At home, I don’t really like to be a regular customer anywhere because I like my privacy, but when I’m traveling, I suddenly find myself humming the theme song of Cheers and feel that “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.”
Caffe Connect, the coffeeshop I’m writing this at, has a loyalty program. Collect nine stamps and you get the tenth coffee for free. We’ll only be here for three more days and I only have one stamp on it, so I’m probably not going to get my free cappuccino, but I wanted to get the stamp because I figured the guy behind the register would also be happy to get a new regular.
I took my laptop and my book, and sat down at a table outside because no-one else was sitting there. A minute later, the waitress came out with my cappuccino. I thanked her profusely – because I’m a poor tipper – and then picked up my book and started to read.
Five minutes later, the waitress came back out and put a cup of tea on the empty table next to me. I glanced at her, she smiled at me, and when I thought she’d sit down and have her tea break, she disappeared into the kitchen.
I looked around me to see if I had missed something or someone, but besides the delivery boy who came out of the dry cleaners next door, I didn’t see anyone.
There was a man in red shorts, walking briskly down the street, talking on the phone, but he walked past me and the cup of tea, no paying any attention to us.
Then came a mother and a son from the other direction. They, too, kept on walking.
The homeless guy who carried a huge backpack didn’t seem to notice me or the tea cup, either, but he did stop at my table and read out loud the title of the book, pausing after each word: “Blood. Upon. The. Snow.”
“Huh,” he said, and walked on by.
Then there was the mother pushing a stroller. She, too, passed my table in three strides, each step accentuated by the swishes as she was singing “The wipers on the bus go ‘swish, swish, swish’” to her son.
And then, suddenly, out of nowhere, a man in a gray T-shirt sat down at the table next to me. He nodded a polite greeting, an acknowlegment of my sitting next to him. Then he pulled the cup of tea closer to him and his smart phone out of his pocket. He switched the sunglasses for his reading glasses and started to read something on his phone.
Five minutes later, the waitress brought him a Greek sallad.
It looked really good. And I bet he didn’t have to collect any stamps, either. In fact, he didn’t even have to pay.
I bet they know his name here.