“Just One?”

I have a little rant. Not even a rant, really, just voicing an aggravation about a kind of behavior that has seemed even more prevalent during my visit to Louisiana. Not that it’s limited to Cajun Country, by any means, but circumstances here have increased my experience with it.

Typically, I end up eating out 3-4 meals each week, usually the nights that the hotel does not offer a free meal (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) or the meal is something I don’t care to eat, and a lunch on Saturday or Sunday. Sometimes I make myself a sandwich or heat up leftovers from a meal out, but that still leaves those 3 or 4 meals eaten out at nearby restaurants. And eating out that much each week has caused me to have more and more encounters with this behavior.

Right behind the hotel is a Romano’s Macaroni Grill and a On The Border Mexican restaurant. I have a favorite dish at each of these restaurants; the Chicken Rigatoni at Romano’s and the Double Grilled Quesadilla at On The Border. Each is delicious and each is large enough that I can eat half there and get the other half to go for a lunch or dinner later. But that is not the issue.

Since I’m here working, when I do eat out it’s alone. Obviously, a meal out with Cindy or family or friends is preferable when I’m home, but I also don’t mind dining alone; in fact I am very comfortable eating by myself and always have been. I bring a book or magazine and read while enjoying a good meal. And as long as the server keeps my glass of unsweetened ice tea filled, they’re guaranteed to get a minimum 20 percent tip. Obviously, my standards are not outrageously high.

But here’s the aggravation; I walk into the restaurant and approach the host/hostess station, just me and my book or magazine in my hand and no one else around me and every time I’m asked, “Just one?” Sometimes they’ll glance around me as if I’m trying to sneak someone in by hiding them in my back pocket or I have them tied to my back somehow and they’re just out of view. Although my smart-ass self has been tempted to spit out an equally smart-ass reply (“No, don’t you see the other three people with me?” or “Oh my god! Where did everyone go??” They were just here!), I beat that little devil down and either nod in agreement or answer “Yes” and watch while they look over the dining room and decide where they’re going to seat this schmuck who they imagine can’t even find a dinner date.

The other night, I had finally had enough. Once I finished my meal I asked the server to please send the manager over to my table, assuring her it had nothing to do with her service or the food. I honestly don’t think my conversation had any effect because the 20-something manager, while trying to follow the “diner has a problem” script of problem solving (“We’ll comp your meal” and “I’d like to give you a free coupon for your next visit”), just didn’t really seem to get the basis of my complaint.

In a nutshell, here’s what I said; when your host or hostess asks me, “Just one?” the implication is that I am causing them untold amount of work for one person. The intimation is that as one person, I’m just a notch above a roach scurrying through the door. The unspoken message in the question is that as one person, I’m really not worthy of dining in your restaurant or that there must surely be something wrong with me if I’m eating alone. I’d like to suggest that a better greeting might be “Party of one?” with a smile, both on the face and in the voice, or even “Will you be dining alone sir?” without looking past me or around me to see if I’m hiding someone. I can’t ever recall, when I was dining with people, being asked, “Just two?” or “Just four?” etc, etc., etc.

As I said, I don’t think he understood what I was saying and after declining his repeated offers of a free meal, I simply asked him to think about it, paid my bill and walked back across the parking lot to my hotel.

Well, that “little rant” went on for quite a bit, didn’t it? Didn’t mean for it to be so long. But what do you think? Am I being overly sensitive about this or is it a valid complaint? Have you had this kind of experience often enough that you’ve lost your cool, so to speak, about it?

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