Once I returned to work following my virus-forced six-week furlough, I was back in the game of finding suitable restaurant options in different parts of Ohio and Indiana while servicing my accounts. For the longest time, the only options available were the drive-thru lanes and then eating in the car, which, unless we’re talking about the movie drive-in experience, isn’t what I would call a civilized way of living. I’ve always felt that lines should be drawn that separate activities that should be executed inside buildings and outside them.
For me, one of the essential differences that separate man and beast is that man eats inside. I’m always amazed when traveling in larger cities when I see diners around tables set up in front of restaurants on the sidewalk within a few feet of gaggles of pedestrians and parked cars.
While many restaurants have indeed reopened for dine-in eating, many of the fast-food outlets, famous for providing something almost as desirable as food for my fellow customer sales and services reps and me, WiFi, still are often difficult to find.
However, as each week unspools, I’m finding more restaurants with dine-in service, and, if I delay my lunch until after 1 p.m., after asking the server if it would be OK if I did a little work after finishing eating without tying up the table, I’ve been able to find my temporary workstations.
It appears during those many weeks where no restaurants had in-house seating, I’ve gotten a little out of practice when it comes to reading the in-house surroundings accurately, which, of course, is a lead-in to a story.
A couple months ago, while in Fort Wayne, I discovered a good dine-in and WiFi-providing place, a Pizza Hut, just off the east-west main drag through the city. Because of the fears of virus spreading, there was no lunch buffet, which is no doubt good for me, since I’m of the age where I find it hard to resist that second or, yikes, even third plate at a buffet and even harder to shed the few extra pounds that results from such gluttony, which surely makes my set of arthritic knees more problematic.
Now, in that Pizza Hut, in one of my first dine-in experiences in quite some time, I really didn’t read the room very well. Once seated, as I looked around the dining room, I noticed out of the corner of my eye through a triangular cutout in the wall that divided the dining area into a section overlooking the street and a larger dining area where I was seated, one other guy doing what I was doing, some work, while awaiting his food.
Ah, I thought, one of my collegial types, doing a little restaurant working and exchanging lunch business for some WiFi. I’ll bet he’s as frustrated as I am that one of the dozens of negatives of this whole viral thing is the difficulty in finding diurnal squatting places such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Arby’s to send some work reports or emails.
As I awaited my food while tapping away on my iPad keyboard, I’d peripherally sneak a glimpse at my fellow worker, resisting any urges to train my eyes on him. Often, when I’ve done that in the past, I’ll see a worker who more resembles the students I left behind when I retired from teaching in 2005 than one that resembles me, which I find rather depressing.
Following a nice repast and a few final taps on my keyboard, I finally decided to take my first in-depth look at my fellow dining worker and look toward that little triangular cutout. In the first second or two, I was comforted by the fact that he seemed an older gentleman, out there still slugging out his 40-hour week! Blinking my eyes once, I acquired a sharper focus and actually laughed out loud when I realized something to which most people would never admit.
The triangular wall cutout that provided a sliver of a view of that lower dining area was actually not a wall cutout, rather a mirror, which explains why I felt somewhat of a kinship.
I was looking at myself!
While our days may seem bleak at times now, perhaps the best medicine is looking for a good laugh as often as we can, perhaps the best laughs are the ones that come at our own expense.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.