Last night, I headed over to Rittenhouse Square to people watch. Actually, I had a $15 coupon for a restaurant, and the coupon was about to expire. (Yes, I’m one of those people who believes I am “saving money” if I get $15 off a $30 entrée that I never would have gone out for in the first place, absent the coupon. I did not major in economics.) I walked up to the hostesses and I asked to be seated outside, at a table for one…
“How long is the wait for a table for one, outside?” I asked.
The two young hostesses looked at me and then at each other. It was as though they had just been confronted by a talking armadillo that wanted to engage them in a discussion of Kant.
“A table for one?” The one on the left asked.
“Just one?” Lefty again quizzed.
The one on the left looked at the one on the right. “Do we have a table for only one??”
There was a pause as confusion and panic ensued. A single female asking to be seated by herself — outside in public no less — where passersby would see her, sitting there, alone. Like a leper without a colony. Dear God. What lunacy was this?
Perhaps things would have been less jarring had I simply asked them for their thoughts on whether objects that enter black holes leave behind holographic memories of themselves.
“Only one?” Ms. Rightmost replied. “There’s that table C-11 in the corner. It only seats only one.”
With that, the one on the right breezed past me and beckoned me to follow her to the outdoor seating area. She led me down the sidewalk, beyond table after table of deuces and quads, until we reached the end of the line.
The table had no chair, as the lady at the neighboring table had pulled it alongside her to use as an overflow storage area. The hostess-from-the-right politely asked if the overflow storage area could be re-purposed as my seat.
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! — it could!
And, with that, I was seated at the last table, in a corner, by a planter.
To give you an idea of how close I was to the planter, I snapped a picture of my newly minted botanical dining companion.
Cute, isn’t he? It was nice to have him so close by, photosynthesizing in the ebbing rays of mid-July’s occidental sun, producing oxygen for me to breathe.
Truth be told, my horticultural buddy was closer than he appears in the picture. Sort of like that scene in Jurassic Park when Jeff Goldblum sees the T-Rex in the sideview mirror, with the little “Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear.” (Still one of my favorite scenes…) Here, I was leaning back, in order to capture the edge of the planter itself and give a sense of perspective.
So, here on the left we have a more accurate representation of how close my little table-for-one actually was to the plant. Nothing fancy here. No Sheryl Sandburg-style leaning-in in an effort to establish my dominance over the plant or forge a co-equal place for myself among the denizens of the Plant Kingdom. Nope. Maybe the restaurant assumed that single women really like plants — perhaps that, in addition to 10,000 cats prowling about, our homes are festooned with domesticated shrubbery to provide us the illusion of companionship and keep us and the felines well oxygenated…
So there I sat, chatting up the plant. While I did not buy him a drink, I did get myself a nice Sauvignon Blanc, which is pictured here, along with my rose-tinted aviators (to reflect my rose-tinted view of the world, no, wait, shit, it’s because I like irony). Mr. Plant probably would have offered to pay — had he had any money, and if he could speak — you know, if he wasn’t a plant.
After the waiter took my order, I waited patiently for the bread-guy to bring me one of the restaurant’s hallmark yummy roll-bread-thingies, served with warm butter. (I like carbohydrates. For this, I do not apologize.)
Bread-guy with the yummy-roll-bread-thingies never came. So when the runner arrived with my entrée, I asked whether the restaurant still served the yummy roll-bread-thingies. The runner dashed back into the restaurant, intent on rescuing me from the Stygian carb-less void in which I found myself.
Moments later, the manager appeared at my table.
“Oh my,” he said, “they didn’t tell me you were only one.”
Only one. Just one. Merely one. Just like Rilke, Emerson, and Thoreau. Whoever reported discovering truth in a circus caravan?
Yet with that clumsy introduction, the manager placed before me an entire plate of yummy-roll-bread-thingies with honeyed butter, like an offering to the gods on Mount Olympus. “Well,” he said, “you get to have all of these.” I immediately realized something important — I should carry Tupperware containers everywhere I go, as I was woefully unprepared to take advantage of this situation. (And, no, people, I did not eat all three.) The other realization (really more of a reminder): There are pleasant little surprises everywhere. You just have to be present for them (sometimes even at a table-for-one).
I am not a misanthrope (I’m sometimes accused of being one), but I readily admit that extroversion is not my superpower. (Extroverts fascinate me — with their effortless way of interacting with so many people.) The small number of friends that I have are cherished and jealously guarded. I’ve tried chasing after others, attempting to increase the ranks, but they always manage to outrun me. Some have told me not to chase — so I wait patiently at the table for one, seeing who or what may appear.