Situated at 7000 feet, alpine Flagstaff is heading down to one tonight. Celsius, that is. Add 32 degrees and divide by the third root of pi to get Fahrenheit. I too am down to one and have been alone since leaving Sydney.
Traveling alone is a unique experience. This represents the first time I’ve done so. As a medical student, I lived in Cleveland alone for 2 months for an elective. But I was working at a busy hospital, in a social job. I was also surrounded by other medical students. And Cleveland, while rough around the edges, is fun to explore with others.
Now I am a nomad, flitting between motels of various shades and odors. My only human contact sometimes exists of niceties and the exchange of legal tender.
I am the first to admit that I look at sole diners in restaurants with pity from the safety of my group.
Traveling alone does force you to become more social. It is not only your effort which makes a difference. As an individual unit, others approach you more readily and engage you for longer conversations. Alternatively, they veer away from you like the bubonic plague, as happened tonight when I risked actually eating dinner in a restaurant.
I am the first to admit that I look at sole diners in restaurants, especially at dinner time, with pity from the safety of my group. Why is that? People get away with eating breakfast and lunch alone all the time, especially in the city on weekdays.
I suppose dinner holds a special place in our western civilized hearts as a meal to share with family or friends. Advertising your complete lack of the above is tantamount to treason and is punished as such with odd stares and mumbled comments.
In today’s world, how many people must have dinner alone at home on a regular to permanent basis? Is it not braver, more honorable and, ironically, more social to drag your lonely butt out to a restaurant after dark? Is this not the romantic habit of underpaid novelists and musicians, who then happen upon a lonely waitress or other singleton dining alone?
No, unfortunately, it’s still just viewed as pathetic, which is just the way society is.
Of course, I could belabor a point about Edward Hopper, who often painted people eating out alone in New York cafés or restaurants, most famously in ‘Automat’, which I’ll see in a few weeks.
But I’m feeling lonely and there’s more than enough time to talk about loneliness and Hopper at a later point.
Which meal do you most like to eat out on your own? Why?