I don't like noise, unusual sounds, some smells, and crowds. So how did I manage to go out and actually enjoy it?
First, I went to places within a mile or so of our house. If I felt stressed, I could always head home quickly and I wasn't so far away as to worry about getting lost in a state of panic.
Second, I went to eat at times before the "rush" crowds. I ate lunch at 11:30, when most places start service yet most customers haven't arrived. I ate dinner at 4:30, with the same logic in mind.
Third, I asked to sit facing the door and windows. This helps me avoid feeling trapped.
I ate at an Asian buffet, a little Italian place (with an odd menu mix that strayed far from what I consider Italian), a regional chain diner, and a Mexican restaurant located in a strip center.
The clear winner in my mind was the Mexican restaurant. It was quiet, the TV was muted, and most of the diners were elderly locals. The food was wonderful, especially the rice. Perfect rice is no small achievement. The waiter was attentive, without being too attentive. He refilled my tea constantly, which is key to a good tip from me.
The Italian place was too noisy, even though it was before the dinner hour. The music was a bit loud for me and the patrons present spoke loudly to be heard over Sinatra and Dino. Still, the food… amazing. I boxed most of my meal, and learned they offer a to-go option. Wonderful food, but I'd have to go back on a quieter day. My mistake was eating out on a Friday afternoon, I believe.
Diners and buffets are what they are. The diner was entertaining because the waitresses and hostess seemed to know everyone walking through the door. I might have been the only person to ask for a menu.
I was tense everywhere but the Mexican restaurant. It is a place I will visit in the future. It reminds me of home.
The reality is that shopping, eating, and even working without friends and family around is difficult for many people. It worries me because there's no one here to help when I can't deal with a situation. It's not exciting, as some of my friends have suggested. It is anxiety-inducing. But, I seem to have done much better after a rough first night or two in our new house.
Some readers might think it is silly for a successful adult to worry about eating alone. But, I know that parents of autistic and other special children will understand. I find myself waiting for that "one thing" that will be too much for my senses. I worry throughout most meals. I hate the tension.
But, I managed. And I found a place where I feel welcomed and safe.