Very Well Then

Contradicting myself, always contradicting myself

Reading and Drinking Alone in Public Places

Posted by verywellthen on September 23, 2008

It was Friday afternoon a week ago and the weather was only beginning to retreat from hot to a comfortable warm. I had my book. I had my dog. I wanted sun and I wanted a beer. I chose the brew pub not too far from home that had an outdoor patio full of picnic tables.

Being a beautiful warm Friday afternoon, everyone else had chosen this place too. But everyone else who had chosen it, had chosen it with friends. There were no open tables, nor any open “halves” of tables. But there was a slot in the middle of a table, right between two conversations. I asked politely left and right if the spot was open and got permission to settle in.

Going out alone to a social place can be difficult. I’m probably in the lower percentile of conversationalists, though I’d gladly have joined any one in the bar that afternoon. But conversations tend to be closed circles, invitation only. But I like being out – somewhere besides my empty house. I like seeing new places, drinking from the many fine taps of my town.

So to get myself out there, I have my defenses. First, is my dog. I am not alone, I have a friend. From the masses, she gets affection. I get some conversation. In college the start up conversation was: name, hometown, major. With a dog the start up conversation is: name (of dog), breed, how old? Seldom do the humans exchange names.

The second defense is the book. I just don’t have to stare off into space or try to wedge my way into a conversation that I’m not invited to. I have a task: to read. A task I enjoy. That day, I was three months (or half way) into Moby Dick. The open air was filled with noise. The clamor made reading difficult and Melville is (was, will always be) obtuse.

The couple to my left waved over a friend who had just showed up. The newcomer sat across from me, and it dawned on me that if more people were joining this couple, I had over-encroached upon their space. So I sought re-confirmation of whether I should be sitting there.

“If you can read Moby Dick in this bar, you can stay right there.”

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. But sometimes you don’t get that. So take a dog and a book and you can stay right there.


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