Author Topic: Stranger at my table  (Read 6464 times)

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Psychopoesie

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Stranger at my table
« on: June 24, 2013, 10:34:13 PM »
Hello Ehellions

Long time lurker, first time poster, as the saying goes.

This happened to me several weeks back and I have wondered if there was a better way to handle it.

I was sitting at a table in a cafe enjoying a nice pot of tea, probably reading Ehell on my iPad, and waiting for my food to come out. It was lunchtime and the cafe was full.

Next thing I knew a woman had pulled out one of the vacant chairs at my table and sat down. She had shifted the chair so the back was at a 90 degree angle to the table, so she wasn't facing me. When I looked up surprised, she avoided eye contact. She said nothing to me before she sat down.

I sat there stunned, wondering what to say.

After a long stretch of uncomfortable silence, she asked me if the coffee was good here. I said it was fine. I asked if she was waiting to pick up a take away coffee. She said yes.

Around here, it's not usual for people to sit uninvited at someone else's table, even if there are vacant seats. People waiting for their coffees usually wait at the end of the counter to pick them up. The cafe is in a mall with plenty of other coffee/cafe options if she really wanted to have a sit down coffee.

I would have left it at that, figuring she'd be gone soon.

However, i ended up shifting to another table when it came free - not because i was offended, just some other things seemed weird. Her hands were shaking. When she opened her handbag, she took a bottle of iced coffee out of her purse to drink. So I wasn't sure if what she'd told me about buying a coffee was true or if something else was going on. At the time, I was worried she might be about to steal my handbag or ask for money. While those concerns were probably unfounded, moving away felt right. (And I realise she may just have been unwell or had a stressful experience that day).

I didn't see her pick up a coffee (I was focussing on other things, including my meal). However, the stranger was gone within 10 minutes of me shifting tables.

In the unlikely event this happens again, what could I say or do differently if a stranger decides to sit at my table without asking first? (leaving aside the concerns I had at the time about stealing/begging).

Looking forward to hearing your replies.


Surianne

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Re: Stranger at my table
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2013, 10:38:08 PM »
It doesn't sound to me like she did anything wrong or rude here.  If it makes you uncomfortable to share a table at a crowded, casual coffee place, I think you should get up yourself and move -- as you did when a free table became available.  So you handled it just fine. 

WillyNilly

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Re: Stranger at my table
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2013, 10:42:58 PM »
I don't think either of you was rude or wrong in the situation.

Momiitz

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Re: Stranger at my table
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2013, 11:10:04 PM »
I would always listen to my instincts in these situations, even if they are unfounded. You were polite and it was not rude to switch tables. You were fine.

LifeOnPluto

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Re: Stranger at my table
« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2013, 11:16:07 PM »
How crowded was the cafe? Were there other empty tables she could have chosen to sit at? If so, her behaviour does seem strange, and you were not rude for moving away.

*inviteseller

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Re: Stranger at my table
« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2013, 11:35:56 PM »
It would be one thing if she had asked "is this seat taken?" before she sat, but just sitting down?  Then acting a bit squirrely?  I would have shifted tables too just because I wouldn't want to be drawn into a conversation.

Miss Understood

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Re: Stranger at my table
« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2013, 12:17:37 AM »
It sounds to me that she was experiencing a dizzy spell (the sudden need to sit at a stranger's table, the embarrassment about doing so, the shaky hands, and having a sugary drink on hand to help).  I think you were fine to move away if she was making you uncomfortable, but I do not think she was any threat to you.

