“You want the usual, hon?” she asks as she lays out the carefully wrapped silverware and the heavy porcelain mug. A carafe of dark roast between me and where my breakfast partner will be sitting.
I’m not normally a “usual” kind of guy. I’m drawn to novelty. I like to travel to new places, read new books, try new things. My wife eats the same thing for breakfast ever day, the same thing for lunch most days, and would probably cycle through tacos and pizza most dinners if she could.
I’ve been meeting my friend, Todd, for breakfast almost every Thursday for over a dozen years. At first, we tried different spots around town before settling on the bagel shop on Seventh. They had good bagels and rich, dark, bottomless cups of coffee. Pretty soon, I’d tried a few of their bagels and settled on Dutch Apple with “natural” (not Jif) peanut butter. It was my favorite, why have anything else. Besides, we were meeting at 6 am; it took too much brainpower to keep thinking of new things to try.
Soon, I was bringing exact change because the total was always the same. Cory, the girl behind the counter, would have a mug ready for me and start toasting the bagel when I walked in. If Cory wasn’t there for some reason, I would walk up to the counter half asleep and stand there for a second before remembering my order because I so rarely had to. It was a comfortable routine.
Unfortunately, so many of our routines have been disrupted by the pandemic. First, restaurants were shut down. And who’d want to eat in anyway? Then, when we could start going out occasionally, the bagel shop had changed their hours. Business must have been slow enough at 6 am to start opening later; Todd and I couldn’t go there before school on Thursday mornings.
We found another place. It’s okay. The coffee’s not as good (though still endless). My usual has become two eggs (over hard) and two pancakes. It’s fine. I still kind of miss our old routine though.
At least we have the same waitress. She even remembered our coffee preference from before the latest mini-lockdown. Where do you like novelty? Where do you like routine? Does it bring you comfort to be known and remembered at your local diner?