Habits Breed Familiarity



Same is it ever was…

Ten years ago, living on a different side of town, I used to frequent a gas station most every weekday morning. This familiar place served the best coffee around, a morning copy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (loved their sports and food sections), and a sweet treat. I would pick out a cranberry nut muffin or a nut-topped, persian donut with butter cream frosting. The latter was almost irresistible. Every morning, Kwik Trip was home in between the real home and work. And every morning, the same male employee of this gas station was there to greet me and give me a dose of crap. I gave it back to hm. Over the course of weeks and months, I learned that his daughter lived in upper Michigan and he liked to downhill ski. He learned that I was married and a biker chick and the employee inevitably met Dyna Convertible (the Harley) one morning. We became familiar.

At some point, though, I decided that spending $5.00 a week on coffee, plus at least one or two treats a week, plus the newspaper was becoming an expensive habit. The flavored coffee that filled my cup at Kwik Trip was being brewed at the office. The peri-menopausal pounds were adding up and persians were not low-fat (yummy, yes, but not low fat). The newspaper print left on my hands every day became annoying and most of it was located on the internet for free. I quit the gas station. Cold turkey.

Several weeks later, I stopped at Kwik Trip for a cup of joe and was immediately reprimanded by above-noted male employee. “Where have you been? I haven’t seen you in weeks. I thought something happened to you.” He was seriously concerned.

It was at that moment I realized how familiar I had become to this employee and how much of a habit the coffee/paper/treat ritual had been. I had set the universe askew by my absence.

Same as it ever was…

Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever been a familiar figure to someone you really don’t know, who wonders where you’ve been when you take a two week vacation or a long hiatus? Does it make you think about every day habits, whether they are overly familiar to others?


Same as it ever was…

When I take mom out to lunch, we go to the same restaurant. It’s easy in and out for someone with a walker or wheel chair. The main dining room is easy for her to maneuver (unless it’s a busy holiday). The food is tasty. We have been going to Primo’s since before dad died, probably a good four or five years.

The past winter was extremely harsh. With temps below zero many days and the amount of snow and ice on roads and walkways, I did not take mom out to lunch for close to three months. Upon our triumphant return, we received the expected, “I haven’t seen you in awhile,” from a regular Saturday waitress. No, you haven’t sweetie, but it tickles me that you noticed, that we are familiar.

This Saturday was a lovely day, another opportunity for lunch with mom. I called Primo’s to make a reservation. The hostess/bartender answered.

Me: “Hello, I’d like to make a reservation for two at 12:15.” I swear she chuckled.

Hostess: “Sure, for Smith?” (I have changed the last name to protect  someone’s innocence.)

Me: “Yes.”

Hostess: “By the window?”

Me: “Yes.”

Hostess: “Okay, we’ll have a table ready.”

My voice is now familiar to the hostess. Is that a good thing or a bad thing or a kind of scary thing?

An hour later, I am helping mom get seated at our table by the window. Noel, a fabulous waitress, scurries over. The restaurant is busy and she is not wasting a moment. “Would you like anything to drink?” I ask mom if she wants a drink and mom nods in the affirmative. “Brandy Manhattan with extra vermouth?” comes from the lips of Noel. Yes, Noel. You have not waited on us in three months and you remember mom’s familiar habit…a cocktail with her dinner. You are awesome, Noel.

I was waiting for Noel to tell us what we were having for lunch without mom or I saying a word.

Same as it ever was…

Stuff 008Ahhhhhh….a 52 degree day…the warmth is familiar. I open the patio door. Gibbs and Ziva hear the familiar sound of the door and wake from their eternal napping habit. There is no one here to recognize me or the cats. Rather, we recognize long absent spring, gone for a year in between summer, fall and polar vortex. The three of us have not sat outside, on the patio, since October. The felines are overjoyed; they, too, have had cabin fever. Gibbs and Ziva get a closer look at the ground below, the people mulling around, and the birds that fly near. They remember what it’s like to be outside.

Cats are creatures of habit and Gibbs is no exception, he sits in his usual corner of the patio. I never know the object of his stare. Is he mad about roof shingles?

