#15 Becoming a regular somewhere

Come on in.

We all know that being a regular doesn’t just happen overnight. No, it’s more like softly falling into a slow romance with a new friend…

Stage 1: The First Glance. There are plenty of fish in the sea but you slowly choose one. Maybe it’s the big coffee cups, the wrinkly newspapers on the counter, or the late hours keeping it open when you’re home from work. Something made this coffee shop stand out and you felt home right away.

Stage 2: They Like You Too. Slowly your favorite spot gets more of your time. You were a bit of a coffee shop tramp before this — dashing through drive-thrus and sneaking quickies from the vending machine. But without realizing you’ve started to give this new place your time… and they noticed. One day you see the server crack a little smile when you walk in the door and give a quick nod when you place your order, like she knew it was coming.

Stage 3: The First Date. Suddenly cold market forces heat into a cloud of connection. It’s the same guy behind the counter but this time a new opening. “Did you like the extra nutmeg I put in your cappuccino yesterday?”, “Blueberry scone, extra butter, right?”, or “I think I saw you playing guitar downtown last night. Was it Brian?” When your coffee shop puts itself out there make sure you accept her with open arms. “That’s what it was!”, “Yeah, not that I need it!” or “Oh sweet, do you go there much?” will do.

Stage 4: The Courtship. Now you start smiling and taking care of each other. You’ve got exact change ready to go, they’ve got your cappuccino with extra nutmeg. Head nods replace verbal orders and you smile together at other customers, kind of like you’re behind the counter too. There’s some nervous anticipation when you walk in the door: Who will be working the espresso machine this morning? Will they still have the Sports section? Will the cookies be warm?

Stage 5: The Living Together. You fall into a warm and cozy comfort that’s beyond words. Hellos and how-are-yous fade into chats about whether you should get a dog or advice on dealing with a new boss. You get your order your way, right away, every time, and sometimes even skip the line. You start sharing tables and newspapers with other regulars and making little jokes with them like “Oh, you always beat me on Saturdays!” You’re now in the cozy zone of the inner circle. Welcome to paradise.

Stage 6: The Almost-Breakup. The change happens quick and it jars you senseless. Your favorite cashier moves away for school or the shop closes for three weeks for renovations. The shock hits you hard but you resolve to get through it. Maybe you decide this is just what you needed to keep things fresh so you dig deep and resolve to change yourself. Suddenly you’re getting black coffee instead of lattes, getting to know the new cashier, and loving those new paper towel dispensers in the bathroom.

Stage 7: The Future. Time moves by and things change but your souls remain connected. You think about the past: Remember when they got new tables? Or the time the power went out and they gave away cakes? You’ve been through so much together that you’ve actually become part of the place. You’ve shared values, ideals, and suggestions — helping set up their Internet, fixing that wobbly chair, and co-inventing the chocolate chip peanut butter cookie.

In these anonymous days of big-box stores, gated communities, and rampant Interneting, there’s something special about becoming a regular and feeling that human connection in your human heart. When you visit your favorite joint it’s like welcome back to your corner stool, welcome back to your favorite table, welcome back to your perfect order.

Welcome back to being a regular.

Welcome back to love.


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Photos from: here, here, here, here, and here

58 thoughts on “#15 Becoming a regular somewhere

  1. Yes, I have rather wonderful fantasies of moving to a big city and finding a cosy, hidden-away cafè that becomes my regular place… :)

    But this makes me think of my job as a waitress at a motel restaurant. Third day in, and a fellow named Glenn walks in.

    “G’day, darl. I’ll have the usual.”
    “She doesn’t know what your usual is, Glenn.”
    “Yeah I do. Black Angus, medium rare, mushroom sauce, with vegies and a small amount of chips. Right?”
    “That’s it.”
    “…How the heck do you know that already?”

  2. It’s possible to do this even in a chain place, like Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks. My local Dunkin knows my order by heart and I always take it, even if I feel like something different that day. I think the universe would become unglued if I rejected The Usual.

  3. As soon as I read the title of the post, I scrolled down to check if a picture of F.R.I.E.N.D.S was used or not! :)

    1. Same here! The Friends gang is the perfect example of how absolutely AWESOME it is to be a regular, especially not by yourself.

      Neil, you always know how to hit the perfect example spot on!

  4. I don’t think I go to a place enough to become a regular. I was just becoming a regular at the 7-11 by my house, but then I quit smoking and don’t go there as often now.
    Now, when I was working at a convenience store, there were a lot of regluars. I got kind of close with a lot of them. I knew what they wanted before they even walked through the door. It was so cool to have their lottery tickets already printed out or their smokes sitting there waiting for them when they walked up to the register. Some of them would stay and chat. I even hung out with some after work. There was one lady that would share pictures and stories of her daughter. Her daughter even came in and told me all about prom. One guy even ended up being my main mechanic for a few years.

