Eating Alone: You Never Know Who You Might Meet

Did you ever stay home just because you had to eat out alone, when everyone else was eating with others? Not a pleasant feeling! When I have to do this, I usually take a paper or a crossword to keep my mind from thinking, why am I here alone. The Swiss have an easy answer for this dilemma. Their word for it is Stammtisch. It is a large table that seats maybe ten or so, and it is a communal table for singles. Anyone can sit there upon request, if alone. You will find others at the table that are in same boat as you are – and of course conversation is sure to follow, especially if there is an American at the table. I learned this from a TWA guidebook concerning Zurich. That kind of gives my age away, doesn’t it! The guide said among other things, you’ll never know who you might meet at the table – 100% correct. One night when I sat down at the table, a Swiss man asked me how I happened to get there. I pulled out the guidebook which said, “You will never know who you might meet when you sit at the Stammtisch.” Naturally, I had to ask him, whom am I meeting? It turned out he was a director and officer of the largest insurance company in Switzerland and maybe the world. We both enjoyed what turned out to be a good meal and a wonderful conversation. You probably were wondering if there were women at the table. No, there were not. Maybe it’s a Swiss thing! The next...

A Lesson in Kindness: Washing Clothes in Paris

My wife and I were in Paris about 20 years ago, and we needed to wash our clothes in a laundromat. The only problem was there were no coin slots on the washing machines. We couldn’t read the signs (in French) on how to go about using them. We were totally confused. All of a sudden, a lady came up to us and in fairly good English said, “Do you want me to help you?” Did we ever. She led us to a corner of the store, and there we saw a coin slot hooked up to a computer. You told the computer what you wanted to do, and it told you how much to put in the slot. It then directed you to the numbered machine you were to use. All in French of course! When the washing was over, our kind French lady was still at our side; and we got the drying started. Half way thru the drying cycle, I said to my wife, “There’s a flower shop directly across the Street. I am going over there and buy this kind lady a large bouquet for being so nice.” I came back with the flowers, and when I gave them to her, all of her emotions let loose. She started hugging us, crying , and thanking us all at the same time. When she finally calmed down, I asked her what brought this on. She said today was her 50th birthday, and she was all alone. No one to take her to tea, or out to dinner! No one to wish her a happy birthday, or...