Same as it ever was…

“The truth is that everyone is bored, and devotes himself to cultivating habits.” ~Albert Camus~

Is that it? I’m bored? Is that why I listen to David Byrne every time I go for a walk by myself? On the same route? Bored?


Well, in that case…since I’m bored…I’m going to take my bored self to bed, lay my head on familiar pillow, and listen to a habitually snoring cat.


24 responses to Habits Breed Familiarity

  1. loisajay says:

    I love when this happens and it always catches me totally by surprise when someone recognizes me for my absence and welcomes me back. There is warmth left in this cold world. 🙂

  2. quarksire says:

    since i used to be a daily regular in town for many , yes i can relate, since now i only visit town evry week or 2 er 3 well, i get that a lot now ,yup yup…I miss al my gas station guys an gals now i do, but “retirement” is what it is i assume lol. guess i jest gotz to get out more huh! .oka yes cabin fever almost over, soon as winter is here 🙂 ( hasta’ 2 u frum Q

  3. M-R says:

    NOOOoooooo !!! Shit no, M-J ! Nothing to do with boredom.
    It’s simply the cycle of our lives. We get into these habit patterns and we like them so we stay in them. And then for whatever reason we change them. Start new ones. Life was ever thus.
    Personally I’m a creature who hates change – always have been.But Stringer got me on an aircraft and over to Europe and changed everything forever. And I am SO HAPPY we had those marvellous times – which became, btw, very habit-forming indeed … when we weren’t over there we were planning the next time. 🙂
    It’s only shallow people who think life has to be exciting and different all the time. Maybe I’m not supposed to say of of Camus – but hey, he was just a writing bloke, looking for fame.
    If we can live as we want to, there is noone in the world to point the finger.
    I have spoken.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      And you have spoken well! I don’t necessarily agree either that habits are from boredom. (Just being a smart aleck again) I think, rather, habits come from comfort. Like putting on a soft pair of jeans and bunny slippers…comfort. Getting in a plane and visiting Europe was an awesome habit, I am happy you had that opportunity M-R.

  4. Sharing an apartment for the first time with my long time friend applies this thoughts of you to me. Over time, we make ourselves habits to each other, making us familiar with the time we go home, eat dinner that we always bother to ask what time we arrived home and or have we really eaten. But we also cultivated habits especially with regards to our communal living like household chores, or keeping ones personal space clean and organized that sometimes it bores me to get their attention and tell them that their laundry is getting on my way, hampering my way down the stairs. 🙂

  5. That happened to me when I lived in Vegas. Every morning for 7 years. Her name was Jana. She knew everything about me. She knew my complicated work schedule. Even more so that me. She knew when I was going to change things up. I had monthly buying habits that I didn’t know I had. She did, though.

  6. Patrizia M. says:

    E’ bello che si sia preoccupato nel vedere la tua assenza, significa che ancora ci sono persone che si prendono a cuore la situazione degli altri.
    Ciao, Patrizia

  7. LB says:

    Not boredom!
    I like to think of your examples as supporting local business! and one of the reasons that I do that is the familiarity and friendships. Recognizing people and having them recognize me.
    Your story reminded me of a similar story of mine.
    When some friends of mine opened a coffee shop, I found myself stopping by every morning for a Iced Mocha and scone. Expensive and too many calories. The friendships though were rich and I wasn’t willing to give up the 5 or 10 minute social time.
    So I switched to coffee with skim milk and no scone, and still got the benefit of community 🙂

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Social time is always important, especially when it comes to friends. My girlfriend and I have started a new habit on Saturday mornings – walk three miles and then go support a local restaurant with a plate of pancakes. The hostess and wait staff are getting to know us. 🙂

  8. kathleenmc1953 says:

    Loved this post! Great observation about how we become part of a social fabric without really trying by just going about our daily routine. Often these contacts are what makes my day. It reminds me of the coffee place that I would hang out at. I would go in for an hour or so and read. I came to know several people there who became my cronies. Haven’t been able to find that since I moved. I was still recognized there when I went back to the neighborhood after 10 years! I guess that’s also why people hang out at their neighborhood bar. Coffee and alcohol are good people magnets! Within limits ;-)!

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Oh, I hope you find that place some day…where everyone knows your name…or you know their’s…coffee bar…chocolate martini bar…just somewhere.

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