This morning, for the third time in a week, I spent a couple of hours in the back room of Gil’s Alley Diner. It is a large square room with tall ceilings, industrial deco style. The room has a mix of round and square wooden tables. A large metal-frame window visually connects the dining room with the kitchen. They make excellent bombolone – small Italian style doughnuts filled with a thick custard.
Today was my third time in a week, and I’m beginning to feel like a regular now. I certainly behave like one: same coffee order – long black – same seat if it’s available – a little round table close to the wall in the main room. I think I got a look of recognition today from the waitress.
With regular status comes a sense of obligation. Tomorrow, I should go back, and certainly not somewhere else. I should keep the same order, maybe vary the choice of pastry, but not go for just a coffee. When I think about it more, I sense an odd feeling that the place is now counting on me for its bottom line regularity, and for the social fabric of the day – little as I contribute, I have become part of that small community.
This feeling bothers me. I have experienced it before with other places, and each time it came creeping in, I stopped going. Worse – I felt a sense of guilt associated with the place, and after not going for a week, would feel incapable of ever going back.
I wonder where that feeling came from. Maybe the fear of dependence? Maybe the guilt of staying there for so long? Maybe resentment that, when they prepare the tables for lunch service, I’m not welcome to stay – unless I order food. I hope I can get over these feelings this time – I would like to keep going to Gil’s diner. It’s a beautiful place to work and think, and they make excellent bombolone.
Personally I like the idea of ‘regular’ status. I enjoy not only the feeling of community, but recognition. I used to travel across town to go back to the place in Brunswick, where I would go at least weekly for coffee and internet, and to check what’s new in their menu.
I find that in this day and age, where our cities grow bigger, and friends and family become increasingly distant, this is added value for me.