Last week I met an old friend for dinner. He was in town on business, so we planned on getting together. We ended up going to a nice restaurant near his hotel. As the two of us took turns eating while the other person talked, it occurred to me that meeting for dinner was a terribly inconvenient way for two old friends to catch up. Because of my religious beliefs, however, better alternatives are not available to me.
I am a Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Mormon, and have been all my life. I haven’t been the most regular church goer for the past few years, but I have always lived the Word of Wisdom. Most people who know anything about the LDS church, know about the Word of Wisdom. They may not know it by this name, and they may not have all of the finer details but they do know that Mormons aren’t supposed to smoke, drink alcohol, coffee, or tea (these last two sometime being lumped into a specific prohibition against caffeine).
As Greg and I finished our meal, we continued talking, but as any restaurant patron knows, once you’ve finished eating, the restaurant wants you out of that table. They aren’t going to make any more money off of you if you stay longer. If there are people waiting, they are likely losing potential customers, so they stop re-filling your water, and leave you with the impression that it’s time to move along. So we exited the restaurant, and with no where else to hang out we parted ways.
So then this weekend my wife and I were participating in another friend’s wedding festivities. After the rehearsal dinner on Friday, the groom invited us for drinks at a pub in the hotel where his family was staying. Most of the bridal party was supposed to be going and it looked to be a lot of fun, but we declined. With Laura being in the last few days of pregnancy, we would have turned down a late night in a bar anyway. Far too often, though, I have had to turn down a friend, or worse, an acquaintance who could have become a friend, because I choose to follow these guidelines.
I don’t regret not drinking. I am quite proud of the fact that I have never consumed a drop of alcohol, or coffee, and I have never smoked. I do regret that there really isn’t a social equivalent of a coffee shop or bar for someone like me. Something that can take the place of going out for drinks, or sitting down for a cup of coffee. An unstructured activity that is less formal than a meal, yet still provides a stimulus to conversation. In essence, a way to say, “Let’s hang out and talk” without the social awkwardness of what to do when the conversation ebbs.