As the days and weeks of isolation blur into an extended time of reflection and worry, I’ve been thinking about what I most miss from my life B.C.* I do this in the comfort of a heated home with all, bidet aside, the necessary modern amenities and an awareness and appreciation of my own good fortune.
I’ve come to realize that the “things” I miss most are those which have been routine – going to school and seeing students and coworkers, exercising in a shared space, visits with friends, and meals enjoyed in restaurants. While most of these activities have been replaced by some digital version of themselves, that last one has proven to be the most difficult one to replicate, at least for me.
Other than on a handful of occasions, I’ve been eating alone since this social distancing thing began. Despite my longtime reputation as a social butterfly, I’m really ok on my own much of the time. I enjoy the freedom to eat what I want, when I want it, and have definitely been indulging my personal appetite without the need to consider another’s palate. That part isn’t so bad.
But, the absence of eating a meal in a restaurant hit me kind of hard the other day. I hadn’t realized how very much I missed the experience of dining out until I found myself sitting at an outdoor table eating lunch in the rain the other day.
It was Good Friday and while I’m not a practicing Catholic, religious traditions die hard. I just had to have a fish fry. Tess from McGeary’s had posted on social media that they would be serving take out meals and, after confirming availability, I headed downtown to grab a late lunch.
I arrived 20 minutes later to find my meal ready to go. Adding a can of cider and a fat tip to my total, I stepped outside prepared to dine in my car since I don’t really like my fried food cold. I noticed there were a few tables, though, off to the side and away from the door. I grabbed my book from the car and settled in to enjoy my indulgent lunch.
While I saw some people waiting for a bus or walking, there was no one near me. My fish and fries were still hot and they landed in my belly with a warmth that was beyond temperature. This meal had been prepared for me by someone who was continuing to do their job despite all the challenges in their path. The masked server, who initially attempted to refuse my tip as “too much,” was upbeat and hospitable even though they must surely be experiencing financial problems as their stream of income has been decimated in our current economy.
When the wind kicked up and rain began spitting on me, I dragged the table to the protection of an overhang and continued to eat. I sipped my cider looking at the church where Teddy Roosevelt, among countless others, worshipped and felt a sense of peace. My eyes traveled to the Quackenbush House, a building which has been standing for nearly 300 years, and I considered all of the people who have enjoyed its shelter over the centuries.
Suddenly, my table for one didn’t seem so alone.
We’re going to get through this, friends. Just keep doing your best to support local businesses, ask for help as you need it and continue to keep yourself and your family as safe as possible and, when this pandemic is over, I’ll meet you at McGeary’s. We can sit at my favorite table.