I am a friendly person. Strangers do not scare me, in fact, it is not uncommon for me to engage in conversations with random people at the park or waiting in line. Usually I can read people’s body language pretty well too, which helps me discern a little, I think , about whether or not I even want to encourage a connection with a complete stranger. It is on rare occasion that I am taken completely off-guard by one of these encounters.
Yesterday, I received an unexpected phone call from a friend asking me to meet them for lunch during their break. Perfect timing, I thought, since I was famished and currently on my way out the door to buy groceries. (As we moms all know, grocery shopping on an empty stomach is NEVER a good idea.) She had one quick errand to finish so I offered to head over to the restaurant and get us a table.
Yesterday was beautiful – sunny and 60 degrees. I love the sun. It just makes the most ordinary day extraordinary. Happy.
An elderly gentlemen with a cane was approaching the front door at the same time that I was, so I decided to hold the door open for him. He smiled and thanked me accordingly. Since we both stepped inside about the same time, the hostess just assumed we were together and asked, “table for two?”. I was in no hurry so was quite content to let this gentlemen get seated ahead of me, but he spoke up first.
“No, this young lady was here first. She was just opening the door for me.”
I smiled and thanked him, following the hostess to a booth near the back. A few minutes passed and then the same gentlemen was standing next to my table.
“I guess it was fate that brought us together, ” he said, “because now they are seating me right behind you.”
I did find a gentleness in his humor and decided to make a quip back.
“Looks like it! I guess you should just eat lunch with me then, ” I joked.
The gentlemen thought for a moment then replied, “Are you waiting for a male or a female?”
That puzzled me – what difference did that make, but whatever. Small talk is small talk.
“My friend is a female.”
“Well, in that case, ” he smiled, “I would LOVE to eat lunch with you.” And he preceded to sit in the seat opposite me, put down his cane, and start perusing the menu.
I was stunned. We chatted for a few minutes. Perhaps he is just joking, I thought, but then when our waitress came back he proudly announced, “This young lady just invited me to eat lunch with her and her friend.”
Yeah, no. This was not a joke.
“So, ” I started, “Do you have any children or family?”
He arranged his utensils to the side, placed a napkin in his lap. “No – I have really bad social skills. No one has ever been able to stand me for too long.”
He wasn’t smiling either when he said this. I assume it was also not meant as a joke. Any minute I was expecting Peter Funt to pop out of the kitchen and say, “You’re on Candid Camera.” (Because let’s face it, Ashton Kutcher is just never going to punk me no matter how hard a wish it to be true.)
Out of the corner of my eye I could see my friend searching for me. Of course she was looking for one woman waiting patiently, alone, not a crazy woman eating with an elderly stranger. I quickly excused myself and ran to greet her and explain the predicament. Thankfully she didn’t turn tail and run but joined me and my new table mate.
We had a relatively polite conversation, me carrying most of it unfortunately, until my friend excused herself to go back to work. A few minutes later I finished my lunch as well and thanked Him for his company. I called my girlfriend as soon as I got in the car. Her response?
“Only you…only you.”