I’ll tell you what I was not going to do: sit in my hotel room. I was determined to not become the type of flight attendant who in airplane slang is referred to as a “Slam clicker”—slam the hotel door shut, click the lock.The moment the United Airlines plane touched down, I was plotting and planning. At the hotel check-in, I went directly to the concierge and inquired which plays and musicals were in town. “Well, ‘Rent’ is showing, you might like that.” It was the hottest musical in town, and had just opened in Boston after playing in New York. Yes, I might like that.
The concierge was able to get me a ticket.
But first, dinner. I did not know anyone on my crew well, as we had never met before this flight. Truth be told, I would prefer to eat dinner alone than have to endure forced superficial conversation. I ironed my khaki pants, put on a black cashmere sweater, and finished off the look with a dressy strand of fake pearls. I was glad I had packed them—they elevated the outfit.
I found an elegant bistro near the theater, and walked in. There were flowers on the tables, and a serene ambiance. I had no reservation, but since it was early, the host was able to accommodate me. I sat down and began to peruse the menu.This was definitely a fancier restaurant than I would normally go to, especially by myself. But it was Boston! I had 26 hours! I could afford to splurge a little.
Shortly after I arrived, the restaurant began to fill up, mostly with couples on a date night. I had forgotten it was Friday evening.
My Caesar salad arrived, and after that, the most beautiful scallops and risotto you’ve ever seen. The food was delicious, and I was in culinary heaven.
I had, however, made the rookie mistake of dining alone without a magazine or book. I noticed a table of six young women, about my age, near my table. They were drinking martinis and celebrating something. But I could sense them talking about me, as one by one they would whisper something and then turn around and look at me. They were nodding at each other and giving me pitying looks.
It finally occurred to me that they thought I had been stood up by a date.It is a strange sensation to be the recipient of pity where none is due. Should I correct them? What would I do: go over to their table and explain how I was a flight attendant on a layover and by myself at dinner on purpose, I have a boyfriend but he is just not here with me and I really wanted to go out tonight and take advantage of my time in Boston?
No. As I played the words over in my head, I realized how bizarre it sounded. I ordered chocolate mousse cake and the stares continued. I was getting the feeling that now it was more of a camaraderie thing: Some jerk stood her up, poor thing, we have all been there! Men are jerks! That girl is so cute and sweet, and look she is all dressed up in her black sweater and nice pants—and she even has pearls on! What kind of guy does that? She should definitely break up with him.Finally, to my immense relief, the six women got up and left.
I relaxed and finished my dessert, glanced at my watch, and asked the waiter for my check.“The bill has been paid already,” he said.
“Excuse me?” I whispered, confused. “Did you say that my bill’s been paid? By who?”“Those ladies that left 10 minutes ago—those six young ladies? They paid your bill.”
“Did they say why? Did they leave a message for me?”“No. I just thought it was because they knew you?”
“I don’t know them.” They were long gone. There was no way I could go after them now and clear up the misunderstanding.“Oh … well, anyway, you’re all set.”
Now I felt really uncomfortable. I had $40 in my purse, ready to pay for my dinner, and these other women had paid for me because they felt sorry for me. Instead of feeling happy, I felt like I might cry. Those women had assumed something about me that was not true. I did not deserve a free dinner.“Oh, oh … uh, all right, thank you.” I tried to at least hand the waiter a tip.
“No, miss, they got the tip, too,” he said, refusing my money. Now I was under the impression that the waiter also felt sorry for me. I was quickly becoming the poster child for the Boston chapter of “Stood Up Dates Anonymous.”I walked out of the restaurant and down the street. I encountered a homeless man begging near the theater and holding up a handwritten cardboard sign that read “Very Hungry, Please Help.” I opened up my purse and handed him two crisp twenty dollar bills.