Monday, July 20, 2009

Here Comes a Regular

BioGirl has a thing about being a "regular" at a local business. You know, like Norm in Cheers? A place where everyone knows your name and yells a hearty hello at you when you enter the room? TV is big on pushing the concept of being a regular somewhere. Lorelei and Rory had Luke's, Fleishman had The Brick, Richie Cunningham had Al's (or Arnold's, as the case may be), Brandon and Brenda had The Peach Pit, and Rog, Dwayne and Rerun had that place where Shirley worked. What was that place's name? Whatever. You get the picture.

I have been a regular at various places and at various times in my life, and there are good things about it, and there are not so good things about it. The good things are obvious- it's a nice feeling to be recognized as an individual human being in a city that can make you feel anonymous. But there is a bad side too, at least for me. Remember that episode of Sex and the City where Miranda calls the same Chinese restaurant for take-out constantly, and is chagrined that the take out lady knows her order so well? Like, the take out lady knows something sort of intimate about her (eating alone AGAIN, are you?) when Miranda sort of wants to be anonymous? I can feel like that sometimes. I used to go to this Indian restaurant whenever Nordic Boy went out of town on business. And the people there knew us, sort of, and when he was gone a lot, they would sort of look at me sadly. That deadbeat partner of hers has left her alone again, out doing god knows what all. But I just wanted my samosas, without the pity party. Don't cry for me, Argentina. Or Calcutta. Or whatever. Just don't cry for me.

Anyway. There is no better poster child for being a regular than our very own Nordic Boy. I don't know what it is, but he is a consummate regular. Restaurant people love him, remember him, treat him like family. To be perfectly honest it is straight up weird. Here's one instance. There is a Subway sandwich location near our house (and really, is that not a universal urban statement? Don't we all have a Subway near our houses? We were in Chicago last week and we literally counted a Subway on every block within a 15 block radius of our hotel. It's like we are all, collectively, Sarah Palin, and the Subway sandwich franchise is all, collectively, Russia). And this one time, he went there, but before he could walk in the door, he got a phone call. So he answered the phone outside the door, which was ok by him because there was a ginormous line of people waiting anyway. After he was done with the call, he walked in to the Subway and got at the end of the line. "No, no!" the Subway staff said. "Come up to the front of the line! We have already made your sandwich!" They had not only remembered him, but remembered his favorite sandwich, saw him standing outside the door on the phone, and made the dang thing ahead of time so that he wouldn't have to wait. I mean, WUT. That's nuts.

As you know, we have been gone from our homestead for two weeks. We arrived home from our travels to no food in the house. Our first meal back in Seattle? Our favorite Chinese takeout joint. This is what happened when we walked in the door. There was one worker standing in the vestibule.

Worker #1: (in a very "NORM!"-like way...) HEY!!! You're back! We missed you! Where have you been?
Nordic Boy: We were on vacation.
Worker #1: Vacations are great aren't they? So good to see you!
(Enter Worker #2)
Worker #2: HEY!! He's back!
Worker #1: He's back! He was on vacation!
Worker #1 and #2, together: HEY!!! He's back!
Worker #2: How was it? Nice to have you back!
(Enter Worker #3)
Worker #3: HEYYY! Look who's here!
Worker #1: He's back!
Worker #2: He went on vacation!
Worker #3: You look rested. Let's get your order started!

It was like this GRAND WELCOME. And thank you very much for not pointing out that I was total and complete chopped liver in that little scene there. I just don't merit the "NORM!" behavior, I guess.

The next meal, and we still hadn't gone grocery shopping. So on to our favorite burrito place. Nordic Boy called the order in. I could hear the excitment over the phone.

Nordic Boy: I'd like to order take-out, please.
Burrito Lady: SENOR NORDIC!
Nordic Boy: Hi there!
Burrito Lady: Where have you been?
Nordic Boy: We've been on vacation.

Etc, etc, etc. And yes, at this place, the workers do actually call out his name when he walks in the door. SENOR NORDIC! they say. How much more Norm-ish can you get than that??

BioGirl is, I shall presume to say, envious of this type of regularosity. She has told me that she covets regular status at a local coffee shop or restaurant. So yesterday, I asked Nordic Boy why he thought he was so good at being a regular. What pointers do you have, oh regular Yoda? He gave me the following, and I thought I would pass it on to you, in case you, like BioGirl, would like to cultivate this in your life.

