I did something I’ve never done before. Something that is known to be rare for persons of my sex to do: I called a restaurant and reserved a table, for one, for dinner. For me.
I was going to eat dinner – not lunch – at a table by myself. And I was going to order an entrée, not just the vegetable platter, as I am wont to do.
I was on assignment for a writing class: do something you wouldn’t normally do. I considered other possibilities of doing something different. I thought about test driving a high-end Cadillac. I like the TV commercial where a woman is driving a Cadillac and saying that maybe the researchers should spend some time with a different kind of woman, one who doesn’t buy her car based on how many cup holders it has. I like to think of myself as a “different kind of woman,” just one who doesn’t wear spiked heels. But new cars are very attractive and I didn’t want to be surprised to find out just how easy it would be to buy a new car, especially one that was way out of my price range.
Maybe I’d go fishing with my husband. Yes, that would really be out of character. I’m not a water person and I’m too queasy to like the idea of seeing where food actually comes from. I could imagine a hundred ways of snagging myself with the fishing hooks or breaking his favorite fishing rod. I wasn’t willing to risk a divorce, so I vetoed that idea. Dinner by myself, then, remained my choice.
On Sunday night, I chose my clothes with the dinner in mind. I live too far away from town for me to want to drive home, change, and then drive back; I was going to stay in town after work. I decided to add one special touch: a silk shawl; it’s probably the nicest piece of clothing I have. The shawl was a gift from a friend who had visited New York City. She told me she spent all of $5 on the shawl. Five-dollar price tag or not, I liked it, so out of the closet it came.
On Monday afternoon, after one of my meetings finished, I grabbed my cell phone and headed for the hallway to make the reservation. I didn’t want to sit in my cubicle and have anyone overhear me making a dinner reservation for one.
The afternoon wrapped up at work and the restaurant was a short drive from downtown. I got lucky and found a parking space in their parking lot instead of on the street. I combed my hair and applied lip goop; this was, after all, a special occasion. I entered and approached the hostess at the podium. When she saw me, I announced that I had a reservation. She looked down at the reservation sheet, picked up the menu and led me to my table.
Ooh, a table by the window; how nice. Yes, I thought, I could get used to this reservation thing. Sometimes it pays to plan ahead.
She asked for my drink order. I said, “Water, no ice, please.”
Did I hear an echo? Maybe . . . as I was The Only Customer in the place. Oh yes, I had the entire restaurant to myself. Not only was I going to eat dinner at a table by myself, I was eating dinner at a restaurant by myself.
This was not what I thought it would be. I imagined sitting at table amongst other occupied tables, casual conversation floating about, the clinking of silverware on all sides. Timing is everything, though, and obviously it was too early for everyone else.
Still, having the universe revolve around me (at least the part that I could see) wasn’t such a bad idea.
I had brought a book just in case it seemed okay to read while waiting for my food. Yes, indeed, it seemed acceptable in this situation. No one was going to be glancing sideways at me, sending me mental signals that I couldn’t pick up, about how rude they thought I was being. There was no one there to even notice.
The waitress came by, setting candles on each table, and made another round to light them. I thanked her sincerely, as if that extra bit of light made all the difference to me, even though it was a good three hours before sundown.
Just as I finished my salad, two other customers came in. I was disappointed, as I had taken to the idea of being the only customer and the center of the universe. I partially got my wish: the hostess seated them in another room and I was still the only customer in my visual range.
The meal was uneventful except for the wasp that was building a nest on one of the ceiling tiles. I paid my bill, thanked the waitress, gathered up my companions – my book and my shawl – and drove home.