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Monday, September 9, 2013

Dining solo

One of the most difficult parts of a book promotion tour can be restaurant meals on your own.  In fact, when I saw the amusing cartoon to the left, it crossed my mind that in a formal restaurant in a strange city, you would almost welcome the bogeyman for company...

So I was interested to see a magazine article in this past Saturday's New Zealand Herald, describing ways and means of beating the dining solo blues.

The first challenge is the staff.  Did you know that some waiters mark the order sheet "LG" for "Lonely girl" or 'Lonely guy?" And that the occasional maître d' will seat a solo as far from the window as possible, preferably next to the toilets? 

They should be absolutely ashamed of themselves, and restaurants that encourage that sort of behaviour should be avoided by everyone, not just the solos.

Years ago, in Rarotonga, I saw an American man come into one of the local restaurants by himself.  He was in late middle age, and obviously on a business trip.  The two waitresses, both lovely Cook Island Maori girls, set out to make him feel at home.  They took turns to chat, to recommend dishes, ask simple things about how long he would be on the island, tell him about local sights, and ask him about his kids and grandkids at home.  It was all very innocent, and he was having a wonderful time, simply because they had taken pains to make him feel comfortable.

There certainly should be no stigma in dining alone, and it seems from the article that the restaurant trade might have grown up and taken this little fact on board, there being so many solo business diners out there. But still tips for writers and editors who are on solo book-related trips are welcome, and the story provides those, too.

Carrying a book or a newspaper is an old ploy, but a good one.  (My thought is that an even better idea is to carry your just-published book, and hold it up as you read it, so that the whole restaurant can admire the jacket.)  According to the story, carrying an iPad is also a good idea. Dining at the bar is preferable to a table, as one can strike up a conversation with the barman, if the people on the other stools aren't amicable. 

But, in my experience, the best thing to do is remember my story about the businessman in Raro, and get into conversation with the waiters.  If you have lots of giveaways, like bookmarks and postcards to promote your book, they will love you.

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