Thursday, June 17, 2004

Dinner Observation

One of our cars is on the fritz. I'm stuck in the town where I work until the Mrs. can get here later to pick me up.

I walked around town a little while and stopped in a local pub for dinner. A few times this year I've been in this situation, unable to go home after work for some reason. It always makes me sad.

Sometimes, I have trouble remembering what it felt like to be single. Now I remember, a lot of empty hours marked by competing senses of freedom and insignificance. Where did I need to be after work? Who was waiting up for me?

When I first got to the pub, I was too early to sit in the dining room. The hostess, a slight girl studying a huge textbook, said I could sit in the bar or outside on the deck, but couldn't be seated in the dining room for another 20 minutes.

I looked through the big window into the dining room at an elderly couple quite clearly munching away at their evening's repast.

"I just got in trouble," the girl said, "for seating them in there, but they wouldn't go out to eat on the deck." She looked nervous, like she thought I might yell or make a fuss. I said I'm come back a few minutes later.

When I got to sit down, it was time for business to start picking up. Staff people began to roll in and the atmosphere starting growing more boisterous in barely detectable incremements.

One young woman walked through the door. She was tall and tan, her wavy hair pulled up. She wore the T-shirt all the waitresses wear. Chomping her gum as she slid through the foyer, sunglasses still in place, she slapped some guy a high five. Cool, indeed, but I think she might have been sad too.

I could see a table of young people, mostly men, with one or two women, enjoying a few drinks. What, I wondered, is going on there? One of the women seemed eager for any of those men to find something lovely in her ands say so. In exchange for a kind word, I bet she would have been quick to go home with him and stay forever, if he wanted.

Of course, he did not want that. Another beer was enough for now.

This is how I see so much of my generation, the single generation, detached, self consciously cool, whiling away the time until night falls, lonely and scared of getting into trouble. The hunger to connect haunts us but, like the guy reaching for one more beer, the fear of what connection means keeps us settling for less.

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