Outsider Looking In

outsider looking inThe guy kept looking over.  He seemed both interested and a bit sad. He watched as this table of four guys ribbed one another and shared story after story about each other and their “adventures” together. He seemed to want to engage, to be a part of “the gang” but alas something was missing…his invitation perhaps?

As they laughed harder and the volume increased, the man watched more intently, like a puppy waiting on the porch to be called to his master’s feet. I watched him watching them and couldn’t help but think how the astute observer must feel, like he’s missing what these men clearly had. I could tell, he desperately wanted his own group of guys to hang out with, share breakfast with and swap some stories and lies with before his workday began.

He got up from the table, a smile hung on his face. He desperately hoped someone at the table would notice but they didn’t. As he walked towards the door, his eyes almost never left the table of four. I couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking, what he might be missing in his own life. Oh how he desperately wanted to join this group of strangers and magically be accepted, to be a part of their cadre of backslapping buddies. But it wasn’t meant to be. They never even knew he was there.

I watched as as he headed for the door. He finally broke eye contact with the table and walked out. As he got into his car, he gave one last look back at the coffee shop and the smile just faded from his face. I saw a tinge of sadness as he shifted his car into reverse and began to drive off.

The connector in me wanted to run out and catch him and welcome him back into the coffee shop and offer to introduce him to the table, or just show him to the empty seat at mine. The shy introverted part of me easily identified with what he was feeling at that very moment. Being the outsider. Wishing he was part of that popular crowd. Feeling like a party was going on and like Charlie Brown, his/my invitation was never sent.

That feeling sucks in case you are wondering.

He turned right onto the busy street and disappeared. I returned to my coffee and my bowl of granola a little bit sad at an opportunity lost.

In all honesty, was I going to introduce this complete stranger to a table of strangers, probably not. That would have been weird, even by my standards. But maybe a quick “Hi, I’m Steve” would have been exactly the Ripple the man needed. Sure I wasn’t a table of four but I was a table of one. And in the end, maybe that is all he needed – to feel noticed and significant.

Even the Ripple Man blows it from time to time.

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