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Dinner For One

Ghost With A Boner by Diarrhea Planet. I struggle to think of a medium where the line “ghost with a boner” would not make me roll my eyes, but… musically? It really works. If you don’t think it does, try doing the (only) other line and getting back to me.

I’ve hinted to and alluded this before in a couple other posts, but it’s definitely something that merits a full mental deep dive. I write a lot of my content (blog posts, songs, presentations, etc) at bars alone. When not at work, I prefer to eat most of my meals alone. I should clarify a little bit. I don’t hate my roommates or anything (they’re awesome), and I don’t try to wait it out until they’re not there. I mostly mean when I’m feeling lazy and eat out, I go solo. In reality, this happens mostly from me staying late at work and running out real quick for another meal to more efficiently to turn calories into [someone’s] dollars. This isn’t just food – I love going to bars solo too. In fact, I’m doing that right now!

I’ve told this to quite a few people, and they have a wide spectrum of reactions, but it’s rarely positive. It’s not… negative, but it’s not positive. Negative implies that they want me to stop doing this because it’s a bad behavior, but that’s not what we’re talking about. They just don’t understand! So let’s meet in the middle and try and understand. I’ll start with all the things that are super sub-optimal about going to meals/restaurants/bars with people.

First, it’s either too loud or too quiet. If if it’s loud, you have to yell to be heard, except everyone has to do that, and then no one can hear anyone anyways. Asking someone to repeat themselves every other line gets super old super fast. If you’re not giving them 100% attention (which is hard to promise when alcohol is present) then good luck on following the conversation on your end. On the other end, if it’s quiet, you’re always too loud. You speak in these weird hushed whispers trying not to disturb the ambience. Except the ambience is supposed to a pleasant, enjoyable thing in the background, not this suffocating, ever-present foreground thing with an iron grip on the mood.

You can’t talk and {eat, drink, indulge} at the same time. Everyone has realized that movies1 are awful dates for this same reason! You and your friend(s) just sit there, unable to communicate the whole time. Why even hang out then? With N=2 persons at a restaurant, you can maybe get into a reasonable sync where you alternate eating and talking with the other person. That works, but man trying to have a conversation with anyone more than that ends up being this constant stilted act. It’s like trying to enjoy a good album with shitty Bluetooth2 headphone. Always pausing, always interrupted, always impossible to get into a flow.

You are required to talk about the reason you are there. Look, I’m not a ‘foodie’ and I know it. I’m not one of those people who views food solely as nutrition, but I’m more on that side than the exquisite cookbook side. What’s the best food in the world? Pepperoni + green pepper pizza, don’t argue. There’s lots of good food in the world, but I can’t stand talking about it. Lots of other people can wax on and on about each individual ingredient, but to me, they’re still (literally) small potatoes man. I find it nearly physically impossible to have a real conversation about food or beer. It’s just so binary to me. If good, good, else bad. That simple.

Three is enough, but I am not done yet, sorry. I spend a lot of time in the same couple of places: my apartment and my office. Those aren’t bad places but after so much time in both I’m really lacking inspiration while I’m there. Finding a place that I like3 and I can whip out my laptop without feeling like a total tech asshole is tough, but there are a few. I’m not quite a regular at any of them, but I go enough that the {host, waitress, bartender} and I can have a fun conversation with vague recollections of doing the same thing last time. They tease me about sitting there for a few hours with nothing besides my book or my laptop, but otherwise they get it.

I’m not sure how other people do it, but I really need a place where I can just sit down and think for awhile. I hope to start doing blog time ratios, where I compare the time it took me to write this to the time it thinks it will take you to read this. They are absurdly high. I’m not the kind of person who nit picks everything single word and sentence I put out there4, but despite all my claims about these being a stream-of-consciousness thing, it’s really not. Maybe more of a brook-of-consciousness? Trying to organize your thoughts feels a whole lot like the drift-diffusion equations, which I’ve now learned really generalize to the convection-diffusion equation. I know I’m only allowed so many science/engineers analogies, but hear me out on this one dear reader. You are waiting in the checkout line, and if you are like me, you are impatient. There are two types of motion: random and directed. You jump between whichever line looks shortest, usually kind of randomly. Sometimes you’re right and the line moves faster, and sometimes you’re wrong and you see the person ahead of you creeping forward. Independent of that, the cashiers are trying to move everyone forward, so you keep advancing in the line on the whole. the equation is all about balancing the random and directed movements in life.

My brain is 99% diffusion (random balancing) most of the time. Sitting alone at a bar on a Saturday night reminds me that while you may need quite a lot of drift (forced direction) in order to get the result you want. It’s worth it, but it’s not free, and adding more noise just complicates it sometimes.

  1. Movie theatres, not movies. ↩︎

  2. Redundant, I know. ↩︎

  3. Cheap beer, good food ↩︎

  4. Long time readers know that it’s impressive if I write a post without any typos ↩︎