#15 Becoming a regular

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.


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