Bijou

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Re: Stranger at my table
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2013, 12:30:49 AM »
It sounds to me that she was experiencing a dizzy spell (the sudden need to sit at a stranger's table, the embarrassment about doing so, the shaky hands, and having a sugary drink on hand to help).  I think you were fine to move away if she was making you uncomfortable, but I do not think she was any threat to you.
It very much sounds like this could have been the case.   She could have said she felt faint and needed to sit down, but maybe she was too confused to do so.  I remember getting that feeling at a deli counter and oddly enough, I was embarrassed at having to tell the lady there that I felt like I was gong to pass out, and she kindly walked with me to a place to sit down.  I have never forgotten her kindness.  But if there had been a seat nearby I would have gone and sat down myself. 
« Last Edit: June 25, 2013, 12:32:37 AM by Bijou »
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Sharnita

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Re: Stranger at my table
« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2013, 07:20:36 AM »
I agree that it sounds like she was having a medical moment of some sort, maybe low blood sugar.

lowspark

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Re: Stranger at my table
« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2013, 10:53:26 AM »
It just seems weird to me that she didn't say something when she first sat down.

Do you mind if I sit here? or Is this seat taken? or I'm not feeling well, I need to sit down...
or well, something.

It seems to me that she just sort of assumed the seat wasn't being used since you were sitting alone and occupying yourself with your iPad, and since the cafe was full, maybe this seat was one of the few that were apparently unoccupied.

I don't see anything wrong with you moving if you felt uncomfortable.

Psychopoesie

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Re: Stranger at my table
« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2013, 11:26:18 AM »
OP here.

Thanks for the replies - interesting to see different takes on the situation.

Glad I wasn't rude for moving away. Surprised most don't see anything rude about sitting at a stranger's table without asking first.

Admit it still seems odd to me that she didn't say anything at all before helping herself to a seat. I only had tea at that point & she had no way of knowing that I wasn't waiting for a friend to show up.

Even if she was felt suddenly overcome by dizziness and didn't have time to ask, she could have said afterwards "sorry, I'm not feeling well and need to sit for a bit." Medical issues certainly trump etiquette considerations.

Asking to share an unoccupied seat at most cafes, even if there are no free tables, is not something that happens often. Few times I have been asked, I've usually regretted saying yes (stranger wanted to chat and I just wanted some quiet time).

Sitting without asking - very rare (based on a quick poll of people I know  :)), unless in a communal eating situation (like long tables at a noodle house or at a university refectory). Even in very casual eating situations, like a food court in a mall, I'd still ask first and be prepared to accept no as an answer.

Agree the stranger may have had no bad intentions towards me. Since I moved to another table fairly quickly, it's impossible to say for sure.

Was very curious to see if there were other ways to handle this. Thanks again to those who posted.


Sharnita

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Re: Stranger at my table
« Reply #11 on: June 25, 2013, 11:31:26 AM »
Some people are not comfortable disclosing medical info, even/especially "I feel dizzy"

snowdragon

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Re: Stranger at my table
« Reply #12 on: June 25, 2013, 11:35:00 AM »
OP, I agree, I would not be pleased about this. Sorry, you don't just intrude on someone. Especially if you are just going ignore them when you do.  I would also have moved - right out the door.  And I would not be in a hurry to return to the shop if that is the culture of the shop - it's not my desire to sit with anyone who wants to. I go to coffee shops either to study or to meet up with friends


Edited for typos
« Last Edit: June 25, 2013, 11:42:44 AM by snowdragon »

Winterlight

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Re: Stranger at my table
« Reply #13 on: June 25, 2013, 11:41:38 AM »
It just seems weird to me that she didn't say something when she first sat down.

Do you mind if I sit here? or Is this seat taken? or I'm not feeling well, I need to sit down...
or well, something.

It seems to me that she just sort of assumed the seat wasn't being used since you were sitting alone and occupying yourself with your iPad, and since the cafe was full, maybe this seat was one of the few that were apparently unoccupied.

I don't see anything wrong with you moving if you felt uncomfortable.

Agreed. I think it would have been polite for her to say something at some point.
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HyenaInPetticoats

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Re: Stranger at my table
« Reply #14 on: June 25, 2013, 11:45:38 AM »


It would have been polite for her to have said "do you mind if I sit here", but the very fact she was shaking and looking a bit edgy seems to suggest she may have had low blood sugar. I know for sure all the diabetics in my family sometimes look very off when they have low blood sugar, I don't blame you for feeling a bit nervous.