Last week, I had a date. Except it wasn’t really a date—we were supposed to meet up when he got back into the city after Shabbat dinner in Queen, but I knew that he probably wasn’t going to make it back on time.
So I found myself sitting alone on the second floor of Whole Foods, tucked up against the floor-to-ceiling windows, staring out at the brilliantly lit Empire State Building over a bustling Union Square on a Friday night.
And it wasn’t as lonely as it sounds.
As a person who is completely captivated by the city and has little patience to wait around for others to be similarly enthralled, I oftentimes find myself hopping on the 1 train for a solo trip downtown. There are plenty of places in the city that are perfectly acceptable, if not preferable, to visit alone.
This particular evening, Whole Foods’ cafe was jam-packed. A businessman (and, he was eager to mention, a former Columbia student) explained life as a New Yorker to two German tourists, while a group of New York University modern dance students discussed all the things that were wrong with ballet teachers.
People from all walks of life passed through—couples, singles, families, workers, tourists, and lone faces like me just silently observing the rest. It struck me that New York is one of the only places in the world where such a lively scene is to be had at 10 p.m. on a Friday night—and one of the only places where I could be comfortable being completely alone at such a time.
As the evening waned, I decided to move from my perch (but not before observing two undercover cops bust a few drug dealers in the park). I headed up Union Square East to the W Hotel Union Square—another haunt that I knew would have space for a single person looking for a seat and a few crazies to observe. I was also hungry, and knew that they always have a large bowl of free apples at the check-in desk.
Instead of finding a comfy couch for myself, I discovered another one of my favorite things about New York—friendly strangers. What do you do if you are a 30-something-year-old guy out with a few buddies on a Friday night, and a lonely-looking girl walks in, obviously in need of a seat? You ask her to sit down.
And so my group of one became a group of six, and I found myself with a pseudo-date for the evening. He was a theater producer out with his banker friends from New Jersey, and actually made being in theater sound more promising than being in finance. We discussed my lack of a date, my experience at Columbia, my future in law school, and my desire to save the world (everyone seems skeptical about that one).
I spent a perfectly pleasant hour and a half in the company of five people I had never met before, just because I decided to walk into a bar alone. At the end of the evening, a really drunk lady handed me a rose and told me I was pretty.
This is why I tell my mother that I don’t need to look for a husband. I can marry Manhattan.