Table for one
Ever eaten out by yourself before? Neither had I.
It was a Tuesday night and I was about to embark on my 2 and a half hour commute home from work.
Upon arrival at Liverpool Street train station I saw the word that has tormented me for about a year now.
I don’t get annoyed anymore. It’s been going on far too long for that.
The trains are cancelled or delayed so regularly that I've become desensitised to everyday annoyances. I can sit in chewing gum, tread in dog shit or shrink a t-shirt in the wash quite happily without a flicker of emotion.
I looked down at my phone to check when the next train is and upon doing so realised that it was Champions League football night.
I headed defiantly in the direction of the nearest pub holding a metaphorical middle finger up to national express.
You can’t stop me enjoying my life, I’m going to the pub.
Little did I know that it would be the train that would have the last laugh …
I entered the pub at about 7.40pm and was surprised to find it reasonably empty for a Champions League semi-final in central London.
I ordered a pint and sat down smugly at a table directly in the middle of the room in front of the TV.
As the match got under way the pub soon started to fill and the 4 tables directly around me became occupied by medium to large groups.
I suddenly became very aware of how alone I was.
Oh well, there were 3 chairs at my table. For all people knew my mates could have been joining me any second.
“Excuse me mate is anyone sat there?”
I turned to see a well groomed man whose dense beard made my ginger bum fluff recede into my chin.
“No help yourself,” I replied. Although he’d already started picking it up before I’d finished answering which would imply that I was giving off a palpable ‘I don’t have any friends’ vibe.
So then there were two chairs.
The match was fairly mundane and my mind started to wonder to other arenas such as food.
Craning my neck towards the bar I noticed a sign offering ‘pub snacks.’ I hurried over to the bar for another Guinness and ordered a sausage roll to go with it.
“Which table are you sat at sir?”
This threw me off as I was expecting to be handed the sausage roll immediately. I didn't realise there would be prep time, surely he wasn't going to bring out condiments?
“Just that one in the middle there,” I said pointing with my finger.
“Oh yeah, I’ve seen ya, cool,” he replied smiling.
He’s seen me? Yeah I bet he’s fucking seen me, he’s probably playing a game with his colleagues betting how many pints they’ll pour before a friend of mine turns up.
I could see in his eyes that he’d guessed the highest.
I returned to my table and sat down.
“Sorry, excuse me pal,” a voice sounded.
Jesus, for someone who had come to the pub on their own I was interacting with a lot more people than I had expected.
“Is anyone sat here?” he chirped.
“No, no help yourself,” I said wearily.
“Thanks so much,” he replied dragging the chair away like a hostage.
I tried my best to turn my focus back to the football but I couldn't stop staring at that last chair on my table.
It was the only potential company I had.
As long as I had that chair at …
I turned around to face the person threatening to expose me as an outcast of society.
“Can I grab this chair?” he says.
Do I lie? Do I say that I’m waiting for someone and then sit there 2 meters away from him in plain sight like a slow motion pinocchio nose?
“No no, no one’s sat there,” I said forcing a smile.
“Great thanks dude!”
As he plucked away my last hypothetical chance for companionship I noticed another figure approaching.
Can they not see that I'm all out of chairs? I feel like a rental company.
“One sausage roll sir.”
I looked up in amazement at a plate that was fit to house a roast dinner.
Look at the size of that bastard sausage roll.
I barely expected a napkin let alone cutlery and a large plate.
The situation had taken a turn for a worse.
I was no longer a passionate football fanatic who didn't need company to enjoy a match. Which could be perceived as endearing.
I was dining out by myself.
I’m sat by myself in the middle of a bustling central London pub eating a giant sausage roll with a knife and fork.
At least if you go to the cinema by yourself the lights are down and people don’t keep coming up to you to confirm that you’re sat by yourself.
I should have stayed at the train station in the comfort of the other lone wolves.
It was like I’d cleared a circle in the room for my very own one man mosh pit. I would have welcomed an eye gauge or an armpit in the face if it meant some company.
So as I sat there feeling like an inhabitable planet I thought about how one door can be the difference between feeling yourself and feeling very alone.
I looked at the empty spaces where the chairs on my table once were and realised something rather interesting.
An empty chair is better company than no chair at all.