When the spirit moves me and the scheduling stars align, I like to grab lunch with a colleague. It's a great way to break up the day and stay connected. On the other hand, sometimes it's nice to have a bit of solitude during lunch. However, these days solitude means something very different. Instead of just eating or browsing a book or magazine, I'll typically spend most of my meal on my smart phone, messaging, reading articles or on social media.
One day I didn't have any lunch plans so I ventured out to enjoy a "Table for 1." For no reason at all I wondered what it would be like to just sit and eat without any electronic distractions. The thought felt so awkward and wrong, I knew I had to try it. So despite my synapses firing in full rebellion, I turned off my phone, stuck it in my pocket and didn't turn it on until I left the restaurant.
This is what happened...
I told myself, okay, I can do this. My confidence lasted about 30 seconds.
A feeling from my childhood suddenly arose. You know the one - when you are standing in front of an audience and for some reason, your hands feel so clumsy and conspicuous. They go in your pockets, then out, then hooking your thumbs in your pockets. None of it feels natural. Scanning the restaurant for someone to interact with, I realized that would be a cop-out. So instead I sit at the table and force myself to breathe naturally and eventually begin to relax. There is a machine that prints out the orders for the kitchen. I never noticed it or gave the sound much thought before, but today it sounds like a symphony of cicadas.
As I look around I start to notice random things about the restaurant. Which chairs are crooked and which are not. Ditto for the place settings. I have a good view of the door and was pleasantly surprised that 90% of the clientele were Japanese (I was at a Japanese restaurant).
Without anything to read or anyone to talk to I take my time. I slowly chewed and tasted the food instead of inhaling it like a boa constrictor. And it was pretty tasty. At this point, the awkward hands feeling was gone.
By the time the check came, I realized I really enjoyed the experience. As I got in the car to drive back to the office, I wondered at how much I was missing at other times with my head in the screen. The irony of blogging about this does not escape me, but even that little bit of time unplugged made me feel so much more human and connected, all while having lunch by myself.
"Now this is living!"
Next post next Saturday, 6:30 a.m.