Regular or anonymous?

When I lived in Las Vegas several years ago, I really wanted to be considered a regular at my favorite bar, Champagne’s. It was a locals place, off the Strip, divey and very cool. It attracted all sorts of patrons — hard-drinking old timers to younger people — all eager to sit on the red upholstery-covered seats while gazing at the black and white photos of Old Vegas on the velvety wallpapered walls.

I always ordered the same thing, a vodka tonic, and sat roughly in the same area. After a year or two, the main bartender, Roger, began to recognize me and greeted me warmly.  I  knew I’d achieved “regular” status when he greeted me by name, then asked, “The usual?” I thought I was so cool.

I didn’t get much time to settle into my new role as a Champagne’s regular. I couldn’t believe it when Roger quit and went to work somewhere else a short time later! Whomp whomp. The thought of trying to re-establish myself as a regular with a different bartender seemed exhausting, so I didn’t bother.

That’s the only time I ever wanted to be a regular anywhere. Normally, I like to be a random, anonymous, fly-under-the-radar type of person.

A few years ago I used to stop at the same Wawa every morning for coffee on my way to work and once the cashier started recognizing me and chatting with me, I changed my routine and started hitting a different Wawa instead. It just makes me uncomfortable to be noticed, and then having to make small talk on top of that makes me panic a little.

Until now.

Like I’ve mentioned before, I work from home, and once a week I bring my laptop and work out of a coffee shop on East Passyunk Avenue, right around the corner from my house. Nine times out of 10 it’s Thursday. It’s almost always in the mornings, too.  I’ve been doing this for more than a year now, so the guy behind the counter knows me, and he remembers my complicated order.

Mike picking up his breakfast from me.
Mike picking up his breakfast from me.

I always get black coffee and a plain bagel with butter for here, then I get a second bagel, either plan or everything, to go, and that one gets cream cheese. The second one is for Mike. The coffee shop is on his walk to the subway, so he stops in and gets the bagel from me, and we hug and kiss and chat for a minute then I send him on his way. The really good days are when he looks through the window as he’s walking away and waves. Swoon.

If I have to go to the coffee shop on Wednesday or Friday, the usual Thursday counter guy isn’t there, and I feel a bit of anxiety at having to explain my order to a different person who might not understand it and get it wrong, and I also hate inconveniencing people or asking for special treatment.

I seem to have struck a happy medium here — they know me now so I don’t have to explain my order and I’m left alone. I’m sure if someone there started chatting with me every week I’d have to start going someplace else.

Are you happy to be a regular someplace, or would you rather be a random stranger?


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