You really tried not to be punctual. You wanted to show up, look around, see your friends but pretend not to. Then, after a second glance around, you would “notice them” (they’re waving at this point) and amble over to take the place they’re hurriedly clearing for you.
But that didn’t happen. The plan was to meet at 10. You arrive at 10:08. You really underestimated the lack of concern a group has being on time. There’s power and legitimacy in numbers, and you had was you and ostensibly well-laid plans to be waited-for. But here you are, the waiter.
What can you do?
1. Find a seat. The only thing worse than being blind-sided by the failure of your best-laid plans is having to stand around while you wait for the pieces to be picked up. But this decision comes with its own level of stress. Where do you sit? There are like five people meeting you. Ahhh, but you can’t just go take a booth, the staff and patrons alike will resent you. They don’t know you’ve got a whole squad on the way (more on this later).
You take a seat at the bar.
Suddenly you decide to compromise and find a small table. Not too big of an intrusion. And, hey, once your friends get here you’ll just move to a booth. No stares and glares and unspoken profanity coming your way!
But fuck. This stool is uncomfortable. Should’ve just sat at the bar… Too late now. You take a booth. You’re all in. An elevated heart rate is understandable.
2. Order something. After all, you’re nonchalant. You’re occupying a booth. You are a big fucking, yet casual deal. “Oh, nothing, just checkin Twitter and firing off some iMessages. Not that I give a shit,” is your vibe, as you desperately open and close apps, waiting for a server to notice you.
Finally, someone walks over. “What can I get you?” They reasonably ask some version of.
For all your outward aloofness, you can’t fake this. “Uh, uh. Can I see a drink menu?” You stammer. The server looks down their nose and you can see just the tiniest, but cripplingly skeptical raise of an eyebrow. “It’s right here.” Utterly devastated, you go with the first thing you recognize. They turn around and walk away. You collapse into your seat; stripped of whatever dignity you had left over from picking a seat.
3. Explain that your friends are on their way. Like totally on their way. You’re halfway done with the liquid emotional trauma that was your order. The server comes back and asks if you’d like to order any food, or something. “No, well, maybe another one of…my friends are meeting…I guess I’ll wait.” You state with absolute conviction and certainty. The server, because they are trying to do their job, leans down and asks you to repeat yourself. “Oh, my friends are meeting me…” “No, like would you like something else?” You’re really running out of chances to rebuild yourself now. In a moment of contrition and defeat you get another of whatever you had before. The seconds are becoming minutes and the minutes, hours. You’re starting to feel like the “five minutes away” your friends purported to be wasn’t totally accurate.
4. Look around the establishment again. You know, like you’re expecting to recognize someone. You’ve got to regain your credibility with the patrons and staff somehow, and if you can greet just one even casual acquaintance, it’s sure to do wonders for your reputation. So you cast your eyes over this corner, and that table, and holy shit you see someone you know.
This all-important section of the night has found salvation! A familiar face! Nah, but play it cool though; you’re re-establishing your social worth in the eyes of the masses, not drunkenly bursting into an informal high school reunion. Play. It. Cool.
Remember that fantasy you nurtured before setting foot in this place? Yeah, that’s right: the one where you pretend not to see your crew. This is the time to make it a reality.
You swivel your head around again. And bingo, horrible, sweaty-palms-inducing bingo, you’ve got eye contact, baby. Now just look back down and take a sip. They’re on the spot now.
But fifteen seconds and three sips later, they still haven’t made the first move and, petrified, your tragicomedy plays on.
5. Try to actively not check your phone. The time is now 10:18. You know that because you just checked your phone. But the time for that sort of pathetic cry in the void is over. Time to act like you’ve been here before. Time to look like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. You’re not waiting for friends, you’re finding meaning in the mirrors and the bottom of a glass. How could you possibly check your Facebook when the human condition is right there, ripe for conjecture?
You’re able to squint into your glass, and then off into the distance for what seems like an eternity. Finally, satisfied with the aura of intellect and indifference to technology you’re giving off, you check your phone. Can’t hurt. Maybe your vibrate isn’t working.
There’s nothing but your background and the time. Which is 10:22.
6. Approach the person you recognized. Fine, fine, if aloofness, intellectual or otherwise, isn’t helping, maybe magnanimity will. You get up, leaving your precious booth and walk over to where your partner in eye contact, and the people they’re with that you sort of recognize as well, are standing.
Yes, you could’ve just stayed standing.
You give a tap on the shoulder. Really more of a poke, I guess. From behind is really the worst way to approach someone, especially in this case, because your friend’s friends see you first. Again, you sort of recognize them; there’s no telling how much of an impression you left on them.
Anyways, you’re introduced or re-introduced around. You exhaust some small talk. You check your phone when someone else does, you know, really, really subtly. The time is 10:25.
7. You excuse yourself to go get another drink. You’re back at the bar, for all intents and purposes alone again. You could’ve just sat here the whole time. You get your third drink. You break down and double-text the original friends you were supposed to meet.
“Five minutes away” and “So sorry!!”
The booth is still open. You take it again. After all, you’re going to need room for six.