There are some days when you just want to plug into your playlist, eat your food in self-imposed melancholy and tell everyone else to essentially f*ck off.
Understanding this desire to be forever alone, the folks over at Japan’s Kyoto University and Kobe University installed “lonely seats” (bocchi seki) when refurbishing their dining halls. The new dining tables feature 50-centimeter dividers in the middle, similar to the partitioned study desks you find in libraries. This design allows busy students to skip the chit chat with friends and evade the apparently stressful task of socializing.
“When I don’t have much time or I’m in a hurry, the lonely seats are convenient,” a 22 year-old female student told Asahi News.
The bocchi seats also help students who find eating alone to be uncomfortable. “If you are sitting at a big table by yourself it’s like you don’t have any friends and that is embarrassing,” said one 22 year-old male student.
While I enjoy the occasional meal alone as much as the next fellow (it allows for unlimited people watching), I’m a bit wary of these lonely seats. Sometimes, small talk over your mac n’ cheese is good for you, whether you like it or not.
“Table for one.” At most restaurants, that tiny statement is enough to earn you more than a couple confused, if not pitying looks. But not at Amsterdam’s “Eenmaal,” the world’s first self-proclaimed “one-person” restaurant, where tiny tables and single placemats and ample personal space are enough to make anyone feel like a leper, on purpose.
The two-day pop-up opened its doors last Thursday and takes its name from the Dutch word for “once,” according to Google Translate. As in, once I had friends, but they all stayed in our hometown when I moved to the big city. Or once I had a girlfriend but we broke up and she took the dog. Or once I spent my lunch hours at bars chatting up the bartender until I realized he was way out of my league and I would be alone forever and somehow ended up at this awful restaurant that seemingly exists just to reinforce my loneliness.
In all honesty, I like eating by myself, but because I’m a voyeur who loves people watching, not because I enjoy being gawked at, which seems to be the only thing a place like Eenmaal would be good for. Well, that and recreating that perfect seeing-a-gorgeous-stranger-from-across-the-room moment. It’s okay, it’s not like you were going to talk to your dining companion anyway.