Thursday, June 21, 2007

Being alone or going solo?

This evening I had to briefly meet someone for coffee so I walked over armed with my laptop, as I have way too much work to do. As I walked by several places, I noticed people dining on their own. And I don't know if this has ever happened to you, but sometimes when I walk by a place and I see people dining alone I get a real sense of loneliness. I feel really bad for them. I don't know why. They probably enjoy eating alone or circumstances have forced them to do so. But I still sense loneliness and even a bit of sadness.

In a previous life (actually not that long ago), I used to travel a lot for work. I still do travel a fair bit. But I remember eating alone at cafeterias or chain restaurants... I clearly remember one night when I was the only one eating without any company and I felt really bad. Almost as though I was some kind of pariah.

I get this sad feeling particularly when I see elderly people in restaurants, and more so if the restaurant is a greasy spoon joint or a really cheap place. However, after having spent so many years in Vancouver, I think it may really come down to a personal decision on whether you eat alone or not. That's why I titled this post "going solo". It may be the case that those people I see dining alone are in fact choosing to "go solo".

I probably shouldn't even care, but I can't help it. Sometimes I feel even compelled to just sit with the person and say "hey would you like some company?" ... There have been times when I've been out with friends and I see people dining alone and I feel really antsy. But then again, this may be a reflection of me wanting to fix this person's problems (if loneliness can be considered a problem) more than those people actually needing the company. What do you think?


Marcela said...

Before living in Vancouver I rarely saw people eating alone. If you eate at work, you normaly sit with a coworker if he/she is there. I enjoy sharing my meals with someone and have a conversation while you are eating, but I also enjoy sometimes eating my lunch on my one. I like to get out and dont talk and watch whatever happens... I dunno, I think that that time can also be spent to think and be quiet. If someone would come and ask me if I want company, I would probably think of a stalker, jajaja.

For elders is a different story, thats for sure.

Nomade said...

I agree with Marcela, I enjoy good company with good food. Also, lunch is one meal that I think is fine to have on your own. Dinner is another story. But maybe that is just me. I like talking to people.

I have had to do a lot of traveling for work as well and one of the things I really don't like about it is having meals alone. There are times when I do want to be alone, but eating alone in an unfamiliar city is not much fun. Of course, some people are really good at meeting other people and finding someone to eat with, but even that is not always possible.

So, now let me throw something more into the mix. Marcela mentioned thinking of the person as a possible stalker. I think this is a real issue, in terms of perception at least. We are not talking about bars, where the expected interactions are different. As a guy, I would be hesitant to say anything to a woman about having a meal together because I don't want her to think I am just trying to hit on her. And with all the creepy guys out there, I could easily see a woman being uneasy about being randomly approached. I also think most guys would find it strange if another guy came up to them and offered to share a meal together. Sad, but true.

Raul said...

I completely agree with both your comments. The thing is, in the case of elderly people, I really do feel an obligation. I feel strongly compelled to join and smile and offer my company.

Otherwise, I probably would just follow the same premise and not even consider offering my company.

I find it easy to strike conversations with strangers on the bus :) but I would probably not approach someone, as you also said. It's this perception of other people as enemies/stalkers. And as you said, sad but true!