7 Ways to Look Cool While Dining Out Alone

I eat out alone a lot. Traveling as much as three to five days a week, I get hungry, and I wind up in restaurants all over the country by myself. It totally sucks, but who can afford to look like a loser? Perception is everything, as they say, so, for the sake of all of my fellow lone-dining road warriors, here are seven ways to avoid looking like a loser when you find yourself doing a solo at Denny’s.

1) The Self-Contained Party. Enter the restaurant like you just came from The Grammy Awards and are still high on seeing all of your favorite music icons. Greet the hostess with that European double-kiss thing you see in the movies, shrug your shoulders wistfully and say, “Oh, isn’t this a grand night to be alive?!” Be sure to laugh out loud at least four times during the meal and blow dreamy kisses to the wait staff.

2) The Famous Food Critic. Wear a London Fog trench coat (letting it hang off of your shoulders), an apricot-colored ascot, and a felt hat with a long bird feather of some sort. Dark sunglasses are optional. Order a random sampling of the entrees and side items. Taste small bites of several dishes and make notes on a pad while chewing slowly, as if deciding whether you like it or not. Check the health rating, being sure to write it down, as you exit.

3) The Out-of-Towner. This one works anywhere except in your own city. Enter the restaurant asking if their reputation stands up to all that you’ve heard. Ask questions of the host and the wait staff about the area and get them talking about their town and its interesting sights. While you eat, they stand at your table and drone on and on about the zoo, the museum, etc, that you have absolutely no interest in seeing, but all the while it appears that they are terribly interested in you.

4) The Cry Baby. Upon entering the restaurant appear terribly distressed. Tears are a great start to any evening alone. If you are able to produce a break in your voice, all the better. If anyone asks what is wrong, mumble something about “the breakup” and then tear up again as quickly as possible. Dab your eyes through the meal, sniff, and blow often. Most people in the restaurant will feel sorry for you for your recent relational breakup rather than think you are a loser who has no friends and is eating alone.

5) The Architect. Carry a set of building plans with you and spread them out on the table before you even look at the menu. Set your cell phone alarm to go off several times during the meal and raise your voice as you become angry with sub-contractors, etc, and make sure people overhear that this is a multi-million dollar job that you will not let them screw up. Shake your head and slam the phone down several times during the meal to emphasize how important you are.

6) The Secret Service Agent. Borrow someone’s satellite phone or create one using a small black bag and an old handset. An earpiece with a squiggly wire dangling down into the back of your shirt is convincing, as well. Peering over dark glasses, mumble something into the phone describing several diners around the restaurant. Ask probing questions of the wait staff about the comings and goings of the manager or owner. Talk into your cuff and act a little paranoid.

7) The Fashionista. Scrunched and studded at every possible point, devise the most outlandish outfit imaginable and waltz into the restaurant with an extremely superior attitude.. Order a salad with dressing on the side, only eating three bites. (Special thanks to Mallory at Firebirds in Omaha for this one!)

If these approaches don’t fit you, I’m sure that a little thought and ingenuity will help you devise your personalized way to look cool in a restaurant alone. It is important to maintain your composure at all times and to remember that on any given day over half of America is sitting in a lonely booth in a diner somewhere in the midwest, slogging through a lonely bowl of chili that resembles pre-digested baby food. The next to the last thing you ever want to do is to appear desperate. The last thing you want to do is to sit there and read a book.

A Broken Chalice

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.”

—PSALM 46:4 – 5

“Indeed, of Zion it will be said, ‘This one and that one were born in her, and the Most High himself will establish her’. The Lord will write in the register of peoples: ‘This one was born in Zion.’ As they make music they will sing, ‘All my fountains are in You.’”

—PSALM 87:5- 7

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the street of the great city.”

