The Communal Table

I walk into a cafe, MacBook in hand, ready to write my day away. My eye catches a big, wooden, communal table filled with other twentysomethings typing away on their computers, as they sip their lattes and teas. I make my purchase and head over to the single available seat at the table. I open my computer, and then stare at it for a good hour. Oh the joys of writers block. It was when someone at the communal table struck up a conversation with myself, which in turn became a joint conversation between five strangers at this table, that I knew what I’d write about today. Have you ever sat at a communal table? These days, the communal table is the hottest thing at trendy restaurants and cafe’s alike. With the emergence of the communal table, you now sit in the all-to-close vicinity of others, whether you like it or not.

I vividly remember my first experience with the communal table. After a month or so of dating someone and daily wondering where we stand and what we are (but never daring to bring it up for risk of blowing my ‘worry free/cool girl persona’ of course), the guy I was seeing asked me out on a date. He said he wanted to talk about things, and to say i was anxious all week is an understatement. Usually I spend pre-date day covering the basics: wax, mani, outfit, hair. But this time I was more concerned with anticipating what he might say and then anticipating my responses to his questions. Picture the way Reese Witherspoon’s character Elle Woods in Legally Blonde practices her facial response and comments to what she assumed would be her boyfriends engagement. That was me.

I got all prepped up, we walked into the restaurant, stomach in knots with excitement. The guy saw a friend of his from high school and they said hello. Just a couple months out of a breakup I knew this girl was also friends with my ex and felt a bit uncomfortable. But excitement and butterflies reigned supreme until the host lead us to our table, sitting two people down from said girl at – you guessed it – the same table. This is where the communal table fails.

So much for our night of a bottle of white, to give him and I the liquid courage for our “talk” and instead we needed it to sip on during the many awkward silences, as we felt watched. Gulp. The words I do remember him saying that night (over and over) were “I’m sorry.” That was the last time him and I sat at a communal table ever again. Since then we decided to sit at booths and tables, side by side so we could whisper sweet nothings and have intimate conversations, without having to worry about those in proximity. Lesson well learned? Perhaps.

When the communal table is a bad thing:

First dates: There’s nothing like going to a restaurant with a guy on the first date and finding the person sitting next to him more charming than he is. The communal table involves everyone in the dinner and you are bound to get into other people’s conversations. That being said, if the girl next to you or your man is a younger/prettier version of your hot self, he may be getting her digits when your run off to washroom pretty lady. Hold that bladder!

Awkward run in’s: Nothing is more uncomfortable than sitting at (what you thought would be) a great, intimate dinner with your current squeeze and having an ex boyfriend/fling/frenemie sitting at the same table. Suddenly it becomes a race against time and suddenly your appetite just isn’t there.

When there’s a single person dining: You are out with a group of your girls over brunch and there is someone at the communal table with you guys who jumps in on the conversation. Problem is, they may not jump right back out. Once they get that first sentence in it becomes awkward. Are they now part of the crew? Can you just ignore them and go on with your meal? You then start questioning if you’re a bitch. It’s just not pretty.

If you want to be your candid self and are a fan of a little something called ‘privacy’, do your research before going to a restaurant and find a place that will allow you to do just that, that don’t have communal tables.

– Jenny Jen


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