Three years ago i wrote a provocative piece about the art of obtaining sympathy through the use of a wheelchair. Since that time i have received numerous responses, some of which have banned me from volunteering at the special Olympics. Others have informed me that i have been condemned by churches of varying faiths…and some told me that i was no longer their son. These responses aside there were others who let me know just how important my article was and how never since J.D. Salinger’s epic ‘Catcher In the Rye’ had a piece of literature touched there lives so much . I have never read this book because of my dislike for tales involving sports, but from what i imagine this story rivals even that of “Air Bud”, the basketball playing golden retriever who won all of our hearts back in 1997.
Today my intent isn’t to reminisce about my previous works but to expand on it’s theme. To pull away another inch of the shroud to reveal more of the canvas i have painted. The theme is Sympathy and it’s beauty is for all of us to ogle and embrace.
Everyday in our country thousands of people flock to surrounding neighborhood restaurants. Eager to have our palets entertained while celebrating those moments we often forget only weeks later (mom’s birthday, that big promotion, neighbor’s noisy dog that died, birth of a child). What is it that makes these dining experiences so forgettable? Why does it seem as if we are just going through the motions or keeping an annual appointment with boredom? The truth is we are having to “share” these moments with friends and family. Regardless of relation or blood they are all too self absorbed to care about your day, your thoughts, or your feelings. The celebration should be about YOU. The only way to accomplish this is to shed the very weights that are holding you down. I’m not proposing for you to leave your families forever, you need them for tax purposes. What i do propose is an evening at your favorite sit down restaurant by YOURSELF.
“People will think I’m a loser”. “Everyone is gonna stare at me.” “It’s socially unacceptable to eat by yourself in public.” “Strangers will wonder what is wrong with me”. These are the thoughts going through your mind right now. To these thoughts i say they are all true and all of your worst fears will come to fruition. But if you play your hand properly you can turn these catastrophic events into an evening filled with pity, empathy, and my most favorite word of all …sympathy. Because when you are on the receiving end of sympathy there is nothing to share…it’s a gift only one person can open. Sympathy is not a hand grenade. Sympathy is a single bullet fired from a marksman concealed in a tree, intended for a single recipient. So let’s make this night I’m preparing one to remember. Let’s make this night about the person who matters the most…..you.
Shall we get to the moment at hand? The following is a not a step by step tutorial leading to a single climatic event like my previous article. Instead this will be a series of events all of which rely on each other for the overall success of this operation. Should any of these steps fail the entire night could blow up in your face and leave you walking out of the restaurant a laughing stock.
First off let’s talk about wardrobe. As with any character actor we must look the part. Take Mario Van Peebles in the movie “Solo”. In this movie he played a futuristic cyborg who smokes cigars. The attention to detail for his role was crucial. Without the cigar the believability of his character comes into question. But with the cigar in hand we become immersed into a world so real we begin to question our own. A good example of what not to do when preparing for a role is to take a look at Brendan Fraser in any one of his movies. The character we will be creating is lonely…looking for acceptance in a world he doesn’t quite understand. He has trusted others in the past but has been hurt one too many times. Although he has created some walls, he still desires to be around others. His only pleasures come from being a witness to the joy of those around him. I’m starting to cry already. What does this person look like? Well, he doesn’t wear named brands….instead he wears off brands. Polo shirts but instead of an alligator on the chest he has a unicorn. No bright colors but nothing that blends either….i like a mustard yellow that way we can see the unicorn more easily and it stands out without screaming confidence. Keep the pants simple…khakis will do the trick. To complete the look let’s go with a pair of generic gray sneakers and dark blue socks. This will serve as our fashion faupaux without insinuating we are of a lower income level. We do not want the pity to be because of our financial stature. We want it to be because of our loneliness. Make sure that everything is neatly pressed before leaving the house. No hats and no sunglasses. You do not want to obstruct the view of your lonely face. If you are self conscious about a receding hairline or some awful scar, this is not the time. These will add to the amount of sympathy you will receive while dining tonight. Make them work for you.
