Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Counter for One

What do you do with yourself when you're sitting alone at an unspecified morning hour at a diner counter surrounded by locals in the middle of nowhere? (Or, specifically, in the middle of Chatham, Massachusetts.) Order hot chocolate, first of all. With whipped cream, naturally. That will kill some time. Engross yourself in the task of slurping up every last bit of its frothy goodness. There is, after all, nothing else to do.

Look longingly at the blue-jeaned, bearded man to your right who may possess no teeth but has a more precious commodity, the Chatham Picayune-Tribune. His hamburger looks pretty good too. Wonder why he hasn't offered you at least a piece. Of the newspaper, that is.

Envy the happy quartet seated behind you by the window; you can't see them, but you know they have each other for verbal stimulation. You have nothing, now that the hot chocolate is polished off and your breakfast has not arrived. Unless you count the desultory movements of the teenaged waitresses behind the counter as entertainment.

Listen more carefully to the happy foursome; perhaps they are having an interesting conversation from which you can steal ideas upon which to ponder while you are waiting and staring blankly at the (now you notice, too late) unappetizingly crusted-over hot chocolate machine. Until you hear the older man seated with them expounding on military exercises and procedure while his three female companions murmur politely and interject infrequently. Hmmm, thanks anyway.

Is blue jeans done with the paper??!? No, false alarm. The cook lumbers out of the kitchen and has somehow managed to get his beefy hands on a newspaper too, which he begins to read as soon as he plops himself down at one of the window tables. (Who's making my pancakes?)

Finally, blessedly, they arrive. Who knows who made them, who cares. They are soaked with butter and delicious. I relax into my diner stool and put all attention to the task at hand. After all, food is entertainment. Three silver dollars and a plate of scrambled eggs are all I need. If this ever happens again though, I am bringing a magazine.

Does anyone else out there eat alone? And if so, what do you do to entertain yourself? I need to know these things. Share your wisdom, readers.


At 12:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whats the Cape like this time of year? JQ

At 12:39 PM, Blogger scs said...

Excellent question! I can answer that, since I was (obviously) just there. It's variable--it was nice, sunny and 60's on Saturday, and then an overcast, pouring rain mess on Sunday.

At 3:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you do when you eating alone. Treasure the experience. All too often we eat with distractions, the distraction of conversation, tv, a book, a paper, whatever. For the past 5 years I have been cultivating the discipline of eating alone, in silence, with my left hand. I find that even music is a distraction from the interaction with the food. I try to pay attention to what I am eating, where it came from, what the nutrients are, I see eating as an integral part to my overall mindfulness practice, sometimes I place a few quotes on the table in front of my food and ponder them as I eat, although now that I think about it that may be too much as well. I think it is a gift. It is so awful how mindlessly we are programmed to eat. At our desks, while we drive, in front of the TV. Beautiful essay though, what was the other one you wanted me to read? You have got to know who this is, right?

At 5:48 PM, Blogger scs said...

No idea. Absolutely no idea. Please, please tell.

At 5:59 PM, Blogger scs said...

Yes I do know! Yes I do! It's Meyer. Hi Meyer! Whew. That one seriously had me going crazy. You want to know the one word that finally gave it away? "Mindfulness." It's like the Meyer calling card.

At 12:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My suggestion: the props are good... the paper, the book, whatever but just to use as the prop. Then just stare into space. Just stare. Stare toward the paper and you'll have some cover, some space to stare at the cracked formica or to watch the crowd and name the people in your head ("he's George" "she's Kimberly") and/or play fashion police. But you've already mastered the most important skill: eavesdropping.

At 3:14 PM, Blogger joyandpain said...

I had a similar experience recently in West Hollywood. I ordered food to go and sat there with nothing to do. The guy next to me had the paper and I couldn't bring myself to ask for a section. When his boyfriend arrived and the paper just sat there under his arm, I still couldn't ask.

I see nothing wrong with eating alone, it is just the time before the food comes that's the issue. I think you have to bring reading materials, a crossword puzzle, something.


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