1. Pick a place that you would like to become a regular and when you go there, (this part is very important), always order the same thing. Always.
This is Nordic Boy's way of making me feel better that no one yells "SENORITA LIBRARIAN!" when I walk in. It's because I always change my order. I am not Cheese Quesadilla Lady. I mix it up too much. That takes the regularity out of being a regular.

2. If you can, go to this place of business at a regular time.
Make every Sunday night sushi night. Or go get a coffee at the same cafe every morning at exactly 8:45 am. If the people who run the business can tell time by your appearance, then you've got a good chance of becoming a regular.

3. Thank the person by name if they have a name tag. This will make them remember you.
This one strikes me as particularly ballsy. Nordic Boy is constantly saying people's names and telling them his. When he calls random customer service type people (the bank, the rental car place, the whatever) and the customer service agent answers the phone and says "This is Amelia, how can I help you?" He always starts the call by saying, "Hi Amelia. This is Nordic Boy. I need to check on..." And he always ends by saying "Thanks, Amelia." He manages to do this and sound sincere, which I think is key. If you try it and it sounds like a cheezy dickwad, then maybe you should skip this one.

4. Do all of this consistently for a long time.
Stick with that cafe or hot dog stand for weeks and weeks and months and months. To be a regular, you have to go there, you know, regularly.

Being a tag-along to Nordic Boy's regular status is pretty nice, I have to say. We get good service at these places, and it is nice to be greeted with a smile and a little conversation.

I would also like some credit for writing this whole blog post about being a regular and not making any sort of Correctol or Metamucil type jokes. Because me not taking it there? Irregular.

9 comments:

Bev said...

I know I know I know! In the book "How to Win Friends and Influence People" the writer recommends calling everyone by their name as often as possible. It makes you feel special, like someone cares about your name. Think about how many emails you write. Do you start off with: Hey, dude check this out (as I do), or do you write: Erica, missing you tons, how is the job treating you?

Jenny said...

I love that you will write phrases like "cheezy dickwad" in your posts, with regularity!

dizz said...

HEY you're back! Where you been? On vacation? Wow, hey she's back!

See you're a regular in blogland so we have to welcome you back in exactly the same way, chuckle.

cadiz12 said...

i've always wanted to be a regular someplace, but i, too, change my mind way too often and am probably instead known as Senorita Frickin' Decide Already.

that subway thing was nuts. what if he was going to order something else that day? or decided to get chinese instead? they must REALLY love him there.

Marie said...

I was a regular at the Starbucks by my house for awhile and it wasn't until I started getting one drink consistently (grande soy gingersnap latte no whip, no snap) that they remembered me. It also helped when I stopped switching between glasses and contacts. I could tell every time I walked in that they recognized me but just weren't sure. It was always great to get a big hello, be called by name, and offered "the usual."
Unfortunately, the staff seems to have been rotated as most of those people are not there. They also don't have gingerbread syrup anymore so I am back to changing drinks all the time.

The Maiden Metallurgist said...

I will miss the little shop around the corner where Josh and I get our egg and cheese sandwich every Sunday morning when we move.

Melanie said...

I'm a regular at the coffee shop near my house, not because I order the same thing all the time (I usually tell them to just make me something yummy that I can't taste the espresso in....though I guess that's the same order each time...kinda....), nor do I go at the same time every day/week/whatever. I am simply there ALL THE TIME. I'm either at work, sleeping, or doing classwork at this coffee shop. I am now friends with two of the lead baristas, as well as several others, and the ones who don't just give me my drink for free? Give me the senior citizen discount. I'm 26.

Make friends with your servers/baristas/taco truck guys! Chat with them whenever you see them, as well as when they (and you) are not in their normal habitat. A "hey _insert name here_, how's it going?" goes a long way to making yourself known.

Manda said...

My hubby is better at being a regular than I am. I like to be anonymous most of the time.

But we did have one place that was great for a place to be a regular. It was a truck stop diner about half a mile from our house. They had great burgers and it was small enough physically to help the waitstaff and customers really connect. Even though we've moved from there two years ago, when we go back for a visit we always eat there. And they still remember us!

I think we always go back there to eat specifically because they remember us and it makes us feel like people actually miss us since we moved.

Sauntering Soul said...

I like being a regular even though I've only managed to do it well about three places in my life.

I always try to make our regulars at the paint studio feel special. I call them out from the stage when I'm teaching, I ask them to verify stuff I'm telling the new people is true, etc. I think it makes them happy.