The first real snow fall finally hit the Midwest. Michigan, where I am staying during my semester break, got anywhere from two to seven inches of snow. Of course I would have to drive to Oxford Ohio on the same day that the first real winter storm hit the Midwest.
I loaded up my car with a few bags and laundry baskets, careful to keep my balance on the fresh ice that had formed on the driveway. I drove for two and a half hours. My stomach was growling, indicating hunger. I was only an hour away from Oxford, but thought best to eat right then because I wasn’t sure what would be open in Oxford and I had a gift card to a Cracker Barrel.
Anyways, I pulled in, tires skidding on the ice. I threw on my jacket and wrapped my scarf around my head, desperately trying to stay warm and block the cruel, icy wind that was boring down on the Midwest.
I walked into the Cracker Barrel which was moderately busy. I approached the hostess and asked for a table for one. She blinked at me and questioned my desire to dine alone by asking “Just one?”
I assured her that I had not lost my mind and would like to dine alone in the Cracker Barrel. She acquiesced my request and lead me to a table.
I settled into my table and began to look over the menu. Immediately I could feel the gazes of the diners around me glancing nervously, no doubt thinking is he alone? Why is he out in public? He must have the plague!
I sat back, ordered my dinner, and enjoyed the reprieve from driving and navigating the docile Ohio drivers.
This is the second time I have dined alone. The first time, I was on a study abroad trip in Turkey and needed a break from my peers on the trip and wanted a nice fresh fish dinner.
During both of these experiences, I have been struck by how both the waitstaff and fellow diners treat the solitary diner.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being with friends and family while eating. Breaking bread and having great conversations is always a highlight. But every now and then it is nice to sit alone and enjoy a meal with just your thoughts.
Why the skittishness around a solitary diner? Why the nervous glances and muttering at the dinner table? We all need to eat and stopping at restaurant to grab a bite during a road trip is nothing anyone should be skittish about. Dining alone is on the rise and is a normal fact of American life. Yet, too many people are startled or perplexed when they see someone eating alone.
It is okay that someone is eating alone. There is no cause for alarm.
So next time you see someone eating alone, don’t worry about it. Let them enjoy their meal in the solitude they have been craving more than you have been craving that gourmet burger.