Table for 4

When I was in college, I would fly between the West and East Coasts through Canada. My father’s family is Canadian and they would give us money for Christmas, birthdays, etc. The exchange rate was so crappy that my dad kept the money in Canada and would use it to buy me plane tickets. So I would fly Portland-Vancouver BC-Toronto-Syracuse. During my travels, I would have long layovers, say three hours in Toronto. I would fill the time by eating a meal in a restaurant.

It was fairly traumatic for me, I can’t stand to eat alone. I would have a book or a magazine or a crossword to help get me through the ordeal. I have been convinced since I was a child that I am the center of attention so obviously I don’t like sitting alone and eating with everyone staring at me.Which brings me to last night.

My sister Molly and her husband Sebastian are in Portland this weekend. We made plans earlier in the week to have dinner with my brother at Mother’s. I made reservations for four people at 6:30. Molly, Sebastian and John met at the University Club at 5:30 for a drink and I planned to meet them at the restaurant at 6:30. I was the first to arrive at Mother’s. The hostess showed me to a table by the window. I sat on the banquette against the window so I could look out at all the happy diners, as well as the passersby out on the sidewalk. I left my cell phone at home charging, which is a rather liberating feeling.

I sat alone at the table.

The busboy brought four waters to the table and said, “You’re all by yourself?” Yes, I’m waiting for my family to join me. “I’d hang out with you if I didn’t have to work.” A generous offer and pitying smile from the busboy. The waiter comes over, “May I get you a drink while you’re waiting?” Oh no, that’s fine! I’ll order one when they get here. Another busboy brings a white linen-lined basket of fluffy rolls with a bowl of butter.

Time for the diet portion of my blog: I didn’t have any of the rolls.

Waitstaff is now studiously avoiding eye contact with me. I can’t read the menu because I left my reading glasses at home. Dum dee doo. Just sitting here alone at a table for four without reading material. Turning my head every time a car stops in front of the restaurant. Nope, I don’t know those people. I summon the waiter to ask what time it is. He pulls his phone from his back pocket and says, “6:50”. What?! “What time were they supposed to meet you?” 6:30. I had to tell him that I was waiting for my siblings because being stood up by family seems so much better than being stood up by whoever he’s imagining; cool people who have decided I’m not that cool so they are blowing off dinner with me.

I continue to wait, knowing my neighboring diners are uncomfortable with my presence alone at a table for four. I begin to tap my fingers on the arm rest. I’m pissed now. I tear up for a moment but that’s silly so I stop. I know this is my brother’s fault, somehow, I know he is behind my wait. The tension is mounting, everyone feels it. Customers are averting their eyes. Telling their children not to look at the lone woman diner. The hum of the collective mutterings grows louder.

“Why is she still sitting there?”

“Why isn’t she pretending to read the menu?’

“Where is her cell phone?”

“She even wore a dress!”

“I don’t think her roots are that bad.”

Old women are weeping and rending their garments at the sight of Maggie sitting alone at a table for four. Babies are crying. People can’t eat, they stare at their plates in despair not wanting to see the lonely woman at the table for four. A police car is circling the block sensing there is trouble inside Mother’s Bistro. The situation is clearly spiraling out of control, a sense of panic has taken over the restaurant. There seems no way to avoid the senseless tragedy of the woman having to return to her empty life of solitude, where no friends will come sit with her at her table for four.

Oh! wait! She is talking to the waiter who hands her his cell phone. It’s going to be okay, she does have someone to call!

John answers his phone and I have to admire his chutzpah for attempting to turn the tables on me. “Where are you?!” I’m here at the restaurant waiting for you. “Where is your phone?!” I don’t have it. “Why don’t you have your phone?!” John, where are you? “Well we’ve had a ‘situation’ here?” Oh really, what ‘situation’ is that, I ask. Knowing full well that the situation is that John loves cocktails. Molly is quite punctual and I’m sure is annoyed with the men for not leaving the club to come for dinner. Sebastian has foolishly decided that if John’s doing it, it must be okay. Rule of thumb: if John is doing it, it is most likely a bad idea.  I lower my voice and say, “John. I. Am. FURIOUS.” He assured me they would arrive in ten minutes. That voice scares him.

I returned the waiter’s phone to him and ordered a tureen of Pinot Gris to relax me so I wouldn’t punch my brother in the face upon his arrival.

When they finally arrived, there was much rejoicing. “Look! The woman alone at the table for four actually does know three other people and they are going to sit with her. We can order dessert now!”

Bad John. BAD!!

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18 thoughts on “Table for 4

  1. sweetmother says:

    okay, this is hilarious and a great read. you deserve more readers. seriously. consider this post, ‘decently ironed’. put the icon in your sidebar. you can find it on my blog or the link here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/59576074@N00/7000829495/ (with a link back to my blog please, if you don’t mind) people will see that icon wonder wtf it is, wonder to my blog, ask for one, read your blog, ask you how to get one and suddenly we hae a revolution and you have more readers, which you definitely deserve. so, there. you’ve been “decently ironed”! so, congratulations. take the rest of the day off and enjoy another tureen of pinot! 🙂 – mother

    • Maggie O'C says:

      Thank you so much! I do deserve more readers and now I will get some because I have been Decently Ironed. You are a power broker. I suck at making things look good but I think I have the image in there and it links to you Sweet Mother.

      I so appreciate your support. Have a great weekend!

  2. […] know she is my new mentor and inspiration or maybe she does. She Decently Ironed me for a post that featured a restaurant called Mothers. I have been hanging around Mother’s blog, trying […]

  3. […] Buy a stranger a meal at a restaurant — I could do this, I have a debit card. This totally reminds me of the distress I experience when I see old men eating alone in restaurants or when I am alone in a restaurant. […]

  4. […] Just home on a Friday night and looking at my blog and wondering why I had as many readers as I did today and I saw that a few people clicked on this post […]

  5. Simon says:

    Thanks for linking back to this Maggie, I hadn’t read it yet and it is hilarious, Great stuff.

  6. […] you may know from reading this blog, I am one of the millions of women who silently suffers while Eating Alone. I have many horrible, awkward and horribly awkward memories of being left alone to eat. Decades […]

  7. Kerstin says:

    Hilarious! I enjoyed reading this very much!
    Found your blog through Yeah Write – and I’m definitely coming back!

  8. dberonilla says:

    Haha, I love the commentary you imagined happening around you!
    Great job!

  9. awesome – ‘a police car is circling the block’, that’s great. i love hearing the inner workings of good old fashioned neuroses. great blog, i’ll be back!

  10. Great story. Well-told. Glad to have found you on Yeah Write Hangout Grid. Erin

  11. Margarita says:

    Laughing too hard to write! xoM

  12. […] going to the movies alone. That dining part is just crazy talk and I won’t have it. Please read here and here for more information on my one-woman crusade against dining […]

  13. […] You know what I didn’t blog and should have? Oh, just a dinner date I had on a Friday night at Mother’s Bistro in Portland. A place I have written about before in one of my more traumatic posts.   […]

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