I've gotten used to traveling alone over the past few years, and have found it's something I quite enjoy most of the time. One thing I still find difficult though is eating alone in foreign restaurants, especially during prime dining hours, such as a Saturday night. And yet, that's the position I found myself in last night, wanting to enjoy a final Parisian meal of oysters. I headed to a spot close to my house called Au Chien Qui Fume, a restaurant that's bustling and fun — not haute cuisine by any stretch of the imagination.
The weather was beautiful and warm and I wanted to eat outside. But, to my dismay, when I arrived around 8:15 it looked as if the terrace were already full. And worse, everyone was eating with someone else, and all of a sudden I got a kind of lonely and sad feeling, and felt lame for being alone. But I wanted my oysters, so I enquired of the maître d', "Would it be possible for one on the terrace?"
He looked a bit dismayed and said, "It is quite full, but for you I will find a place!"
Relieved, I waited and he quickly returned and asked me to follow him. He pulled out a table that was quite snug in next to another couple. This couple was using one of the chairs of my table to store their things, and as the maître d' pulled out out my chair, the gentleman began to remove his belongings. I told him it wasn't necessary.
"You are alone?" He asked me.
"Yes," I said. And then the maître d' jumped in.
"No! You are not alone! Now you are here, dining with us!" he said, smiling, and with a gesture of his hand indicated the restaurant.
It was perhaps one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. I settled into my seat and watched the families and couples enjoy their dinner while I slurped the last briny oysters of my visit. And the feeling of being alone was forgotten.