I don’t know when I began answering the question “Table for One?” with a slightly hostile-toned “Yes” through slightly gritted teeth, but I did notice that happening more than once on my latest trip to Mexico City. Maybe it is because at home “table for one?” just sounds like a question, but in other countries, it sounds like there should be three question marks and 2 exclamation points after the question – and a slight look of pity. I do like traveling alone and I’ve never let a lack of a traveling companion stop me from grabbing my suitcase and heading for the airport. But sometimes, I have to admit, it do feel a little less than enthusiastic about being that girl alone at the table.
Table for one…
Occasionally, in these situations, I luck out with a friendly waiter who in a sense acts like a temporary friend. They smile, they joke, they spend a little more time at the table talking so you have less of that awkward time before the food arrives where you have nothing to do but stare aimlessly around the room. Do you pull out a book to read or play a game on your phone? Perhaps study the contents of the menu as if you’re about to be tested on its contents? Anything to avoid strange feeling of having nothing to do and no one to talk to…in public.
So what’s the solution? Do I only order room service at my hotel? Do I go and hope that some other solo traveler is seated at the next table and that we’ll instantly strike up a friendship that will at least get me through to coffee and dessert? For me the solution is to just remind myself that whether or not I have a dinner companion, I am doing what I love. Traveling. And that awkward hour at a table alone is much better than missing the chance to hit the road.
The other night in Mexico City I ended up at the rooftop bar of trendy, design hotel. The place was packed, but they made a little space for me to have a drink and dinner on a large ottoman that was clearly made for parties of 6 or more. I was surrounded by birthday gatherings, girls and guys nights out, couples stealing a few kisses on the dimly lit roof and groups of friends just enjoying the weekend. While it made for excellent people watching, I ended up feeling more like a voyeur. But it was too dark to read (and who reads at a trendy rooftop bar anyway) and I did’t have a wifi signal so I was forced to just “be” there. I won’t say it didn’t feel awkward, but it was also a good experiment. Had I been more outgoing, or had more liquid courage, I may have tried to strike up a conversation with the people near me, but that was not the case. Instead I just casually took in the surroundings, enjoyed my drink and the music and after what seemed like an appropriate amount of time I gave myself permission to call it a night. Perhaps one day I’ll just embrace the role of mysterious foreign traveler, but until then I’ll just do my best to smile instead of wince at the “Table for One” question.<