Our friendship began when she asked me if I’ve ever tried the carrot cake.
I said that I hadn’t — carrot cake is on the short list of desserts I don’t like — but that I’d had the molten chocolate cake and I was looking forward to having it again that night. I also have tried the beignets, I told her, and I hear they bring in their cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory.
She asked me how long I’d been waiting. Something like 20 minutes already, I said. Another new friend who happened to be listening said she’d been waiting for 35 minutes. And our other new friend, who had been waiting for 40 minutes, just got called to go to her table. We cheered, praising her good fortune, wishing her a good meal.
Who knew that waiting for a table at the Grand Lux Cafe would create such a camaraderie?
In real life, strangers tend not to talk to each other. We might even avoid eye contact altogether. We stay in our own groups of friends; and when our friends aren’t there to provide a protective shield, we hide behind our cell phones, newspapers, or the intricate details of our shoelaces.
But when you share a common bond of being hungry, wondering how long you’ll have to wait, and picking a dessert in advance, there are no strangers in the world. Only fellow Grand Lux Cafe patrons who haven’t become your friends yet.
Left to my own devices, I would almost never strike up a conversation with a stranger. But as strange as it is to say, part of my heart opened up Saturday night while talking about carrot cake. The idea that we’re all in this together – we’re all alike, even if our dessert choices differ slightly.
Maybe next time we’re surrounded by strangers (unless they’re the type of strangers with candy and a white van), maybe we should all try a little harder to reach out. Thank you, Mrs. Carrot Cake, for inspiring me to attempt to make the world a little smaller.