This happened to me about a month ago, and I just thought of it when I was responding to a thread on reddit. It was an interesting exchange.
So I went to meet a friend of mine for lunch. It was an old co-worker that became one of my closest friends over the years. We had decided to meet up at a Chinese buffet, he’s nuts for them, and I got there about fifteen minutes before he did. He lives in a bubble of his own time that doesn’t seem to be related to the rest of the universe, so I was not expecting him to be there when we’d arranged. I had planned ahead and brought a book. As I came into the restaurant there was an older woman in line ahead of me. She was having a rather confused conversation with the hostess that was not made easier by her by her lack of direction in her thoughts and the hostess’s somewhat limited English. I half listened while the woman eventually negotiated a meeting with someone higher up the food chain. I was then seated and proceeded to read my book.
A few minutes later I looked up and noticed that the woman had been seated nearby, and was eating a large meal from a to-go container. Not from a plate mind you, but a to go box. Odd, but I didn’t concern myself. Soon enough my friend arrived, and as usual we did the straight guy friendly half hug/half handshake greeting and sat down to talk for a few minutes before getting our food. Now I’ll describe myself and my friend a bit here, because I think it contributed to her mistaken initial opinion of me. I’m a thirty something, average size white guy, with very short hair and that day I was wearing jeans and a plain brown, collarless shirt. My friend is a sixty something six foot two black gentlemen with impeccable, if flashy taste and style. He was wearing black jeans, with a black shirt and a black overcoat. Very sleek. He also has a bit of a thing for gold jewelry. Needless to say he catches the eye. Together we make slightly odd lunch companions. We really get attention when we go to movies together.
So then it happens. My friend and I get up to go fill our plates, and he runs into friends. He’s one of those people that knows everybody. You can’t go anywhere with him in our small town without him ending up in a ten minute conversation with somebody, and it happened here. So I end up back at the table first. Before I take a bite the woman says to me “Excuse me sir, are you a minister?” I’m an atheist, but weirdly it’s not the first time I’ve been asked this question. So I smile and say “No ma’am.” Now I expect the matter to drop, but she was apparently interested in some lunch conversation. Sooo, I spend the next half hour nodding along, trying to eat some of my meal before it gets cold while she proceeds to tell me the story of her life. She tells me about her horrible family situation. She tells me about how she’s going to win her daughter’s love back by buying her a beauty salon. She tells me about her divorce from her husband and how he’d want her back if he knew how good she looked now. She tells me about how she’s going to start a homeless shelter. She tells me about what stores in town will give food to the homeless. She tells me about how everyone thinks she’s only twenty something when she’s really forty something. Sadly little of this could have possibly been true, outside of the stories of the stores helping her out and probably her shaky relationships with her family. My friend came back about halfway through the conversation, and told me later that when I went to get more food she continued to tell him about the same things she had been telling me. After about an half an hour of non-stop talking she says goodbye and leaves without much fanfare. I’d have bought her meal, but the restaurant was obviously feeding her for free. And that’s how I ended up having lunch with a homeless woman.