I can not think of any restaurant in the USA that I have visited that strangers sit with each other. Not even the local McDonald's. NO ONE would think of sitting at a table occupied by someone else!
However on my 7 day adventure through gale force winds, I forced myself to join 7 other solo passengers (actually 2 were a couple, more on them later) with the usual first date jitters.
I always view the world from the outside. You see a different perspective than most people if you just stand back. The first night was very stiff with everyone trying to remember the other guests names. Oscar actually did a list of 'names' and thankfully shared it with me. I cant remember any names and if I don't have my laptop with me, I probably would not write to anyone.
Since my first adventure (2 yrs ago) at a solo table resulted in no one returning after the first night except a guest who did not choose to speak English, certainly damaged my self esteem. But that story turned out well, since the replacement guests were far more fun than the originals: Ralph, Norma, Horst and John.
We played musical chairs during the week, trying to sit next to different people. My first night I was shocked that Oscar stood up when I came to the table. I don't think anyone has EVER done that before. It was very lovely. Thank you Oscar.
I did try to spread the 'pain' around and sit next to a different guest each night when possible. After all I am not very interesting and no one should have to endure that night after night. I know little history (compared to our British seat mates) know NO TRIVIA (just ask Phillip who dumped me because I could not participate). Thank you Robert for the kind complement that I was 'gentle'.......not a term often used to describe me! And Kelly was truly the delight of the table. I was doing a good job of faking a comfort level I did not feel, since Kelly told me had no idea I had any dread or anxiety. Perhaps she will do a video for this blog on 'How to speak to strangers'.
To keep everyone's privacy I will share some of the events that passed across the table last week as a story of fiction with some facts included. If you see yourself as one of the guests, it may just be your imagination.
As the week progressed and the wine flowed, the stories became more personal and expanded. I am not sure what was accurate and what was fiction but it made for great story telling. Some of my favorites:
Cathy: As you engaged in a conversation she was very attentive but always wanted to be sure you knew she had done the trip better, had a better apartment, a better camera etc. It became very amusing to see what she could top next. Had I been more caustic I would have made up a great adventure just to see how it could have been done better. My favorite was when Dan described a trip to S. Africa (on business) and was immediately asked if he had taken the side trip to see the gorillas.
The BEST day was when she was asked how she could afford to travel non-stop on such exotic adventures. She bristled and refused to answer. Well, we can all make up the answer: inherited a fortune, divorced money, owned oil wells, was famous but no one recognized her. Another guest mentioned she was often dancing with a mature traveler...........you go girl.
Chris: may have been the most creative person at the table. I could learn a lot from Chris who had traveled extensively , been wealthy, been happy and was very knowledgeable. We all enjoyed his tales of adventure and travel to exotic places. Next trip I need to bring an atlas.
Stories became more interesting as the week progressed. Perhaps because you will never see these strangers again you can share information that you might never bring up with others.
Oscar had a good point, you tell a story so many times that you forget if it happened to you or if it is even correct! Divorce, former lives, quite people who really 'love to talk', and sharing that you attended the friends of Dorthy meeting may have been the background for some of the guests. Who are these strangers? What do they really think? What are their dreams, disappointments or goals?
NO ONE ever asks and perhaps there is no answer.
Kelly and Oscar: if they had not been at the table, I may have eaten in my room the entire trip. Such engaging people and although a couple they fit in perfectly with solo travelers. Solo is not necessarily single. K and O felt it was far more interesting not to travel with other passengers from their own country. They enjoyed exchanging ideas with travelers from other places. Cathy would have had a hard time topping Oscars travel stories, but she may have tried.
And two of my 'new friends' agreed to do mini interviews for my mature solo travel site, so stay tuned for more fun from the high seas.
And Kelly, please let us know if customs in NYC interrogated you AGAIN.
* more photos as others share