What to do as a Single Diner
My DW and I had this discussion and came up with zero conclusions. I travel to major cities in the US and find myself eating solo most nights. I take these opportunities to try restaurants I would like and my DW might not or just go where I would like.
The question arises on what people at the surrounding tables may think as rude vs acceptable (just a thought, I try to keep to myself during these solo jaunts). My DW and I came up with several options:
1 - Stare at others
2 - Stare into space
3 - Do e-mails on my Blackberry
4 - Play video games on my Blackberry
5 - Read a book/magazine
6 - Speak QUIETLY on my cell phone
My normal modus operendi is,
1 - Check out the dishes others are enjoying to see if that influences my decision
2 - Glance at others and then try to figure out the relationship between the parties. This can take awhile especially with a 4-top with several age categories
3 - Do some e-mails
4 - Chat quietly with my DW at home, both a good thing (get connection) and a bad thing (miss her), or
5 - Read a book/magazine when all else fails
Does anyone feel uncomfortable when they sit next to a single who is doing any of the above (I do not gawk in number 2, just glance). I know people will say that the cell phone bothers them but my volume is lower than anyone else's.
There's another thread about this topic on the General Board. I'm a reader. That's my backup plan, and it's complete entertainment for me. I generally sit at the bar, so I can chat up the bartender if I'm so inclined and they're not super busy.
I have to say, I never talk on my cell phone. I either leave it in the car or turn it off when I'm in any restaurant. I'm in the group that finds it terribly rude to talk on a cell phone in any restaurant.
I am a watcher too. I love too see what others are eating, doing, saying, etc. Not a gawker either. And I love to play the "what's their story" game and try to figure out who they are, what they do, etc.
I like a good magazine or book as well. I find that between the reading, people watching, and actually eating the time goes by by itself.
I usually travel alone and reading is also my fall back plan. It relaxes me and makes me less self conscious. I usually just pick up a local newspaper or a magazine rather than take a book because I don't really get as involved in it. It is more to help me pass the time and there are times when I get so involved in my surroundings that the material does not even get read.
LOL. Me too. When I'm alone I feel free to take my time examining the food and slowly chewing on each and every bite.
Aside from the routine, I tend to pick up a free paper, or even a free booklet of real estate listings (I likests the pictures). Anything to kill time between ordering and waiting for my food to come. If there's absolutely no reading material and the place seems too quiet to amuse me with people watching, I'll ask to keep the menu and spend time looking at all the things I didn't order.
I never talk on the phone because I hate talking on the phone period, but in terms of those around me I think it's a little creepy because if the person is trying to be quiet she just looks like she's talking to herself. It's oddly disconcerting, but not a huge deal in a casual restaurant.
Your comment Pei about free things made me think about something else as well. I always travel for leisure and not business so as I go about my day, I tend to stuff my bag with any free tourist literature (or local information) I can find. Dinner alone is a great time to look over that information.
When I dine alone (I do it a lot on business) I like to have a magazine with me. I also always order an appetizer or salad to start so I'll have something to occupy myself pretty quickly.