In the real estate game you often hear the phrase “location, location, location”. This also holds true for what we are creating. Like every story the setting is enormously important. Take Star Wars for example….if it had happened somewhere else it would have lost everything that made it so fantastical. No one would have gone to see a movie called “Iowa Wars”. We need scenery that allows our character to be noticed but not so empty that we spoil the plot….obtaining sympathy. Let’s look for a place that has a bit of a wait. This will serve us in two ways. Character development as well as notoriety. I like to go to a certain steak house that allows me to give my name and party size. They have a waiting room very close to the front doors. This allows me to open doors for new visitors of the establishment as well as for people who have finished and our leaving for their cars. We have now established our character as a good guy in front of our fellow diners who will be seated around the same time as yourself. And trust me they will take notice. This is called the set up. Like any set up you don’t want to reveal your hand too soon. You don’t want to be the creepy guy sitting by himself waiting to be called for your table. This will let everyone know too soon that you are by yourself and put you into a category of a pedophile. The three lowest things in the world are pedophiles, people who eat by themselves, and rapists. We however are creating something new. We are turning something that is typically sneered at into something quite sad. So open doors, smile but not too big, keep your eyes big and innocent, and most importantly do not speak. Nod if you have to…but the only words spoken tonight will be to your waiter or waitress and that is only to order your meal. This will add mystery to our character and allow the imaginations of our victims to run wild. Now the hostess’s voice will come over the loud speaker. She will say your name and the most important part….”party of 1″. Careful not to make eye contact with anyone. You almost have to look embarrassed or ashamed. Now that we have everyone’s attention let’s get to our table.
I personally like to avoid booths. They are too out of the way and secluded. Remember we don’t want to be the creepy guy. Besides we want to remain visible to as many people as possible. I like tables in the middle, preferably with four chairs…this will intensify the loneliness we are creating and pay big dividends in the pity department. When the waiter arrives to your table become startled as if you are not use to human contact. Don’t over do it. You don’t want to look frightened. A subtle, startled look will do the trick. Remember we are walking a fine line between “creepy pedophile guy” and “lonely guy who ventured out to see what happy people are like guy”. Once you have ordered your food don’t play with your cell phone. As a matter of fact don’t even bring a cell phone. You don’t want it to ring, It might make you look like you’re important to somebody. Don’t fidget either. Crazy people fidget when they are by themselves and our character is not crazy. Instead we are going to interlock our fingers with our forearms parallel to the table surface and look down. Once the correct posture has been achieved we will begin glancing up and observing our fellow patrons. Keep the eyes big and innocent and use a teddy bear smile. The teddy bear smile was invented out of necessity by Franz Lehmun in 1912. It was discovered that teddy bears with too big of smiles scared little children preventing them from falling asleep.This smile is perfect for our character. When someone notices you looking at them look down and repeat the steps with another family…we don’t want to seem like a stalker so keep your eyes moving around. Now the most important part. When you hear laughter from a table draw your attention to that table and smile. This time we want to go big. If anyone notices you joining in on their fun look down and slowly wipe the smile from you face and be embarrassed. Psychopaths do not get embarrassed so this will establish you as safe thus building the trust. By now you should be feeling it. Sympathy is all around and directed at you. Some people may even be whispering about you “aaahhhh that is so sad, hes all by himself” and “man, i wish we could invite him to sit with us.” “I wonder what happened that he’s so alone….he seems like a nice guy.” Count on it. These are the things that are being said all around you. Even though you won’t hear their words knowing that they are being said is satisfying enough. This night is all about you and these strangers are the ones making it happen…..something your friends and families would have never aloud.
By the time your food comes all of this should be second nature. The only difference is food has been added into the formula. Eat slowly, chew with your mouth closed and keep up what you’ve been doing all along. When it’s time to leave you can simply walk out real slow and enjoy all the sympathetic stares on the way out. But i personally like to take it one step further. Because i want to see tears on my way out. When i get up i like to leave a single red rose at the empty seat opposite me . If you are going to do this the rose has to be concealed up until the very end. Maybe in a back pack or briefcase. Once the rose has been laid down women will have there hands over there mouths in shock while the eyes fill up with sadness. Grown men will even be fighting back the explosion of tears fighting it’s way to the surface. I call this the “Sixth Sense ending”. No one sees it coming. It’s very emotional and depending how deep you’ve gotten into the role you may get a little teary yourself. And that’s ok…just don’t cry and lose all control. Save it for when you get out to the car.
Sympathy is a very intoxicating drug and we are all junkies for it. If i were to compare my brand of obtaining it to your common whiner…my brand is Colombian made and theirs is just street trash variety. I hope this helps all of you who have read this article and feel free to share any experiences that you have had as a result. Yours Truly, Seahorse