Don’t Mind Me As I Hover Over Your Table, Waiting For You To Get Up

I don’t mean to rush you—it looks like you’re still working on those fries. Don’t worry, take your time! I’ll just stand here, a few feet from your table, not-so-subtly pressuring you to get up so I can finally sit down with my tray. My spicy chicken sandwich grows cold; my strawberry shake begins to melt.

To be honest, I hoped that you would be more cognizant of the fact that others are waiting. Perhaps you were once like me, alone as you awkwardly scanned for a chair while everyone enjoyed their meals. I, too, have been so consumed by the pleasures of fine American dining that I’ve lost awareness of those around me. I’d like to think that in your shoes I would rush through my meal and offer up my seat, but I’m probably being naive. If I am ever so lucky as to finally sit, I doubt I’ll be so eager to finish eating. And I’d be lying if I said that insight into my own selfishness doesn’t shake me to my core.

It’s partially my fault for coming during the lunch rush. I figured that by the time my meal was ready, at least one seat would’ve opened up. I don’t blame you, but I admit I am frustrated—frustrated we live in a world that perpetuates a broken system in which people get their food and then have nowhere to go as they’re forced to wait awkwardly in a packed restaurant, ready to lunge for a seat as soon as a patron leaves.

Now look at this would-be usurper, thinking he can swoop in and make it seem like he’s been waiting as long as I have simply by standing slightly closer to you. Maybe someone else is gullible enough to fall for this grifter’s cheap tricks, but they won’t work on me. I’ve glanced over at you several times, trying to make eye contact as though asking if you’re almost done. Sure, you haven’t acknowledged me per se, but we have a sacred understanding that need not be spoken aloud, one I can feel in my bones that has evolved for millions of years and harkens to a prehistoric age when our ancestors waited for space to open around the watering hole. This newcomer is better off just leaving the premises all together and searching for a bench, even if it is a little chilly out and it’s impossible to fully enjoy your meal with the threat of dripping ketchup on your lap anyway.

Although you’ve been unaffected by this tension above you, your progress on that burger has been minimal. I suppose my assumption that you were the closest to being finished because you had the least amount of food left was a mistake on my part. I should have accounted for eating speeds, meal sizes, and conversation quality. But what if you’re refusing to get up simply out of spite? Are you laughing at a funny story, or because you can see arms start to shake from the weight of holding my tray for so long?

You just sipped your drink—does that reset the timer, like seeing lightning at a public pool? Or are side dishes and beverages different from entrees? Lord knows people are always capable of hastily cramming one last fry in their mouths as they get up to leave. Yet I see no leg movement, no gathering of wrappers, no hints that you are close to done. Perhaps it’s time for me to move on and approach another table and sigh so loudly that they are forced to recognize how dire my situation is.

So farewell, my fellow diner. Go ahead and slurp up the last remnants of your soda—pay no mind to the grating sound your straw makes between the ice cubes. May we one day cross paths and raise our cups together in a restaurant with enough capacity for all mankind.