A Chance Encounter Over Chicken

So the other day I decided to go Nando’s for lunch – a popular restaurant serving spicy Portugese-style chicken. They just opened up a new location in the area so it was especially busier than normal. This particular one has a really spacious and modern feel with those large communal tables is the centre and has a nice general ambiance to it.

I took a seat at the communal table in-front of another patron who was waiting for her daughter and had saved a spot beside her. We started talking about how insane the parking lot was and how we both had to be a bit relentless to get a spot before someone else did. It’s funny how these communal tables (ideal for those dining alone) inadvertently give you an opportunity to strike up a conversation with total strangers over your respective meals. If you were sitting alone at a regular two-person table, you probably wouldn’t get that opportunity.

Anyways, this lady was very warm and friendly offering up a piece of her garlic bread while she waited for her daughter to arrive. During the meal, we ate our respective dishes, ooh and aahing over how great everything tasted. It was funny because obviously we did not know each other, but because of where we were sitting, it sort of felt like we were eating together, sharing the bottles of extra hot sauce – a staple of Nando’s. For those that don’t know, Nando’s marinates and cooks its chicken in their signature Peri Peri sauce, but the chicken tastes even better when you douse more sauce on top as you eat it. 🙂

Anyways towards the end of the meal, the lady’s daughter had to rush out and so the lady and I started talking more about how the congestion is getting worse in the city and how long it takes to get from point A to B. For me personally, turning left out of my workplace onto the main road can be a nightmare. I’ve had to wait upwards of 10-12 minutes before I get a safe enough opening to turn – and even then – I need to be pretty swift before yet another onslaught of traffic hinders my ability to do so. I’ve gotten better at this through simple practice and timing is everything. If you miss your chance in those couple seconds then it’s back to playing the waiting game.

Although it’s quite annoying, I don’t typically mind the wait because I want to be able to turn when it’s safe to, obviously, but my anxiety tends to kick in once I notice someone behind me. I suddenly feel this unspoken pressure to hurry up – even though it’s nobody’s fault that cars just keep coming and coming and, oh, coming even more from both directions! I know the person behind me can also see that, but we also can’t help how we are wired and I just automatically feel the need to rush once I know I’m not alone.

When I told the lady this, she looked at me with almost a protective level of concern and politely told me to never feel intimidated by other drivers like that. “Don’t ever feel like you need to turn before you’re comfortable doing so,’ said this kind stranger at my table. “Always wait as long as you feel that you need to. If they get impatient, they can always go around you, but always be better safe than sorry.” Of course, deep down I knew this already, but there was such a warmth and sincerity in the same advice coming from a complete stranger. This lady showed such compassion and care in those moments for someone whose name she didn’t even know. It might seem like a small thing as you’re reading this, but trust me, in the moment, it really resonated with me because I felt that I needed to hear it. You have to wonder how many tragedies on the road could be avoided if people simply didn’t feel pressured to make a move before they are comfortable doing so.

Moments after, she had to get going and we bid each other a good rest of the day and weekend and she was off. I finished off the last remnants of my meal and left the restaurant myself feeling an unexpected sense of contentment that went beyond how delicious the chicken was.

Thank you, Kind Stranger


4 thoughts on “A Chance Encounter Over Chicken

  1. Wow.. Parking lots and traffic congestion. Sounds like a really interesting conversation. 😛 #Joke

    Truthfully though, it sounds like really good chance meeting with a like minded individual.
    The only similar one situations that I have been in were in Singapore. You have to go to these Food Courts and often you sit at a table with complete strangers, especially if it is crowded. For the most part I would prefer to be at a table by myself, when much like a crowded parking lot, you can’t always choose. Over there, people just mind themselves and don’t really strike up conversations with those they don’t know. I guess its the culture.. Not really sure.


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