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At restaurants alone with bags/packages/belongings: bathroom trip?

This is an ongoing dilemma that has resurfaced in my mind after a solo trip of several days to a faraway city...

What do you do when you are out alone, need to eat, show up at a restaurant with bags in tow (if you are a tourist, say), and at some point during your meal have to use the bathroom? (I am male, and do not have a purse.) Do you leave your things at the table? Do you ask a neighboring table to "keep an eye on my stuff"? And what do you do if you have obvious valuables? (cameras, just-purchased clothing, etc.) Haul it all into the bathroom with you? I'm talking about restaurants that do not have coat- and bag-checks, of course.

And what do you do when you are out to eat alone, and have nothing with you, and need to get up from the table? I would think that a tabletop of half-eaten food would be a busboy magnet. Several times, I've had wait staff tell me (upon my return from the bathroom) that they thought I ran out on the check. They were nice about it, though.

Just wondering about your experiences with all this. I'm never quite sure what to do, as the things I have in tow are rarely very numerous or of any value. Although I worry about theft, I tend to leave them at the table. Is this glaringly inadvisable?

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  1. When I eat alone, I usually have a book with me. If I have to get up, I'll leave the book open on the table, but take my bags with me. That way, hopefully the waiter will realize I'm not making a run for it.

    I'd never leave my bags unattended, though. It only takes a moment for someone to grab your wallet out of a bag.

    1. My friend and his son were at a fast food type Mexican restaurant, put their food down on the table and the son had to use the bathroom. They go to the bathroom come back and their food and table is cleaned. Being a real Mexican restaurant and they don't speak Mexican they didn't know what to do, so they just left.

      If I'm by myself I'll let someone who works there that I'm using the rest room and I'll be right back. No, I wouldn't leave anything of value at the table if I'm not there.

      7 Replies
      1. re: monku

        ". . .and they don't speak Mexican they didn't know what to do, so they just left."

        Spanish. They don't speak Spanish. Mexican is a nationality and culture, not a language.

        1. re: ginael

          the poster sounded a little off, but there are distinct regional variations and dialects within the Spanish language and I prefer that interpretation. (good Lord try speaking Tejano in the Pyrenees...that was fun 20 years ago - I've gained better sense since)

          1. re: hill food

            My apology, I wasn't thinking straight. We speak and write in English not American.

            My friend doesn't like to make waves and I told him he should have said something. After all it was a place on Olvera Street, so I'm sure they get plenty of gringos in and out of there.

            1. re: monku

              I knew exactly what you meant - in that vein, attempt Castilian in certain parts of Catalan some time. a friend once eventually resorted to high school Latin (successfully) in Barcelona!

              Olvera Street in LA? you'd think Spanglish would work. (sorry for going OT)

              1. re: hill food

                Yes, Olvera Street in Los Angeles.
                Like I said, my friend is afraid to make waves and if it happened at McDonalds he wouldn't have said anything either.

              2. re: monku

                "We speak and write in English not American." I'm not sure the British would agree with you. ;-)

              3. re: hill food

                Agreed there are regional dialects, however it would be more precise to state "Mexican Spanish", along the same lines as "British English" , "American Sign Language"....you get the idea. I am being too picky for sure. Unfortunately, the majority of the people who use "Mexican" in reference to the language are not referencing the dialect.

          2. Maybe I'm too trusting, but if I felt I couldn't leave my bag (whether shopping or my ubiquitous backpack) for the time it takes me to go the the bathroom, I wouldn't be comfortable in that restaurant at all! I will admit, though, that my wallet always comes with me.

            The other instance never happens with me; I always have a book, magazine, newspaper, or something. I leave my (cheap drugstore) glasses on top to make it clear that I'm coming back.

            2 Replies
            1. re: brandywiner

              Maybe you are too trusting and maybe I live up to my screen name, but I would not leave anything I would not want to lose unattended. I have used your book idea, but I wouldn't leave my Kindle!

              1. re: Sinicle

                I suppose it's all a question of comfort level. I eat out more often than not, and have done so since grad school, and I've never lost anything under these circumstances. (I've walked off without something a couple of times, but that's another story!) Could just be unusual good luck on my part, who knows?

                I hear you about the Kindle; I'm the same way with my Garmin GPS. (Although I think nothing of leaving it in the car.)

            2. Well, there are restaurants and there are restaurants. If I'm eating at someplace like a McDonald's, yes, I take everything except my coat with me. If I'm at a place with waiters, I don't. The camera just goes in my bag, which is how I brought it in, and the bag goes to the loo with me. (I'm female.) And you can always catch a server's eye and say (or just mouth) "I'll be right back." And you have to use some judgement. That little box from Tiffany's? I'm not even going to let that blue box be seen in the restaurant, much less leave it at the table. On the other hand, a big shopping bag or two, I've probably tucked under the tablecloth so it's not visible, unless they've put me at a 4-top, when I might use the other chairs. So that plays into it, too. I've just never found this a big problem, and I was a mostly-solo diner for 20 years of my adulthood.

              1. if it's sit-down, and assuming there's no language barrier I'd ask the waiter where the restroom is and will your things be safe. It points out you're not gone and subtly asks for a bit of attention. but I'd keep wallet, passport etc. on me no matter what.

                otherwise hold it and use the handicap stall (quickly, so as not to inconvenience) at the airport/station