Have you ever shared a table with strangers??

shymilfromchiFebruary 12, 2013

My DH and I often frequent a buffet we enjoy. It is welcoming, the food is delicious, and the wait staff is friendly. On Saturday afternoons there is a special price for seniors. Sometimes when all the tables are full, there is a sea of white hair, canes, and walkers with too few places to sit while waiting for a table to open up. If there is just the two of us, the hostess has a standing request from us to ask if anyone would like to share a table. Rather often, some folks will be tired and take us up on it. And then begins an interesting adventure.

First name introductions are made, and than the weather, past, present, and future always seems to be a safe topic. Someone will ask, "where is everyone from", which might lead to the discovery of mutual friends, or memories of a particular location. Before long, we begin to feel like acquaintances and slices of our lite stories, sometimes funny or perhaps nostalgic, start pouring out.

Only once have we not had an interesting time. That was with two ladies whose corsets seemed to be too tight.

Once we sat with an 92 year old lady and her daughter. The older woman looked tired (of course) and picked at her food. To break the ice, my DH said that he had an old-time song running through his head, but could not remember all of the words - did she know them? She came alive. Indeed she did, and almost all the lyrics of all the popular songs and had done all of the popular dances of the 1920s, '30s, and '40s. She described herself as being a wild girl when she was young. She had visited speakeasies during prohibition and hitchhiked across the country. We sought them out the next week. She told us that she had had a dream the night before, her beloved husband, who had died ten years ago, had come to her in a dream. She said she asked if he had come to take her to be with him. He said no, that she would not be taken until 2:41. He vanished before he could tell her if it was in the night or the afternoon, what day, month or year. Several weeks later, her daughter told us that she had passed away. I asked if indeed it was at 2:41, but she died alone and quietly in her sleep. We'll never know.

Once a woman came in with three men. The men quickly got involved together talking sports, seemingly a never ending conversation about old-time players and memorable games. She wanted to sit next to me and said that she had only men to talk to for such a long time. She wanted "girl talk". We almost forgot to eat, she really needed to exchange thoughts and ideas. Such a nice lady.

Another time, two women came to join us. Both well educated and interesting. The older woman was 89 years old. She walked strongly, her eyesight and hearing were good, and her mind was clear. While she was getting her food from the buffet, her companion told us that the older woman had visited every country in the world except the North and South Poles. As she joined us again, she said that she knew it was time to stop travelling when she could no longer climb the Great Wall of China. She found out that we lived near an excellent bakery and said how much she enjoyed the peach pie they make. She had had several minor heart attacks. When she felt another one coming, she said that she hurried to finish the leftover pie before she called an ambulance. It was too good to waste.

Once the hostess seated us at a table for eight. We felt strange taking up such a large space. But before long, six people sat down with us. A white-bearded man with a cane headed for a seat next to me and I wondered what we could talk about. But it turned out that he had had a stroke in his eye and only needed the cane to make sure that he was not bumping someone on the side where his eye was affected. It was such a lively group. Our conversation ranged from discussing the wisdom of buying gold as a safeguard for saving, to the countries they had visited on their latest cruise. The talk somehow got into a discussion on how math is taught. It was then that I learned that I was sitting next to a physicist, a professor at a large university who had invented something that many, perhaps most, people in the world used every day. Well!

We have had other enjoyable luncheons with strangers and look forward to more.

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Shymil, that's a kind, friendly idea, and a nice way to be polite to strangers. DH and I shared a table on a cruise with folks we had never met, but b/c we were table mates for the length of the cruise, we all quickly became acquainted. As you said, the "opening" conversations were mainly about the weather and, in our case, the cruise, but within a couple of days, we all knew lots about each other. I'm sorry to say that we didn't keep in touch for more than a few years, but I still have pictures and remember them.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 6:24PM
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I'm from Europe and it is a common practice to share tables. In the US, not so much.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 6:55PM
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One day my friend who lives in a nearby town came to my town to have her Honda checked. I picked her up and we spent the day together. A new hamburger place had recently opened with much advertising.We went there for lunch, it was very small.A married couple about our age asked if they could sit at our table. We were more than happy to share. We had interesting conversation.It turned out they were killing time while the husband's Honda was being worked on.Nice encounter with strangers and very poor food. They closed pretty soon after opening.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 8:41PM
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Have invited some to table with us or me when alone and enjoyed the company. It is an anomaly to dine alone although some actually prefer it. I have as a people watcher.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 12:31AM
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As WestG said, it's customary in Europe to share tables, one meets some interesting folks that way

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 10:01AM
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As another European I got to say the same, people share tables.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 10:31AM
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Love the stories! Such a delight. I typically sit at bars for company (and so I don't take up too much space with just one person) and that is always enjoyable. There is such camaraderie at bars, almost like everyone is old friends. But I love how you make new friends.

Wish some of the Europeans would tell what it is typically like? Do you have similar encounters to Mil?

So where did the physicist do his work? or was he also at the university? Every day? What does one used every day? Toothbrush? Toilet? Hairbrush? Those were invented longer ago. Radio was Tesla... I'm stumped.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 10:29AM
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Bet it didn't take long for the "strangers" on the Carnival cruise to become much more friendly than they could ever have imagined--or WANTED! What an awful experience, but they'll all have stories to tell for the rest of their lives.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 3:48PM
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The invention by the physicist/professor was Color TV. Such an interesting man.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 4:05PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

One of my favorite dining experiences of all time is Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room in Savannah, GA. They only have tables for ten....and they fill every seat.

Platters of meats and a huge assortment of sides are placed in the middle of the table and passed around. It's "would you mind passing me the...." Fabulous southern style cooking and a fun way to share a meal with strangers.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 5:00PM
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There are different customs in different countries. I'm from
Scandinavia and that it is my reference. And I'm talking about public places.

It is very simple, really. If you see an empty chair at a table, walk up and give a small smile and a nod. as if to ask to sit down. If you get a nod, accept the seat. I leave it up to the person to start a conversation.
If a conversation starts, it usually starts with talking about the weather, or asking where you are from. Very safe subjects.
Then it can go on from there.
If I'm in a "common interest" situation, such as rhizo_mentioned, it is enjoyable to meet people with the same interest.
The best I can say, is to observe the local customs, and learn from that.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 7:34PM
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rhizo, we have one of those in Nashville. It's Monell's.

Thank you west! I think I might've first been taken aback (they would've never known) and then, consequently, very curious. I probably would've thought they merely liked me, not wanted the seat. heh I'm more "American" than I knew (self-centered bunch we are!).

Color television. huh! That's is really cool. The closest I can say is, I've been in places, often, where celebrites are, but to say I share a table? No. I can say I sat next to a university sports coach on a plane. It's as close as I can get. That, and I was in front of the celebrities' child, daughter inlaw and grandchildren at church. That hardly qualifies. Not even the same row! Your encounter would be almost akin to sitting next to the person who created the iPad (or was that Steve Jobs on his own?).

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 9:02AM
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Lol, Rob. If you walk down the main drag in Kopenhagen,
Denmark, where there are plenty of outdoor seating, and you see a hunk at a table, buy something and ask for a seat. Nothing wrong with that.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 7:35PM
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All the time!
In different countries we were visiting.
In restaurants that that were crowded, we would ask someone if they wanted to
share a table with us.
Always interesting to talk to others.
We have several places in North Georgia that serve up food
on big tables where you sit with others. The Dillard House is the most well known.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 8:30PM
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