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Have you ever shared a table with strangers??

10 years ago

My DH and I often frequent a buffet we enjoy. It is welcoming, the food is delicious, and the wait staff is friendly. On Saturday afternoons there is a special price for seniors. Sometimes when all the tables are full, there is a sea of white hair, canes, and walkers with too few places to sit while waiting for a table to open up. If there is just the two of us, the hostess has a standing request from us to ask if anyone would like to share a table. Rather often, some folks will be tired and take us up on it. And then begins an interesting adventure.

First name introductions are made, and than the weather, past, present, and future always seems to be a safe topic. Someone will ask, "where is everyone from", which might lead to the discovery of mutual friends, or memories of a particular location. Before long, we begin to feel like acquaintances and slices of our lite stories, sometimes funny or perhaps nostalgic, start pouring out.

Only once have we not had an interesting time. That was with two ladies whose corsets seemed to be too tight.

Once we sat with an 92 year old lady and her daughter. The older woman looked tired (of course) and picked at her food. To break the ice, my DH said that he had an old-time song running through his head, but could not remember all of the words - did she know them? She came alive. Indeed she did, and almost all the lyrics of all the popular songs and had done all of the popular dances of the 1920s, '30s, and '40s. She described herself as being a wild girl when she was young. She had visited speakeasies during prohibition and hitchhiked across the country. We sought them out the next week. She told us that she had had a dream the night before, her beloved husband, who had died ten years ago, had come to her in a dream. She said she asked if he had come to take her to be with him. He said no, that she would not be taken until 2:41. He vanished before he could tell her if it was in the night or the afternoon, what day, month or year. Several weeks later, her daughter told us that she had passed away. I asked if indeed it was at 2:41, but she died alone and quietly in her sleep. We'll never know.

Once a woman came in with three men. The men quickly got involved together talking sports, seemingly a never ending conversation about old-time players and memorable games. She wanted to sit next to me and said that she had only men to talk to for such a long time. She wanted "girl talk". We almost forgot to eat, she really needed to exchange thoughts and ideas. Such a nice lady.

Another time, two women came to join us. Both well educated and interesting. The older woman was 89 years old. She walked strongly, her eyesight and hearing were good, and her mind was clear. While she was getting her food from the buffet, her companion told us that the older woman had visited every country in the world except the North and South Poles. As she joined us again, she said that she knew it was time to stop travelling when she could no longer climb the Great Wall of China. She found out that we lived near an excellent bakery and said how much she enjoyed the peach pie they make. She had had several minor heart attacks. When she felt another one coming, she said that she hurried to finish the leftover pie before she called an ambulance. It was too good to waste.

Once the hostess seated us at a table for eight. We felt strange taking up such a large space. But before long, six people sat down with us. A white-bearded man with a cane headed for a seat next to me and I wondered what we could talk about. But it turned out that he had had a stroke in his eye and only needed the cane to make sure that he was not bumping someone on the side where his eye was affected. It was such a lively group. Our conversation ranged from discussing the wisdom of buying gold as a safeguard for saving, to the countries they had visited on their latest cruise. The talk somehow got into a discussion on how math is taught. It was then that I learned that I was sitting next to a physicist, a professor at a large university who had invented something that many, perhaps most, people in the world used every day. Well!

We have had other enjoyable luncheons with strangers and look forward to more.

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