Where I spray-paint my thoughts…

Same River Twice


One thing I’ve always wanted is to go to a restaurant or coffee shop so often that I’m “a regular,” and when I come in I can order “the usual” and they’ll know just what I want. Seems to happen to people in movies a lot more than it’s ever happened to me.

I’ve only ever come close to this experience once. I used to work on Water Street in downtown St. John’s, and across the road from where I worked, in the Fortis Building, was a tiny coffee shop which served a small lunch menu. It was staffed by one guy, who seemed to do all the cooking as well as the serving himself. After I’d been going there a couple of times a week for a few months, I got to know the guy — and his chicken quesadillas.

There wasn’t anything spectacular about them. They weren’t The Best Quesadillas Ever, or anything like that. They were simple — cheese and chicken, cooked on the grill while you waited.  They looked much like the quesadillas in this picture, except the presentation wasn’t as fancy. Most important, they were reliably tasty. I came to rely on their tastiness, and the friendliness of the guy who served them.

He knew me. I was a regular. And without even asking for “the usual,” I could count on getting my quesadillas.

One day, I walked through the door and the guy behind the counter said, “Your quesadillas are ready.” This was a little eerie because, as I said, I didn’t go there every day — more like once or twice a week, not on any particular schedule. I said, “How did you know I was coming in today?” and he nodded at the window. “I saw you crossing the street,” he said.

The pleasure of being “a regular” was crystallized in that moment: somebody knew me, expected me, anticipated my wants and supplied them before I even asked.

I didn’t miss a lot about the old building we moved out of, but I missed being across the street from the coffee shop with the friendly guy and the nice quesadillas. The place where I was a regular.

This morning at my desk, I thought for a fleeting moment of those quesadillas: how tasty they were, how I’d like to have one again. I didn’t connect that thought with the fact that I had a downtown appointment at lunchtime until much later, when I realized I would be on Water Street for lunch and I could drop in to the coffee shop. It was perfect. I could almost taste the chicken and cheese.

Except, of course, that we’re talking about St. John’s coffee shops — a species with a lifespan as fragile and ephemeral as the fruit fly. Oh, the shop was still there, but it had a different name, and an unfamiliar face behind the counter.

Still, I checked. “Do you have quesadillas?” I asked.

“The breakfast quesadilla?” she said, holding out something small, round and pre-wrapped.

“No,” I said sadly, remember how the quesadillas, freshly folded, would be sizzling on the grill as I walked through the door. I stepped back to allow another customer to get to the counter while I pretended to read the menu — then I ducked out the door. If I couldn’t have quesadillas, I didn’t want anything. I went somewhere else (another new coffee ship, beating its gossamer wings, struggling into its short-lived existence) and ordered a panini.

Some guy called Heraclitus said you can never step into the same river twice. And you can never go back and eat the same quesadillas again either, apparently.

5 thoughts on “Same River Twice

  1. Sounds almost like a Harlequin romance!

    I’ve heard somewhere that some of our memories fade as time goes on, but others get sweeter every time they are remembered.

    Those quesadillas were probably like cardboard. 🙂

    Look at it from another angle… instead of being a regular, you have regulars! And you keep serving up what we want, sometimes before we know it!

  2. The ladies at Auntie Crae’s know that if I get my coffee in one of their mugs, I want my biscuit and jam on a plate since I’m eating in, but if I get a take-away cup, the biscuit and jam go in a bag to be carried back to the office. It’s insane how important such things can be to one’s happiness, but there you are.

  3. Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
    Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.

    Wouldn’t you like to get away?

    Sometimes you want to go

    Where everybody knows your name,
    and they’re always glad you came.
    You wanna be where you can see,
    our troubles are all the same
    You wanna be where everybody knows
    Your …Quesadilla order.

    You wanna go where people know,
    people are all the same,
    You wanna go where everybody knows
    your …Quesadilla order.

  4. I have a little coffeeshop where they have my glass of ice and Diet Coke waiting when I walk up to the counter.

    But there is no “regular.” Beyond that, I never know what I’m going to order until it comes out of my mouth. Sometimes, not even then.

  5. At “The Pancake House” on Main Street in West Hamilton, Lori will bring me french toast every time. That has more to do with her phenomenal memory than it does with my regularity (that sounds like I’m talking about bathroom habits…sorry ’bout that). The first time I went there, I ordered french toast. A week later, when I went there, she asked me, “French toast again?”. Then and there I decided that my regular thing would be french toast…just because.

    It’s evolved, but Lori always remembers. Now it is French toast with sausage, and a caffienated coffee for my first cup, followed by any number of decaf’s for the rest (depending on how long I sit and chat).

    For a hear and a half I went every Saturday morning to this place, and Lori always remembered the regular order plus any changes and modifications made along the way. I haven’t been there for almost two months now, but I bet if I go back, she’ll remember my order.

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