It’s your average weekday morning and I’m busy perpetuating stereotypes. Clad in designer yoga attire having delivered the kids to school I scribble story ideas in a notebook at a small table inside the warm cocoon that is Beans, our community coffee shop on the Square. I’m in the honeymoon phase - having completed the first week of These Moments and beginning a new post - when anything is possible. Today I could write something that really sings. And with any luck it’ll be to the tune of an 80’s sitcom theme song. My mind drifts. I look up from the page to the silhouette of a fork emblazoned on the wood table top, preserved for eternity in lacquer. It occurs to me that in 100 years when all food comes in pill form this table will be a collectors item.
Beans is where I like to bring stories on a first date; mull them over, let them steep. It’s also where I’m meeting my husband, Sean, for coffee. Through a large, logoed window I glimpse Main Street and the Square beyond. The sky is gray with heavy clouds threatening snow, the gazebo resigned to admiration from indoors. Like Pavolv’s dog I look over when the door’s bell jingles, but it isn’t Sean. A blast of arctic air ushers an older couple through. I don’t recognize them but Sylvia, Beans’ omnipresent owner, does. She greets them, smiling as if they’re old friends. The couple order and take a table catty-corner from me nearer the door. It’s not long before Sylvia pulls up a chair to join them and the trio launch into happy conversation. A regular at her own establishment, Sylvia is always pulling up chairs.
Ting-a-ling-ting goes the bell, I look up, brace for the frosty blast. A woman enters. Sylvia turns to say hello as one of her table companions kindly instructs the newcomer to, “Close the door.” The woman, slightly perplexed by the greeting, pivots and shoves the door shut. “There’s a sign,” she’s informed. The door won’t close without effort. It’s official - I’m distracted. And just in time because here comes Sean. Ting-a-ling-ting, frosty blast. Altogether now, “Close the door!”
The experience of Beans isn’t only about observing human nature, however diverting, it’s about participating in humanity. Those who participate most vigorously and frequently acheive an elite status known as being a ‘regular’. How do you know if you are one? It’s lucky you asked.
5 signs you may be a regular*:
Is there a place that isn’t home or work which you visit with great frequency in order to socialize?
When you visit this place are you accepted and liked by people from many different walks of life?
In this place, do others know you well enough to know how you’ll react to things? In other words, do they know where to poke when they poke fun at you and do you keep mental lists of subjects that will get a rise out of them?
If you are absent from this place for a few days, do the people you know there call to check on you?
In this place, are you extended priviliges, rights and/or access denied to casual customers?
The first regular I ever met at Beans is John. You don’t know John? Ok, you know the sweet black weimaraner you see walking around the Square? You know the guy who walks beside him? That’s John. He and Spooky are synonomous with Beans, with Chardon for that matter. In warmer weather when the patio was out, John would hail me and the kids as we passed by on our way to Park Elementary. “Little scholars off to school?” he inquired each morning. Indeed. He also liked to say, and this really stuck with me, that Spooky likes to lick food from kids hands and faces, especially ketchup. Anyone who knows me well knows I loathe ketchup (Beans - take note, #3). John orders coffee and sometimes a cookie but usually a muffin and splits it with Spooky. They share a fork.
I see Curt is here, as usual. Sylvia introduced us a few months ago and since then he’s been teaching me about aliens. As part of my education I’m watching old episodes of The Invaders, a 1960’s scifi show. The lead character is an architect named David Vincent who is referred to by first and last name. David Vincent knows aliens exist. He saw them land. Fine. But can he properly engineer a two-thirds cantilever made of glass in a seismic zone? I digress. I, too, am learning to recognize the signs of aliens among us. In tonight’s episode, Nightmare, locusts attack the town of Grady and David Vincent investigates. If only David Vincent would come investigate my equally sinister stink bug infestation. It sounds like helicopters are taking off in our attic master bedroom. Can I get a ‘..-…—…—-.’? That’s Andromedan for ‘amen’.
Curt has a standing oatmeal order. This is how it’s made: take a small bowl (large bowl = bad), cut up half a banana and lay the slices in the bottom of the bowl in a circular pattern, sprinkle cinnamon on top, apply runny oatmeal, add the remaining half banana sliced and in a cirular pattern, finish with more cinnamon. One day Curt will be abducted by aliens. He will be probed. He will be missed.
Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. Just, when you get there, be sure to close the door behind you.
PS. At this point I would call myself a ‘frequent customer’ but my mom thinks I have alot of potential. I’ve already added become a regular to my 19 for 2019 list in the open slot where I’ve recently scratched out get Ohio drivers license.
*For further reading on this subject see Ray Oldenburg’s, The Great Good Place, a fascinating book about the concept of Third Places.