  5. This sounds like business as usual in the small town where I live. It happens in the bank, the grocery store,the library and even Walmart. There are familiar faces who greet me and talk with me where-ever I go. I love the give and take that just naturally happens in a small town.

  6. My regular place was a little cafe with the best donuts. I’d go in at least once a week for six months, got to know everyone, and by the end of it they gave me probably about half my stuff on the house :) I was so sad when I had to move away. Those places are just the best :)

  7. This reminds me of my high school and college years working in my mom and step-dad’s small town convenience store. I loved my regulars! I sometimes wonder if they were disappointed when I finally graduated and moved away. This post gives me hope that they were. I definitely remember them.

  8. I work at wings joint, and we have so many old regulars that I love, but I also love when I notice the new regulars we are getting, and they are always so excited when I remember what kind of beer they like or their favorite flavor wing.

  9. I work at a (kind of) local fast food chain, Raising Cane’s and it seems like each of us counter girls has our own regular. My friend Meghan has Jeff, who always gets a 3 Finger, extra sauce, large Sweet Tea. April has Ryan who gets a 3 finger, fountain drink, with three extra pieces of toast. And my regular, Chris, who doesn’t come often since he’s a bodybuilder but always gets a Box, no slaw extra toast with a large fountain drink.
    It really brings a smile to my face that there’s customers out there that look forward to coming in and seeing us. I’ve grown to love talking about workout routines and my mundane school like with Chris.
    Definitely AWESOME!

  10. My sister and I discovered this wonderful experience when we began meeting for coffee before going into work (6:30am). It wasn’t long before we got to know the school bus drivers as well and as the girls who made our drinks. We couldn’t wait to share the latest joke, hear how college was going, or see pictures of the kids. What’s interesting is the first time you meet one of them away from the familiar setting. There are those first few seconds wondering if you’ll recognize each other before the face lights up with a smile – the one that says “You are worth remembering.”

    1. this is beautiful! that particular smile (‘you are worth remembering’) is worth its own Awesome Thing post.

  11. I am a creature of habit and I’m a regular at most of the places I frequent: grocery store, druggist, bakery, restaurants, etc. So, whenever I move, it’s lonely at first when I don’t see the people I’ve come to know and in whom I trust. But then, after the move, it’s fun to try new places with new faces…until I’ve become a regular and have a whole new set of people I look forward to seeing!
    Am I the only one who feels guilty when my waitress comes out with my regular order, but this one day I really wanted to try the new dish? LOL!

    1. Haha! My mom says the same thing about her “regular” experience: she gets a soda a lot of days before work (you know, a fountain soda), and they have it ready for her when she drives up. She says she feels like she could never order anything else because she’d feel bad!

  12. i worked as a server for 10 hours yesterday and pretty much the whole day was annoying, filled with bad tippers. as the time for me to stop taking tables got closer, i just wanted to leave more and more until it happened: MY REGULARS CAME IN! that automatically changes my whole mood. as i see them walk through the door, i have a huge smile on my face. Its always unexpected too which makes it even better :) its just nice to know that there are people who want your service and nobody else’s, and knowing you’ll get a good tip out of it is nice too. it just made me feel like i was doing something right finally

  13. I work at a bagel chain in CT, and we have at least 30 regulars. We know all their orders for each time of the day. When we see them coming, we pour their coffee and have it sitting waiting for them at the counter. We have their bagels in the toaster when they walk in the door and just acknowledge them with a quick wave and a “Gotcha covered!” Somehow, every day this surprises and pleases them. I get disappointed in myself if I have to make them wait! The worst thing is, I only know 90% of them by their order “Poppy seed bagel lady” “Blueberry muffin guy” or “Large Diet Coke”. At this point in the relationship, it’s awkward to ask their names! But we take care of each other.

  14. Me and my family are regulars at Dairy Queen!

    Also at the Zellers restaurant. And the waitress there is so friendly! She knows our drinks and what we like to order! Too bad the restaurant is closing :( and the store too.

  15. This post made me laugh out loud, fuzzy inside and tear up a tiny bit while at the same smiling so wide my cheeks are starting to hurt. Thanks :D

  16. You could always rebrand this one as “Acceptance” and still have a winner on your hands! Finding a home away from home is vital to achieving true happiness in this world. Nice work.

  17. This is truly awesome! It’s so fun going into this little coffee shop down the road and they know what we want!

    Thanks for inspiring awesome in my life, Neil. Thank you so much.

  18. Great post !
    You make it really seem simple when you write such stuff.
    I still remember a coffee shop where I used to be a regular when I was at high school. The coffee wasn’t that good but they had that ‘ambiance’ that I used to love. And even if the guys (waitor, manager) weren’t nice, I just loved the place. I returned to the place the other day. It had been replaced by an IT/game shop; Too bad.
    I’m no regular today, doen’ really miss me
    Anyway thanks for that step back in memory lane

  19. Right now, my current regular place is a Buffalo Wild Wings. My best friend & I used to go about once a week, and most of the servers knew us.

