I have this concept called Temporary Friends (TF). A TF is a stranger that you meet randomly in an airport, restaurant, etc. and for whatever reason (usually boredom) you exchange pertinent information about your lives. The information can range from the basics (Where are you from???) to the deeply personal (Did you dump his ass afterwards???) and is usually dependent on proximity (ie. sitting right next to you on an airplane) and time (ie. non-stop flight from Paris to New York). Over the years, I have met many, many people in this fashion. X is even worse than I am! After nearly every business trip, he has at least 1-2 stories from the TFs he met over the week.
Lately, I have not been able to schedule lunches with my friends because one of the Drones here has scheduled a 12:00 meeting for every day of the week except Mondays. These meetings will most likely continue long after I am gone. The bad thing is that the meetings last anywhere from 10 minutes to a full hour which makes it quite inconvenient to schedule anything with friends. For the most part, I was just grabbing a quickie meal from the cafeteria, but with the increasing dissatisfaction for my job and the Not So “Super”visor, I have found that I NEED to get out. So, I have been going out to lunch by myself, book in hand. Last week in this fashion, I finished an entire book and made significant progress on another.
Today, I showed up at the restaurant and there was no place for me to sit. A lady noticed my dilemma and gestured to the empty chair at her table. I then had a lovely lunch with my new TF. We spent the better part of an hour happily eating our meals and reading our books. Towards the end of the meal, we looked up from our books over dessert long enough to exchange brief life stories and found that we had a common employer in our mutual careers past. We also did a quick rundown of some of our favorite eclectic choices for lunches in the area. I left that meal very satisfied – not just with the meal, but with that cozy feeling of having connected with another human being in a positive way. Sometimes, a person just needs that, I suppose.
As I come to the end of this chapter in my working life, I am trying to keep tabs on the positive. It has been hard because this has certainly been the lowest point of my career and I am sad to be leaving the working world on such a sour note. However, today was a reminder that it wasn't all for naught. I am very appreciative now that I had the opportunity to travel so much and was forced to do most of it by myself with no co-workers to get me through the loneliness - particularly in the early years of my career. All that solo travel gave me the confidence and audacity to plunk myself all alone at a table for two (or even FOUR). It forced me to strike up conversations with random strangers on planes, shuttle buses, cafeterias. Before that, I was pretty shy and would shudder at the idea of eating alone in a restuarant. I wonder how many TFs I would have missed out on over the years, had I not been exposed to that sort of travel. I guess it's nice to be all grown up, after all.