Even though the event happened the better part of a decade ago, the story came up recently as we were discussing holding a work lunch at a Central Maine Japanese restaurant.

This incident happened in late 2014.  I had just moved from New Hampshire to Erie, Pennsylvania.  It was my first night in town and, since I had driven all day, I didn’t really feel like doing much exploring.  Looking on Google Maps, I found Hibachi Japanese Steakhouse, a Japanese restaurant that was a short walk from my hotel.

When I entered the restaurant, the extremely nice hostess asked if I wanted the dining room or hibachi.  I told her hibachi.

As I was flying solo, here’s where I went wrong.

For those who do not know, hibachi is where you sit around a large flat grill called a Teppan-Yaki.  After your order is taken, the chef comes to the grill and cooks your food in front of you.  Often, there is a lot of showmanship involved.  The chef squirts sake into your mouth, they try to launch food into your mouth, they make onions into volcanos, etc.  It is a lot of fun and it is especially great if you are with a group of friends or family celebrating a birthday, a graduation, etc.

It is awkward when you are alone.  It is EXTREMELY awkward when you are with a group of strangers.

I was seated at the “mutt” table.  Instead of a big group, there were several small groups at our table… and me.  On one side was a group of three people celebrating a birthday.  On the other side was a family who had been touring Mercyhurst, one of the local colleges.  And, at the far end of the table, was a young couple on a date.

As an out-going person, the really tough part for me was not interacting with the other groups at my table.  At one point, I laughed at a joke made by the woman celebrating her birthday.  Her two friends glared at me.  That’s when I decided to keep my nose in my phone for the rest of the meal.

I later realized that I should have told her dinning room.  I could have had the exact same meal without the side order of awkward.

Even though I had seen hibachi restaurants on TV and in movies, I had never been to one.  The only Japanese restaurants I had ever been to only had a dining room.  Just being honest, I did not know that’s what they were called.

Well, you live and you learn, right?

Fortunately, our recent staff lunch at Kume in Augusta was a lot less awkward and a lot more fun!

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