Friday, January 13, 2012

Personal Space

Believe it or not, there are five deer in this picture, and there were more out of range of the camera. The deer often sleep or doze in the woods behind our house, but it is interesting to me that they always space themselves so evenly apart. They don't gather together to snuggle and share body heat. They seem to travel in herds so if you see one, there are generally more nearby. However, it seems to me, based on my observations,  that they require a certain amount of personal space when they settle on the ground to doze and chew their lunch for hours.

They remind me of people in restaurants, or more accurately, myself. I like personal space too. Anytime I enter a restaurant, I am curious to see where the hostess will decide to seat us and wonder on what they base those decisions. We have friends who have a philosophy that they never accept the first table offered by the hostess and have scouted the restaurant upon entering to determine the spot where they prefer to sit. They then insist on their chosen spot and are very firm with the hostess about where they prefer to sit. Over the years, we have become more and more assertive also about sitting wherever we prefer as opposed to where an eighteen-year-old hostess thinks we should sit.

It is very curious to me that the person seating diners will try to fill a whole section of the restaurant and leave certain areas with open tables. They direct people to tables beside the other diners even if there are only a few diners in the restaurant. I prefer that they give people a little space and seat them with several tables separating the customers so that they can have more private conversations.

When I worked, we often went out to dinner and we liked to catch up on events of the day or our personal circumstances. That might include conversations about our family members, or our financial dealings, or other personal conversations that we didn't want to share with people at other tables. Sometimes we would just have to say "later" because some conversations aren't for restaurant tables. Because I was a teacher in a public high school, I had many events of the day to discuss with hubby or even friends that I couldn't discuss in a restaurant because people I didn't know would recognize me and I wouldn't be aware that they were eavesdropping. I liked to keep a low profile so I couldn't discuss anything to do with my work in a restaurant.

Of course a restaurant hostess isn't seating people according to the preference of the customers, but for the convenience of restaurant staff or the servers. I don't know how they have been trained as to the proper approach to seating diners or if various restaurants have distinct policies. They all seem to have the default of seating people as close as possible to other diners. Do they really think that I want to listen to the conversation of a dating couple in their teens because we have been seated beside them? It annoys me when we are seated beside a family with active children. I like kids, but I like an adult dinner without the interruptions of kids.

It is hard to avoid conversations at adjoining tables so why not space diners away from nearby tables so that they can speak freely with the people who are dining with them whether it is a husband and wife, or two couples? They can fill in the empty tables as the restaurant gets busier and more tables are needed. When a restaurant is busy, it becomes noisy and seating diners next to other tables is necessary, but conversations are more private because they are covered by the noise in the room. 

I like a lot of personal space in restaurants so we have early dinners to avoid crowds. I tell them I want to sit elsewhere when they want to seat us a foot and a half from the only other diners in the restaurant. I have only had one hostess say we couldn't sit where we wanted, so we said we would eat elsewhere and we left.


  1. haha. This post reminds me of the time David and I were seated in a booth. We discussed a former attorney I worked for, even mentioning his name. Towards the end of the hour, a man got up from the booth next to ours and said hello. It was the attorney's partner at the firm I used to work. How embarrassing! So, yes, I do agree with you about spacing restaurant patrons!

  2. I much prefer it when the hostess takes us to a seat, but asks us if the table is OK. Then we can at least have the option to sit elsewhere.

  3. Ooh, neat photo! That's so interesting how they all like their own little spaces.

    Sometimes at a restaurant we'll ask for a booth rather than a table if it's not too busy or we don't have to wait too much longer for it but some places around here you take what you get and like it. Last night we went to the Outback to use a g.c. we got for Christmas. At 7:30 on a Thursday night we had to wait for a table! Luckily it wasn't a long wait.

    When a place isn't as busy I think the hostess has to go on some sort of rotation so that each waitress/waiter gets an equal amount of customers at their assigned tables. So if you request another table, that's probably fine, but the hostess would have to remember that if they skipped a certain table to put the next patron there to be fair.
    I don't know why they bunch people into smaller sections if the place isn't busy.
    If I requested a certain seat and was refused and it wasn't being held for a reservation or something I'd probably feel annoyed with that.

  4. I had to look long and hard for the fifth deer in that picture. But I found him!

    I have been intrigued by the way people come onto the bus and seat themselves. Some are not willing to share a seat next to them and put their purse or belongings there to signal that. Others always are considerate of other people and move to the farthest seat and hold their belongings in their lap.

    Same thing in restaurants. I usually sit where I have decided I would like to sit, and it's rarely a problem with the wait staff.

  5. I'm with you - I prefer some space between diners if the restaurant is empty. Sometimes we want private conversations and for some reason the hostess just doesn't seem to get that!

  6. interesting observations... i always look who "runs" to get their back to the wall, my mother always did that. i usually take the seat with my back to the restaurant because i don't care...

    smiles, bee