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Archive for Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Old (caffeine-laced) habits die hardest

June 20, 2006

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All my adult life, I've had a simple rule: Find a place, and be a regular there.

Generally, this has not been a boon to my waistline. When I lived in Parsons, "my place" was a Mexican restaurant. In Emporia, it was a Chinese place - which went out of business shortly after I left town. I don't think I can take credit for keeping it open as long as I was there, but who knows?

In Lawrence, "my place" has been a coffee shop. And there ain't no regulars like coffee shop regulars.

At La Prima Tazza, where I make my coffee home, I see the same group of people every morning, stopping in for some caffeine on their way to work. There's Kevin, the schoolteacher. Tom, the financial planner. Jordan, the museum guy. Keith and D.K., who have time to sit around and chat for an hour. A couple of other people whose names I don't know, but whose faces are familiar after years of seeing them in line, mug in hand, waiting patiently and expectantly.

I've heard the baristas talking on occasion. Often, drink choice becomes identity.

"You should've heard what Bill said today."

"Bill?"

"Yeah, he usually comes in around mid-morning and orders an iced vanilla latte."

"Oh, yeah. Bill's his name?"

It's community, in its own way. And kind of addictive.

Even so, I wasn't too alarmed a week or so back when Andy, the manager, handed me my Sunday morning mug and warned: "We're not going to be open the next couple of days." The shop, it turned out, was replacing the badly worn-out floor.

Habits are habits, though, and the next morning I found myself walking to Tazza before remembering it was closed. And because habits are habits, I found Keith sitting on the bench in front of the shop, sipping coffee he had procured elsewhere. I'm told that D.K. joined him later, for their usual morning hashing out of the day's issues.

Wednesday morning, though, I drove down to the shop ready to resume my habits. But when I got there, Josh - another regular - was out front peering into the dark interior, looking alarmed.

The same thing happened again on Thursday. The floor replacement was taking longer than expected. And the regulars (including myself) were getting itchy.

Which is kind of silly. Somebody with a good arm could hit three other coffee shops from the intersection of Seventh and Massachusetts streets. But none of those places were "my place" - for me, or for any of the other regulars.

Anyway, the crisis is over. The shop reopened on Friday. Folks were lining up again.

But it's all been enough to make me add a second rule to the first. Find a place and be a regular. But have a backup plan.

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