Digging a Hole

Friday, April 09, 2010

The Mechanic is a Person in Your Neighborhood

Oh, werd?
As many people know, one of my favorite reasons for moving back to New Jersey is to be a regular. I love walking into a place where I am addressed by name, served before everyone else, and engaged in conversation by the proprietors. For example, it's a great feeling when I exhaustedly slide into a booth half an hour before the sushi restaurant under my office closes, and they not only overlook my jeans dripping with melting snow, but also keep the place open late so that I and my co-workers may eat leisurely. Recently, though, I have noticed a few places where being a regular may not be so good.

The Pharmacy:
Between traveling to Ecuador and my battle with vitamin-D, I began seeing the CVS pharmacist often enough that she stopped asking me for my name and started just handing me prescriptions. On the one hand, it's nice to know that I always get served before the crazy lady gets a chance to beg for Adderall. While pleasant, though, one has to wonder if it's healthy when the pharmacist knows to ask you how your recent fishing trip went. Maybe I'm just really friendly...

The Car Mechanic's Shop:
Last weekend, the MercedesBenson blew a transmission line and needed to be towed and repaired. After the repair, we realized that the brakes had also been somehow damaged, so when we limped back into town, we stopped immediately at Firestone for an estimate.
Firestone Guys: ERIC!!!
FG1: We haven't seen you in a little while, brother!
FG2: Company van or that sweet wagon?
Eric: The station wagon.
FG1: MmMmm... The first car to add the third row of seats. A classic.
I like the friendly service, but frequent customer discounts are not something that you want offered to you at a car shop.

The Bar:
Okay, so I have a job that gets out at 10pm, co-workers who instigate, and a family history of drinking problems. For these reasons, I am a "regular" at not one, but *three* Montclair watering holes. Now, partially, this is a situation that resulted from my time spent living with three young men who didn't like to go home straight from work. It's also a result of the fact that I go out on weeknights, not weekends, because weeknights are cheap, so I have time to get to know the staff. Either way, it's fun to amaze your friends from NYC with the ability to use significant eye contact and subtle hand signals to order an elaborate tray of drinks from a crowded to capacity Jake's Bar. But once the bartender at Tierney's starts offering you free after-closing whiskey shots... you might be too regular.

So, being a regular isn't always a good sign... but the fact that I can be a regular is a great marker of the amount of social capital in my neighborhood. So Mr. Rogers might not have ever had Kenny, the bartender from Jake's, come by his house for a chat, but a bartender's a person in your neighborhood. As is the car mechanic. The pharmacist. The officer who does the speed trap on Bloomfield Avenue. The crazy lady who says hello to me every morning. Etc...