Monday, April 2, 2012

32. Travel: Boston

I remember it like it was yesterday.  One of my first long layovers in Boston—26 hours.  What was I going to do with all that time? 

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.



  1. I think we all have been there, eating alone and trying hard not feeling self-conscious, especially if we have nothing to read. Some movies use that theme too. Good entry for the A-Z.

  2. Word cut--the art of sharp writing? I think this blog was meant for me. My first novel was 213K words and my second was 180K words! Luckily I have a kickass editor who helps me tighten my word diarrhea.

    I enjoyed your post. Way to pay it forward! Are you sure you hadn't treated these ladies well on the flight and they were thanking you for your service? ;) How did you like Rent? The music was pretty good but I was underwhelmed by the plot.

  3. Pay forward definitely works! But how perplexing. Been there travelling alone, why don't more restaurants have long tables where people can sit together and talk to whoever is next to them- or read a book!


  4. I like Ebby's curiosity (above me)about the tables where many could sit together, that's a nice way of dealing with being alone in a strange space.

    A-Z 2012 (#49) - Bloggit Write A-Z 2012 - Poetry
    A-Z 2012 (#861) - Bloggit Write A-Z 2012 - Haiku

  5. Lovely writing. I had a couple invite me to join them for lunch one day. I had just run in to grab something quick during a very long day at work and they saw me there alone. It was very sweet of them but I think I must have turned so many shades of red.

    Thanks for sharing your layover with us!

  6. OK, I HAD to visit this blog as well. Anything to do with travel, cats or waterfalls gets my attention. I see the person's blog in the comment above is named "Herding Cats." Got to go check out her blog too.

    Glad I have some free time today!

  7. Travel tales are the best and this is a good one - great blog. Am certainly following.

  8. Thanks for the visit. wanted to return the favor.
    What a cool idea for your theme. I'm winging it this year I'm afraid! I will be back. very nice writing too. :)

  9. Hi MOV,

    Wow! What a great tale. As weird as you must have felt, you were able to give to someone who needed it more than you. Without the "pity" from the table of six, you might not have been able to pass along the two 20s.

    Still, how interesting! I'm wondering what I would have thought had I seen you dining that night. Would I have assumed you'd been stood up? I don't know.

    I do love Boston. I've only been there twice (since 2003), but it's one of my favorite cities. :)

    (Found you through A - Z Challenge. Thanks for stopping over on my blog and following too!)

    Looking forward to your future posts!

  10. I've flown to Boston only once. I now know why everyone says to try to catch a morning flight home. Delay upon delay -- I thought Logan was going to be my new home. I look forward to reading about more of your trips.

    1. How kind of you to share your good fortune even if it was unexpected and with a twist.

  11. I just found this blog via another A to Z friend. I've read them all, loved them but this one struck a chord with me. I started doing a lot of business travel at a later age and had led a pretty sheltered life. I remember going into NYC for an overnight (job transfer interview, same company) and heading down to head at what was my normal dinnertime. NO ONE eats at 5-6pm in NYC, well, except me. I had three waiters and anything I wanted...I still look back an laugh. Oh, and when I left the next day I asked my new boss, do I really just go outside and "hail" a taxi? Adding you to my A to Z read list.

  12. Thank you so much to all my new readers who found me through the A to Z Challenge! I love reading your wonderful comments and am grateful you have taken the time to read my essays. Hope to see you back.

    I look forward to checking out all your blogs too!!



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