200 Miles From the Citi

October 18, 2010 8:58 PM

A Table For One


I don't like eating out by myself.

I don't know where you stand on this one, but I'm pretty uncomfortable going to restaurants or movies alone.

The closest I'll come is the mall food court - there's some good people watching there, and that, to me, falls more under the category of 'shopping alone', not 'eating alone'.

I've never done the movies by myself.  And I can only remember one time where I went to a bar/restaurant by myself....before Sunday.

Quick background on Sunday, and further evidence that I have the best wife in the world:  We were at a family gathering.  It started at noon, and there was no way I thought I'd be done before the Jets game at 4.  Lo and behold, the girls were a little tired by 3pm, and it was time to hit the road - I was home at 3:45, and my wife was practically insisting I go somewhere to watch the Jets.  (And by 'practically insisting' I mean, when I asked if I could go out to watch the Jets, she said "Yes".)

I texted a few people, no one was available, so I hit TGI Fridays (its bar, specifically...very similar to the one pictured here) - they had the Sunday Ticket, and it was the nearest spot I could think of to watch the Jets. (And, as an interesting bit of trivia - also the site of the only other time I went out to eat alone - after one of the all-time bad days at work about five years ago.)  Of course, with the game turning out the way it did, I'm really glad I went.  But did I enjoy the experience?  Hard to say.

I'm lucky to have a 'go-to' list of friends I can turn to for those football Sundays when the Jets aren't on local television here in Massachusetts.  With a few days' notice, any (or all...I've never tried that, though I think I should) of them can be available to watch the games with me.  And had any of them been around with Sunday's drop-of-a-hat notice, I would have tremendously enjoyed the experience. As it was, though, I was alone.

Later this season, I plan on finding a Jets bar in Boston where I can watch a Jets game that isn't on local TV.  I will, of course, write about that experience, and since I'm doing that, I figured I'd also reflect on this experience.

First of all, I don't like when the Jets are a 4 o'clock game following the Patriots.  The focus of 95% of the bar (although not at a Jets bar!, I hope) is on the Patriots, and when the Jets start at 4:05, they can get lost in the shuffle.  When the Patriots go 13 minutes into overtime before finally ending, it can be a while before the Jets get any attention.  Finally, after watching the Jets from across the room for a full quarter, and after trying my luck by asking a second bartender to change a channel, I got the Jets on a bar TV.

I mis-timed my ordering, too.  Usually I'll nurse a couple of beers through the first half, then order food close to halftime.  But because I was trying to get the attention of the bartender who could put the Jets on for me, I asked for the menu too quickly and ordered food too quickly.   So instead of nursing a beer, I also nursed a bacon cheeseburger through most of the second quarter and through halftime.

I prefer watching Jets games at home because I can do all the talking to the television I want.  At least when I go to a bar with a friend I can pass off my frustration through conversation.  For example, "I can't believe they would make that call!"  Something like that.  When I'm by myself, I must look like a guy suffering a spasm.  My first instinct is to shout, but then I hold it back.  And I discovered today I watch football with a lot of body language.  I must look like someone with Tourrette's when I let out a tiny grunt and then shift my body suddenly with every dramatic play in the game.

Unfortunately for me, there were plenty of dramatic moments in this game - more than I counted on.  I thought this one would be a walkover - I really thought I'd only be sitting alone for a half or three quarters, then be on my way home - no way did I think it would come down to the final seconds.  It did, though, and I was by myself for a full 3-plus hours.

It wasn't a horrible experience.  It just wasn't exactly a good time.  It felt more like something I had to do rather than something I wanted to do.

I started paying the bill at the two minute warning...just as the end was nearing for the Jets.  I had my card returned to me on about third down for the Jets. I sat there for a minute, pondering my tip.  Then the Jets got that pass interference call.

I couldn't quite express my happiness at that call the way I could have had I been at home.  But the bartender should know that that penalty added a full three dollars to my tip.

As far as I can tell, the Jets game on Halloween, their first after next week's bye, will be on local television.  November 7th I'll need to hit another bar.

You'd better believe I'll start lining up some company for that game soon.

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