When I dine alone, I eavesdrop.I play with my BlackBerry, fold the corners of my napkin in funny patterns and listen to what the people around me are saying.
When I stopped in at Mother's Bistro for my first breakfast in Portland — my flight had gotten in at 12:30 a.m. the night before — there were plenty of opportunities to people watch and eavesdrop while I was seated at the bar. The crystal chandeliers above my head practically glinted bits of conversation my way. But I was already honed in on one diner in particular. Another singleton, two seats away from me, waffling between Mike's Special Scrambler (which I'd ordered) and the salmon hash. "This is my first time here," he told the bartender, who had stopped by between Bloody Marys. Ohhhh, yes, I thought. Another total stranger in the dark. Just like me.
I was coy about my eavesdropping at first, training my eyes to dart seamlessly between the exposed brick on one wall, velvety black and gold-foil wallpaper on another, and the full wall of windows draped in tied-back tapestry...and him in my peripheral vision. (Creep, I know.) But after my stranger decided on the salmon hash, I finally looked him in the face and...offered him my food. "You know, if you want...I ordered the scramble. I'll give you a taste so you can say you tried them both."
And suddenly, my secret eavesdropping code was broken. He was no longer a stranger; he was Rich from San Diego. And we were dining companions. He tried my scramble. I had a bit of his salmon hash. My dish won. We sat and talked, a one-seat barrier separating us, as we stuffed our respective faces with eggs, breakfast potatoes, honey whole wheat toast and homemade jam, and fresh-squeezed orange juice. He got a large. It was LARGE. We bonded over our mutual love of Yelp (I wish I were kidding) and marveled at the smooth deliciousness of the Stumptown coffee Mother's had recently begun brewing in house.
I paid my check and got ready to leave, but before I left, I handed over the URL to my Yelp profile and got his e-mail address in return. A new friendship? A love connection? Who can say...at least we got a good breakfast out of it.