Being a single Gen-Yer with no concept of work/life balance,I go out to eat alone pretty often. It wasn’t until I started traveling forwork a few years ago that I first battled that awkward "table for one" feeling.I had issues because I didn’t know how to act when I was seated by myself. Notlike there’s a protocol, but I hadn’t really learned the tricks of the trade. Ididn’t even like sitting by myself in the cafeteria in school.
Sure, I could take away some of that anxiety by sitting atthe bar. People are always talking to you there, and it’s practically thebartender’s job to make you happy. And yet I didn’t actually like this optionany better. So here are some tricks of the trade that I’ve learned to make lifea little easier when flying solo.
1. Bringsomething to make it look like you’re busy. I say "look like" because manytimes, what you originally thought would keep you busy isn’t really going towork. For example, if you’re lugging your laptop around with you, unless it’s ahotel restaurant, you may not be able to connect to the internet. That goodidea of catching up on Family Guy on Hulu.com kind of went out the window. Some goodideas include:
· Reading Material. Because reading makes you looksmart, in addition to being busy. Little lesson: a lot easier to read somethingthat lays flat (like a magazine or Kindle),than a 300-page romance…and do you really want to bring a romance for everyoneto see? If you’re looking to pick up the intellectual type, bring anintellectual book/newspaper/magazine.
· Laptop. Even if you can’t get internet, youcould play some games. Everyone loves solitaire. Or you could be like me andget some blogging done while you wait for food. If you dine on your ownfrequently, you may want to download some entertainment (you can get PDFs ofbooks from Gutenburg.com)and be prepared.
· Phone. This can be a life-saver if you don’thave time to prepare. You can text, tweet, email, blog, facebook, plus more onmost phones. And there’s always that calling people thing, but some restaurantsdon’t allow it, so be careful.
2. Sit whereyou feel comfortable. If you don’t like random guys picking you up, thendon’t sit at the bar. Just save yourself the misery. The same goes for guys,but I usually get the impression they don’t mind when girls try to pick themup. If I’m not feeling super social, I’m a big fan of getting a table in thedining room. Many servers even spend a little extra time on you, making sureyou’re doing great while you’re on your own.
3. Go to theplaces with the mood you want. Sushi bars give you that nice calmatmosphere, and you even get to watch the sushi chefs rock the knives. Ahibachi grill allows you to join a large group at the grill and become part ofthe party. After-work hotspots let you mix and mingle. Sports bars give you achance to yell at the tv with the best of them, and martini bars allow for asophisticated crowd. If you’re craving that Oriental Chicken Wrap from Applebee’s, go with it and follow rules 1and 2.
4. Makefriends. If you are into talking to strangers, this is a great time to makefriends. I was once stuck in Newarkairport with a broken flipflop and a bag filled with a broken bottle ofwine. I didn’t care about anything other than a beer at that point. And youknow what? The engineers on their way to Houston thought I had a funny (butsad) tale and bought my beer for me. We had a great time while I waited for myflight, and I personally think they’re the reason I didn’t have a meltdown inthe airport.
5. Peoplewatch. It’s the best thing ever. You can even disguise it with rule 1. Thebest is when it’s nice outside and you can sit on the restaurant patio. There’sall the people walking up and down the street, and well, it’s practically ashow. I’ll leave the judging up to you, but it can be pretty entertaining.
So now you know some of the ropes. Whether you’re starvingafter a late night in the office, stuck in an airport, or just following thatcraving, you don’t have to fear flying solo anymore.
The views expressed in my blog are my own and do notnecessarily reflect those of my employer.
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