Holden Caulfield goes to a lounge in New York City called Ernie's because he is lonely and avoiding his home and school. Ernie's is a place where many of the preparatory school students hang out. Since Holden has been going to such schools for the past few years, he probably goes to feel less lonely and maybe to run into some old acquaintances. However, Holden sits alone for a long time just observing and criticizing people around him. The place is packed, too, and with so many people there, he may have felt crowded and started to feel some anxiety because of it. Holden's whole experience at Ernie's actually builds from one anxiety to another as he sits and stews about everyone around him.
"I was surrounded by jerks. I'm not kidding. At this other tiny table, right to my left, practically on top of me, there was this funny-looking guy and this funny-looking girl. . . I listened to their conversation for awhile, because I didn't have anything else to do. . . He was the most boring guy I ever listened to. . . I guess she had to listen. Real ugly girls have it tough. I feel so sorry for them sometimes" (85).
Holden continues to analyze and criticize people around him because he has no one else to talk to. He starts to annoy himself so badly that he can't stand being at Ernie's anymore. The last straw breaks his back, though, when Lillian Simmons, a friend of his brother's (D.B.), comes to talk to him.
Lillian embarrasses Holden by talking loudly, asking if he's alone, and blocking traffic so the waiter couldn't get by her. So much criticizing is happening in Holden's head that when Lillian finally asks him to join her group, he bolts.
"After I'd told her I had to meet somebody, I didn't have any goddam choice except to leave. I couldn't even stick around to hear old Ernie play something halfway decent. But I certainly wasn't going to sit down at a table with old Lillian Simmons and that Navy guy and be bored to death. So I left" (87).