I also recognize him as a fellow out-of-towner, free for this one evening to create his small pleasures where he can. Then there are the two moms sitting in a booth across from me with their three young children. The server is so great with the kids that the moms stand up to hug her when they pay their bill.
Outside the plate glass window a small group of smokers has gathered, banished to the balcony with their drinks and cigarettes. This creates camaraderie between them that is absent in the dining room. One man is in a wheelchair. Another man leans down to light his cigarette. They make me miss the days when I was on the other side of the glass, enjoying the community that can develop between those who—for one reason or another—are asked to meet outside.
These are but a few of the pleasures of eating alone without a cell phone. Eavesdropping is another one, but I won’t go into that or you’ll become too careful about what you say when a solo diner is eating at the table next to you without a cell phone. The point is, there are so many stories happening around us all the time. The ones on our small screens—the ones we choose–are largely curated. But it’s the ones we don’t choose—animated by the people all around us—that bring us home to where we really are.