Two lunch customers. Late in the day. First one came in, and then the other. They didn’t know each other. They sat at adjacent tables. The dining room was otherwise empty.
One had a book. The other had a smartphone. They were prepared for solo dining.
And they could easily have remained in their personal bubbles, eaten their meals, left with no more than a passing acknowledgment of the other’s presence. And that would have been fine.
But they didn’t.
Instead, they started talking. I don’t know which one spoke first, but I know that within a few minutes they had each shared a bit of themselves with the stranger at the other table. Soon neither one was a stranger.
There is something about the space that facilitates this kind of interaction. Maybe it’s the way the tables are set up. Maybe it’s the help-yourself ethos: pour your own water, pick through the basket of teabags to find something you like, carry your mug back to your table. Whatever it is, the room itself offers the opportunity for a chance encounter, a moment of random connection free of agenda or expectation.
It’s kind of a little gift, isn’t it.
People come to have a meal. They leave feeling seen, heard. Fed.