    I really loved this wing place in my town. All the workers knew me, and knew what I wanted as soon as I walked in. Sadly, it closed unexpectedly in 2010 or so. It was definitely one of the worst days of my life when I found that out.

  20. If only you’d stopped the title at “Becoming Regular”, then I’d have been able to get another “tick” for this post.

  21. Oh this post. Love this post! I literally can’t say it enough: I love the way you write. It’s just so … perfect. Your amazing writing and ability to be so in tune with others’ thoughts and feelings have really connected us all and kept this thing going with exponential momentum and enthusiasm.

    Anyway, living in a small town makes you feel like a regular at a lot of places; not because they know what you want and are glad to see you, but because you’re just bound to run into the same people and there are less people in between as filler. However, when I was in grad school, in a town 25 times larger than where I live now, my friend Caitlin and I became regulars at a Starbucks down the road from our apartment complex. We carpooled to campus to our jobs as graduate assistants, and stopping once a week turned into three times a week. We experienced stages 1-5 and we were loving every minute of it. The best days were those times when we were running behind and our peeps not only knew that we would be there that day, but they would have our orders ready to go, off to the side, waiting for us to dart in and drop a wad of cash — which of course, through months of trust, they no longer needed to count before we left — in the drinks’ place. Oh, those days. I feel that we left it without a proper goodbye, and I feel sad about it now.

  22. I have a little family run Sushi place I go for lunch at least twice a week. They know my staff, family and me very well. It takes the stress from the office away as I get to sit at my regular table and have a little comfort food.

  23. This post actually reminded me of a local bus driver. I only took his route on certain days of the week and always early in the morning when the bus was crowded. I was always the last stop and it took thirty minutes to get where I was going. So often I’d just put on my headphones and fall asleep. I knew I was his ‘regular’ when he’d stop the bus at my stop, walk over and tap me on the shoulder to wake me up. Getting thirty minutes of extra sleep because of a very considerate driver. . . . AWESOME!

  24. I love te regulars that come to the Friendly’s I work at! When I read this post I wondered if any of them felt this way. I should probably ask them. This one guy in particular is especially awesome just cuz almost anyone that works at the restaurant can have a decent conversation with him. I sat with him and another server and just talked about life which was pretty awesome

  25. i just read this and cried. My favorite coffee shop closed, because the owner’s mother was getting really sick and time was running out. They tried really hard to keep it going and find someone to run it afterwards, but everything failed. Now my favorite coffee, paper writing seat, chess battles, open mic nights, friends, and community that existed there are just gone…. That place was a true refuge for me and had been through some of the roughest moments of my life. I miss it more than anything.

  26. I work at a coffee shop and the feeling is mututal – my favorite customers absolutely make my day!! Those interactions are what keep my day going, and when I take off a week from work or when I’m interviewing for other jobs I think about them and realize I’m going to miss them!! It’s funny… you can see the same people every day for years, have a conversation and learn about eachothers lives, albeit nothing too deep, and then once either of you change your daily routine your connection is severed.

    But remember – always be kind to your favorite barista and they will treat you well! My favorite couple of regulars get free coffee and/or discounts almost every day!

  27. From the other side of the counter, we love regulars too! The regulars at my cafe all have their own spot where they hang out from just after opening until about 10 a.m. It’s also fun when they bring someone with them (usually their kids) and we’re always excited to meet them.

    Also, they tend to tip the greatest.

  28. So the regular guy that I had previously commented about got to meet my family which I think is totally awesome! Just last week I told him about them and how many siblings I have etc. And yesterday was my sisters bday and she wanted to come to friendlys. I thought to myself “how cool would it be if the Jim dandy guy ( the regular) came at the same time as my family? And it happened! He told me they seemed really nice which made me happy :) that was an awesome moment

  29. Becoming regular on a stabelishiment is awesome, but best part of it is when you make other people becoming regular to, because all those beneficts that you have on this place, a friend will have to and will make company to you. But those things of been regular on a place is difficult in Sao Paulo, because you have many option to go and it is difficult to go to the same place every week, or every day. Been regular on a place is something that you see on comedy series like How I Met your Mother and Friends, and as we see it is always funny and awesome. That post was awesome

  30. This happened to me and i remember it foundly! in a starbucks of all places, even started dating one of the girls there, was very lucky, but it is a nice vibe to go somewhere where everybody knows ur name…

  31. Haha! Almost everyday my friends and I go to Chipotle after school. One paid for the other all the time, and I never had money to get anything, so I would steal some of their food. The cashier always greets and was super sweet, and gave us drinks, and the waiters always gave a bit of extra food. The longest my friends lasted without going there was 2 whole weeks, and we went back again everyone hugged us and said they missed us. Ah, good times.


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