Whenever I eat alone in public I’m always checking or posting tweets or reading articles or whatever on the iPhone. (I almost typed “reading a newspaper” but when’s the last time I did that?) One of the reasons I’m always reading is that I’m terrified of being one of those guys who just sits there and stares at his food, just eyeballing it like some hungry gorilla or a baboon under a tree. Guys who never once look up or regard their fellow diners or savor the atmosphere or take out their phone…none of that. Guys who just stare at the grub, examining the steamed mishmash and deciding which clump of broccoli or sliced baked potato or radish or red lettuce leaf to fork into next.

I watched a guy do this a couple of nights ago. “Gotta study this, keep on top of it,” he seemed to be saying to himself, “because I want to eat this right. Because I’ve been waiting for this moment for a couple of hours now and now it’s here, and the food is nice and warm…my bowl of vegetables, my sustenance…mine. And this is all I care about until I’m done.”

I sat there shaking my head and telepathically muttering to this guy, “You look a wild dog eating a baby wildebeest, you know that?” The worst is when these staring-at-their-food guys are out with their wives or girlfriends and they still won’t avert their gaze from their plate. A worldly fellow with a date always chats, looks up frequently, eats small bites, asks questions, considers the architecture, smiles, etc. And if he’s dining stag he always reads something. Presenting a cultivated front is a must.