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Tuesday 4th October 2005

I was sitting in a bar waiting for a friend who had just texted me to say she was going to be half an hour late. I had got there ten minutes early. It was going to be a long wait.
I bought a beer and settled down on a barstool, feeling self-conscious. Everyone else was with someone else, and most people were in groups of three or four and here was alone at the bar. I am sure no-one even gave me a second look, but it's strange that in this situation you feel that everyone is looking at you and judging you. Are they wondering if you've been stood up or do they think you're there to pick someone up or do they think you're just a tragic alcoholic with no friends who is forced to drink alone? They probably don't think anything, other than "Is that Dom Joly?" but evenso it's an uncomfortable situation to find yourself in. In order to protect your dignity you start play acting little scenes for their benefit where you look at your watch and then make a kind of overly quizzical face as if to demonstrate that you do have a friend and you are surprised to find out they are late. Maybe you'll then check your phone as if looking for a reason for their delay and possibly then pretend a message has just come through. Then you pull a face which says, "Oh, they've been delayed and will be here in a bit. I have a lot of friends."
It's a stupid way to behave, partly because no-one else cares about you, you loser, but mainly because if they do they are well aware that your pathetic over-acting is done solely for them and that it in fact indicates that you are lying. You can't then say, "You are right, there is an element of pretence to this, but the truth is that my friend has already texted to say they will be late, so ultimately I am not lying. You might think of my charade as a kind of flash back."
I was also at the same time trying to eke out my small glass of beer so that it would last until my friend arrived. I did not want to be drunk when she got there, yet nor did I want it to appear that I had been sitting there waiting for her to get there before buying a drink. So I tried to take small sips at intervals that would hopefully lead to me having a small amount of beer left when she got there and could then order another drink.
Had she arrived half an hour late this would have worked perfectly. I had a very small amount of beer remaining. However she was a further ten minutes late and so five minutes before she got there I was nursing a tiny splash of beer in the glass and then taking micro-sips of it every now and again which pretty much amounted to just breathing in the fumes from the top of the droplet. Eventually I could keep up the pretence no more and the beer was finished. I nursed the glass for a while, hoping I could make it look like I had literally just finished it when she arrived, but then when I wasn't looking a waitress took the glass away. As it happened it didn't really matter and my friend didn't even notice that I didn't have a drink. So all my work had been for nothing.
We are strange creatures, we humans, and have an elevated sense of how much other people are thinking about us. All these social worries and at the end of the day no-one really cares as much as you think they do.

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