—REVELATION 22:1- 2b

About a year ago I was leading a communion service at a conference in one of my breakout classes. I had set up a makeshift altar complete with a little white votive, a saucer for the bread, and a clay chalice that my wife and I had purchased in St. John on a vacation many years ago for the grape juice. I loved that chalice. It was hand-thrown pottery, a sandy color with ocean blue mixed in, and it had a couple of ornamental sea shells on the body of the cup. It had sat on one of our shelves at home for years until I snagged it for the conference. A few minutes before the class, I needed to move the table over a foot or two to make room for some more chairs. As I was picking up the small table, the chalice tipped over and fell to the floor, spilling the juice and shattering the pottery. It broke into a lot of small pieces, but there were enough large pieces left that I could glue back together, that it would at least stand up on its own and to resemble a little of its former glory. It now sits on the same shelf at home to remind me never to take anything I’m unwilling to break to a conference.

Many of our churches and perhaps many of us are like that broken chalice. Maybe we were whole and full at one time, but something has happened to tip the table and to not only spill the wine but shatter the cup. The body of Christ, in essence, is the chalice through which God pours His glory into the earth. The Gospel is a call to intimate Communion with God, but that call comes through believers and through our faith communities. If we are broken and dysfunctional, especially in the area of our love to God in worship and in our understanding of the very essence of worship via the presence of Christ, how will the wine of His great love flow to all the nations?

The chalice has been broken by many things, but mostly by our vast penchant to satisfy ourselves in everything, including religion. The utterly (and seemingly hopeless) narcissism that pervades our congregations isn’t their entire fault, really, but our own as pastors and leaders. We have pandered to preferences for profit. We have squandered authentic presence in worship, God’s, in exchange for the presence of people. We have, as Petersen so aptly translates the passage from Romans 1, “traded the glory of God for trinkets you can buy at any roadside stand” (ref).

How will the chalice be whole? Is there supernatural super glue that could fix the shattered pieces of our lives and the lives of our faith communities? Of course there is. Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord. The answer is always God Himself and this time it is in the form of His Spirit. We have become Spirit-less people and a Spirit-less church, for the most part, desiring commercialized mega-results and packed out pews by the power of the flesh, substituting what we can do for what only He can do. But the chalice is mended perfectly, as if never broken, only by the presence and power of God’s Spirit. As Tozer has said, “When the Holy Spirit ceases to be incidental and again becomes fundamental the power of the Spirit will be asserted once more among the people called Christians” (The Divine Conquest, p. 66). What should be fundamental to our faith experience has been lost to argument and division over mere expressions of spiritual gifts while every drop of real spiritual power, like the holy wine, has drained from the cup.

Our individual lives should be overflowing in the Christ’s Spirit and all aspects of corporate worship – preaching, creative arts, even offering – should be Spirit-charged activities. No gathering of believers in Jesus Christ should be without a palpable sense of His presence by His Spirit. Alongside gross insensitivity to Him, to Jesus as the Spirit, I mean, is an anti-Spirit sentiment based on ignorance and abuse. Pride for “not being like that church down the street” calls us out as Publicans (ref) and impoverishes the mystical experience of authentic communion in the Spirit. Fear of becoming “charismatic” has log-jammed all creativity and the free flow of any spiritual dimension in our services, a reductionist standpoint that wants spiritual results without the Spirit’s help. Our self-reliance has X’ed God out of the equation and we proceed under our own power hoping for results we can never achieve, i.e. a transformed life.

The bread and the cup are eternal symbols for Christians. The call to the table of Christ is central to our faith and to the Gospel itself—Jesus calls all who will come to His banqueting table. Who are we to break His cup? How can we abide the disintegration of authentic worship, the erosion of real worship over pettiness and ingratitude? How can we continue to ignore a fully integrated part of the Godhead in the form of His Spirit? My heart burns to see authentically spiritual worship restored, a joyous worship and an exultant praise that transcends all styles, preferences, and generations—the mended chalice, whole, filled to overflowing, and lifted to our Great Father in highest adoration.