Solo Act

Maybe it’s about twenty years of business travel under my skirt.  Maybe it’s my age.  Approaching 50, i find i could give far less than a fractional fuck about what strangers think of me. 

Or maybe it’s just because time alone is a luxury, providing a little time to think without distraction, or the need to attend to someone else.

Spending just over 24 hours alone, on the front end of a business trip.  Some combination of a need for sunshine and a need to change up the scenery brought me to the airport a day earlier than truly necessary for this trip.

Soaking up my share of photons poolside in the unseasonably warm afternoon, while blowing the dust off of a book i’d started and abandoned months ago.  Floating on the edge of the pool, with my chin on the warm red bricks.  The smell of baking clay and chlorine.

Wandering off to the river district, watching the families, couples and roving hen parties gearing up for a big Saturday night out on the town.  Slow stroll on the cobblestones as the sun dropped. 

Looking at the bars and restaurants and taking my time deciding on what i wanted to do for dinner.  No need to consult anyone else, it was entirely my choice, and i didn’t want to rush.

The winner?  Irish pub on the river made the cut.  Fish and chips, with malt vinegar.  At the bar, settled in between a couple engrossed in conversation, and a group of probable business folks, collecting for happy hour. 

No book.  No television to catch my gaze.  No newspaper, blackberry, phone or magazine in my hand.  It hit me — ten years ago, i could never have done this.  Sitting alone at a bar in a somewhat unfamiliar city.  Ordering a pint, and dinner.

But “the game” never fails to amuse me…. Eavesdropping on conversations.  Trying to imagine what sorts of bodies belong to the voices from behind me.  Watching the bartenders – racing here and there, washing glasses and settling tabs as if world peace depended on it. 

Reconsidering my retirement plans to tend bar as the ass-nugget next to me reveals his hootin’ and hollerin’ voice.  Attempting to chat up the bartender, and pretend that they’ve been best buddies for years.  The little blonde next to him mutters something about “inside voice” but he can’t hear it over his own bleating stupidity.

Finishing my dinner, i asked for another pint in a ‘go cup’ – the civilized city i’m camped in allows alcohol in ‘open containers’ on the street, with a rather fierce enforcement policy about public intoxication.  You can drink on the streets, but you damn well better not be drunk.

Wandering the river district after dark.  Sipping a beer on a beautiful evening, while watching the container ships move out to sea.  Watching couples snuggle on a bench.  A man cleaning up after a dog the size of a small ox.  A fellow who seemed to be the official ‘greeter’, welcoming everyone who came along with a “How ya doin’ tonight, folks?”

My skin.  It’s getting more comfortable with each passing year.