Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Where everybody knows your name

The desire to belong is a strong motivator. Highschool is a good example. I can’t possibly count the number of times I humiliated myself to impress my peers. You know, I’m still not above doing that to this day. Some things just won’t change. We want to belong no matter our age. So, why wouldn’t you want to go where you would fit in? The idea of having a place where “everybody knows your name” seems ideal. But don’t dare allow this ideal be painted in such a way that you believe that it’s true. It’s actually a thorn. It may look pretty, but it comes with a price.
I take my lunch break each day at either Panera Bread or Barnes and Noble. I ,go in, I order a coffee and sit down with my Bible. Routine breeds familiarity, they say. When the guy at Barnes and Noble sees me in line he asks me, “Grande Verona today”? He sees me everyday so it’s pretty much a no-brainer. Besides, Verona is pretty much all they have to offer. Everything else is at least six dollars. I feel obligated to chit chat him up because of this thing between us. In turn, he offers to sell me a Barnes and Noble membership card that that’s good for 10% off any purchase. So, basically I’d be paying them to offer me a discount. I tell him maybe next time. He takes that to heart. He’ll make the same pitch tomorrow.The girls at Panera Bread stamp my card twice. The eighth one is free. They stamp it twice, they say, because I’m always in there. They come and clean my table while I’m reading. They take my plate and sweep off the crumbs from my table. I look up and smile. They know me. They all know me. They don’t know my name, but something more intimate. They know what I like. They know my routine. Some would call this good service. I call it annoying. It creeps me out and bursts by beloved bubble of anonymity. I just want to disappear with my thoughts.
Tomorrow, I think I’ll go to McDonalds. They don’t know me there yet. They ignore me. And I usually end up sitting in a booth that hasn’t been cleaned since their morning rush. I just want to go where no one cares about your name.

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