I was settling into my chosen as- comfortably- far- away- from -the- world- as- I- can- get- in- public booth at a popular fast food restaurant. I had just begun to stuff my fries (I know, potatoes are the worst food on earth for a diabetic) into my face-hole when suddenly to my left the worst thing that could happen to a person with social anxiety happened.
“Can I sit with you?” The voice came strong and fast.
I was caught off guard. Was this stranger speaking to me? OMG, did she just say what I think she said? The restaurant had like ten quadrillion empty tables, why sit with me? I was confused and instantly flooded with anxiety. I didn’t have time to think, I just reacted.
I smiled politely and with a polite tone the word just came out of my mouth as if I just opened the gate and it fell out like the awkward dunce I feel like when I have to talk to anyone.
“I don’t like to sit alone. I feel weird eating alone.” She replied in that same fast, clipped tone.
Still stunned and profoundly uncomfortable, my childhood training and nature of compassion took over. I don’t even think I was in any control of my mouth and voice.
“Sure, go ahead.” I even nodded and motioned to the seat across from me! Gah!!!
…The once gloriously empty seat across from me was now sullied by the warm booty of a strange woman.
And she’s looking at me!!!!
OMG! Save me! I can’t do this, I can’t handle this thing!…this….socializing!
I smiled nervously. My eyes darted every which way but at her. I looked out the window…she looked out the window. I looked over to the service counter…she looked over to the service counter.
I couldn’t bring myself to look at her and she seemed to be a bit confused by this. Then…
WTF?! She’s taking her shoes off!
“I’m going to take some of your fries.” She said.
Again she spoke fast; and this time she kind of mumbled so I didn’t catch what she had said right away.
I smiled like an idiot.
“Just kidding, you know I don’t like fries.” She said with a slight giggle.
Is she talking to me?
Then she opened her food bag and pulled out a cheeseburger. Next, she went through her pockets carefully pulling out each item and laying it on the table in front of her.
A Raiders game ticket, old and kind of crumpled. She smoothed it out.
A credit card shaped card with the Raiders logo on the front and a game calendar printed on the back.
“Nice.” I said, not having the slightest idea of how to react or of what was going on.
Two one dollar bills and two quarters.
And lastly a small white piece of paper. I couldn’t tell exactly what it was.
Then she touched each item with her index finger, stacked them all carefully, and then put each item back exactly where it had come from in her pockets.
All the while she was mumbling, rocking back and forth a bit, and sometimes looking around and nodding her head.
Is this woman on drugs?!
Then she unwrapped her cheeseburger, flattened out the wrapper and then promptly shoved the entire burger in her mouth.
She smiled, now avoiding my eyes.
She looked like a squirrel with a mouthful of nuts.
I nervously looked around as if someone was going to magically come rescue me. Instead I said the first thing that came to my mind.
“It’s kind of busy in here today.” This, of course, couldn’t have been farther from the truth. But I suppose I thought it because my social anxiety was exploding through the roof at this moment.
GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!
She finished her burger and reached into her bag and pulled out another.
Then she repeated the entire scenario from the top. Remove items from pockets, set on table, touch each one with finger, stack, put back in pockets.
Unwrap burger, flatten out wrapper, stuff entire burger in mouth.
I concentrated on finishing my fries…and sent my hubby a short text about the current happenings in my whereabouts.
“Change seats.” He responded.
Oh, if it were only that easy for an anxiety riddled person! The thoughts going through my mind as I thought of getting up and changing seats mostly consisted of this woman taking the action as some kind of betrayal and pulling out a shiv and promptly gutting me.
I stayed…profoundly uncomfortable…jumble-minded…feeling very awkward…and a bit scared.
As she finished chewing the last of her burger – somehow managing not to choke on it- she gathered up her things and nodded at me as she smiled and rolled her eyes.
As I watched her get on the bus just outside I felt a profound sense of relief.
What the heck was all that about?!
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks…and my relief transformed into guilt.
Thinking back over what just happened I realized that she wasn’t some psycho druggy, or crazy person who could attack me at any moment and is not in touch with reality.
The poor girl just wanted to sit with someone because she is fully aware that she has OCD, talks to herself…and has some…quirks…
“I don’t like to sit alone. I feel weird eating alone.”
She just wanted to look like she was talking to someone, hanging with a friend. Instead of being stared at and judged poorly for talking to herself and being a ‘weirdo’.
I felt so bad. My social awkwardness and anxiety probably made her think just what I felt.
Afraid, uncomfortable, awkward, confused…
I didn’t truly feel these things toward her…not most of them at least…I felt them because I just can’t function well in face-to-face social situations. The social anxiety takes control of me, just like her OCD anxiety controls her.
I truly hope I didn’t ruin her day.
See, people?! This is exactly why I don’t leave my house!