Off the Grid: Not Necessarily HR – Party of One

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The life of a road warrior is sometimes exciting and filled with opportunities to network with new professional colleagues. Close friendships develop over time and as is the case with most business relationships there is a closer bond when there is a shared experience of good food and drink. Before you sign up for this mountaintop celebration of all the best life has to offer, think hard about the downside. Every tale can be told with two sides to the story. There is a time to be flamboyant and a time to be inconspicuous. There is a time that privacy is preferable. There are times that being alone is unavoidable… and it invites embarrassing situations

The first rule of eating alone is to make sure that the restaurant does not have a public address system. If the food is good there will usually be people lined up at a gatekeeper podium. She is instructed to intercept anyone that would dare to think they could find their own seat. Even if there are open tables, there is an air of popularity generated by forcing people to wait for her to give you a royal nod. The name is carefully jotted down on a line in a loose leaf binder under a plethora of names already scratched out. As you sit quietly waiting for her to turn you over to a loyal henchman you suddenly hear a booming voice, “TOM, PARTY OF ONE. TOM, PARTY OF ONE.” The room goes silent as everyone turns to see this loser that not only doesn’t have a dinner companion, but is presumptuous enough to assume he will have a “party” all by himself.

Another important factor for private dining is to time your arrival at the restaurant so that you enter alone. This may take some practice because it is often difficult to squeeze into the parade of hungry diners at a popular location. It is imperative that you are not immediately ahead or behind a large group of people. “Oh there are five of you for dinner?” This of course forces the feeble reply, “No, there are the four of them… and then I’m all alone.” The greeter seems to be genuinely sorry for you and shows you her sad face as the room goes silent to overhear the conversation. The larger dinner party is embarrassed because they now know that this odd person was assumed to be one of them. Ewwww! Skulking away, you hope that the hostess and the other diners will forgive you for encroaching momentarily into their space and ruining their lives.

One final key factor in dining alone is to study the menu beforehand and don’t order anything unfamiliar without asking questions. Sometimes the chef’s special is for the purpose of unloading food before it goes bad and sometimes it is a way to show off the restaurant’s culinary expertise. “Good evening, sir. May I recommend the mumble mumble mumble, served mumble mumble with a mumble sauce. It is the chef’s masterpiece.” What can you say? “Uh, sure. Sounds good to me.” After waiting patiently for this specialty to arrive, a team of three waiters approach with a cart of unrecognizable items. One is carrying a fire extinguisher. There is a momentary halt while one of them lifts the dome off of the secret concoction while another ignites a four foot flame with a loud WHOOSH. Again the room goes silent as you melt into the wallpaper.

The moral of the story is to always dine out with someone else. Otherwise, there are really only two choices to prevent being caught in an embarrassing party of one situation: Room service or pizza delivery.

Image Credit: US Navy Photographer, “Best of the Mess Challenge” 2011