I’m a solitary person by nature. It’s not that I’m mean or don’t want to talk to anybody, I just rather keep to myself: watch TV, do a puzzle, knit a sweater. When I was younger and would play “pretend,” it was always me with a book, pretending I was alone somewhere, like on the high seas, reading a book. (Exciting, isn’t it? Actually sometimes I would play Star Wars or Super Heroes with the neighbor kids, but only if I got to be Princess Leia or Wonder Woman.) If I had to guess, I’d say the solitude thing is a combination of me being shy and me being from a large family. Either way you look at it, it’s usually a relief to be alone. There’s no one forcing you to make conversation or sticking a wet finger in your ear when you’re trying to drive. It’s quiet and peaceful. Recently, though, I’ve discovered that being alone also has its downsides. Like the other day, after a hard day of fighting teenage girls at the sale racks at Wet Seal, I found myself at the mall’s food court. Now, normally, I don’t eat fast food. Butt, I was starving. As in, ready to eat an entire horse and then wash it down with one. I decided to go to the Chick-Fil-A, mainly because I remembered from back in the day (read: before my metabolism slowed to a crawl) that one: their chicken is yum, and two: they’re closed on Sundays. I think it’s due to religious reasons -- that’s what I’ve always heard. I guess, as a journalist, I could call someone up and confirm that rumor, but really, I don’t feel like it, and would anyone really care? No. Anyway, because it was Saturday, I knew that if I didn’t just pony up to the line, the next day I’d be thinking about Chick-fil-A and it would be Sunday and they’d be closed and then I’d go on some sort of caloric bender because of the craving. But their line was longer than Christina Aguilera’s extensions (don’t even tell me that’s her real hair, ‘cause it’s not) and the people in line were not exactly happy about it. Finally I get up to the front of the line and order a grilled chicken Caesar salad. Then the counter boy mumbled, “What kind of dressing do you want?” I was thrown. Because I wanted a Caesar salad, which doesn’t really have dressing, other than Caesar, but it should come with that (I mean, that is a Caesar salad, am I wrong? I sort of thought that the dressing was what made it Caesar). Anyway, like I said, I was thrown. Dressing? Wary of the angry line-goers behind and all around me, I quickly looked up at the menu, spied the list of dressings, found the first one that appealed to me and said, “Honey mustard.” That was a mistake. As the boy worked on my order, I took some time to read the menu more closely and discovered that Caesar was a dressing you could choose (which says to me that if you wanted a Caesar, you could just buy a side salad and ask for the dressing and save yourself some money, which is what I’ll be doing next time). But this time, I flagged down the counter boy and asked him if I could have Caesar dressing. Five or so minutes later I was pushing limp lettuce and cold chicken (if it was grilled, it must have been prior to the Cold War) covered in honey mustard dressing around the plastic pan and frowning. You see, there was no Caesar dressing with my order. In an ordinary situation, I would have marched my patooty right back on up there, gotten my Caesar dressing, and would have forgotten all about it. But no, Chick-fil-A still had a monster line, I had been shopping all morning, and I was alone. The alone thing was the main problem. I certainly couldn’t leave all my stuff unattended on the table, but I dreaded having to repackage the salad, grab all my bags -- my purse alone weighs more than a small child -- and go wait in line again. I just couldn't do it. I ate the salad and now, days later, I’m still bothered by it. I guess the saddest part is that there are tons of activities like that. Activities that you can go to alone, but it’s best not to. Like going to the movies. You can go alone, but it’s embarrassing. And, you know what, it’s those times that I just wish someone was there to stick their wet finger in my ear. ( Mary Cashiola writes about life every Friday @ memphisflyer.com. You’re invited to come along.)


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