Table for … One?
Last week I got a last minute ticket to see “Clive,” an off Broadway show starring Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio. Since I was working close to the theater I had a choice: go home, eat dinner and come back or grab something nearby. A coworker urged me to have a nice dinner. Alone. I hadn’t dined alone in a nice restaurant (and by nice I mean with waiters and tablecloths) since 1998 when on a solo trip to Europe. There I had no chance of bumping into anyone. But in NYC?
“I go by myself all the time,” she said. “With cell phones, it’s no biggie.”
Dinner and a cell phone? Had that replaced dinner and a movie? Is that where we are headed? I quickly reminded myself I was on a “try new things kick” (14 days down and counting with Bikram!) and decided okay, I’ll take myself out to dinner.
I arrived at Yum Yum, a Thai restaurant on 9th Avenue, that I’d been several times with friends. As the host walked me through the dimly lit restaurant we passed a few couples, along with a man either dining alone or waiting for a friend. I sat with my back to the wall (though I did contemplate facing it) and placed my phone on the table as though part of the flatware. After the waiter took my order I picked up my phone and immediately thought, I don’t want to dine with my email. I may not have someone to talk to, but how often do I enjoy a meal without distractions? Even at home the news is on or I’m reading. No, this experiment was not just about dining alone, but dining with myself. I put the phone away.
A party of ten entered and sat across from me, a few looking my way. Were those sympathy stares? It was obvious I wasn’t waiting for anyone since the waiter (as waiters do the moment they know you’re dining alone) had scooped up the second set of silverware as if announcing, “Loser!”
I didn’t have much time to squirm since that same waiter placed the first of five courses in front of me. As I began eating the chicken coconut soup, salad with peanut sauce, spring rolls, chicken pad Thai, and green tea ice cream, I realized it was the first time I actually remembered tasting every sweet, tangy and spicy bite. Why? Maybe because it was the first time I’d been there without a friend or two. That’s when I realized dining out alone was no big deal. In fact, it was pretty refreshing. Except of course when it came to the bill and there was no one there to split it with.