Where everybody knows your name …

16 Apr

This is an odd week. The weather is crap, work is stressful, and that stuff plus Monday’s bombing in Boston at the end of the marathon has me thinking of and wishing for simple, uncomplicated life and things. Whenever something awful like that happens, my automatic retreat isn’t into paranoia (like so many wackadoodles on the internet are doing), nor really into anger – disappointment, yes, but not anger, nor into fear. My “happy place” as it were is, well, happy things. And like I’ve written about so many times, while we talk about, take pictures of, post about, tweet about, (and in our parents day, bore our friends with the slides of …), the big things in our lives, honestly, it’s the little things that really supply that daily dose of happy.

Little things like your happy dog greeting you when you walk in the house at the end of the day. Noticing the crocuses are poking up on a cold spring morning. Greeting your neighbor as you both pick up the newspaper in the morning. A high five or “knuckles” after a momentary moment of triumph. That first aroma of that first sip of coffee in the morning. The smell of Grandma’s house. And much/many more.

Circling it back to Boston, and giving you a look at how my always spinning mind works, every morning, I stop at the same Starbucks on my route to work – the one on the NW corner of Randolph and Wacker Drives in Chicago. I always order the same thing – Grande decaf Americano with two pumps of sugar free vanilla syrup in it. I’ve been doing this so often that they know my drink, know my name and greet me as such every morning. “Hey Stew – the usual? And they repeat it back to me as they fill out the cup. I pay with the iPhone app, then go wait for my drink where the barista makes it and hands it to me with a smile: “Here’s your Americano, Stew, two pumps, decaf. Have a great day.”

This morning, I was thinking of everyone in Boston like so many people. The people horribly maimed and instantly dismembered by the bomb – with legs and arms blown away. The people killed. And as I walked into Starbucks, like I do every morning, I got a chill. The daily routines of those that were injured so horribly will never ever be the same. And the little things for them will all change. I got to thinking about what if one of those people – like the guy with his lower leg blown off being pushed in the wheel chair by the guy in the cowboy hat – had a regular routine like me. And suddenly, he just doesn’t show up again. I know the “familiar strangers” (a topic I wrote about last year) in his life would probably miss him. When I miss my Starbucks stop for a few days, they notice – “Hey, Stew, where ya been, man?” Anyway, so chilling. My prayers go to all these people for their comfort and healing, and to those that lost their lives, I pray that their families can find comfort and blessing in the memories of their family members.

Which, brings me to my other Boston connection. As I grabbed my coffee and turned to leave the Starbucks this morning, and Davis, the barista calls to my back “Enjoy the day, Stew, see ya tomorrow”, the theme song to the TV show “Cheers” popped into my head. “Sometimes you want to go, where everybody knows your name … and you’re always glad ya came”. And I realized, among all the things that are my little favorite things, this has to be one of the biggest ones. Whether it’s the hardware store, the Starbucks, the Honda dealer, the corner bar, the local restaurant, etc., we, as humans, crave familiarity, even among strangers. When go somewhere, whether it’s a business, or just anywhere else, it’s good to have people who know you who are. It feels good. You feel like you’re among friends.

I like to joke, but it’s really no joke, that one of the reasons I’ve been successful as an account-side person in the advertising biz (who, by job description is designated with building relationships and friendships with everyone we deal with) is because I was trained well by a man named Jim. Jim (who is a subscriber to my blog) was the manager of the country club in my hometown, and I worked there summers and winter breaks all through college as a bartender. Jim taught me to memorize the names of our patrons, memorize their favorite drinks, etc. and then when the person came in, you’d have that drink made before his or her butt hit the chair, and would deliver it to them as they sat down. Nothing made Burt Livingston feel better than having me arrive at this table with his tall Dewar’s and water and a glass of wine for his wife Junella. Nothing made Dr. Cather feel like a big shot than to have me deliver a glass of his favorite “Taylor’s New York State Sauterne” (of course giving the full name of the wine as I served it) as he sat down with his guests. (Please no comment about Dr. Cather’s choice of wine. ‘Nuff said.) The Newton Country Club was the place where everybody knew their names, were always glad they came. And the Irreverend Jim preached the gospel of “make people feel special”. It’s something that has served me well all these years.

Robin always is a bit puzzled by me in that I love going back to the same places for dinner, for drinks, etc. over and over again. She says it’s the “Iowan” in me, that I don’t like adventure, etc. It’s not that. I do love new places, new adventures, new things. But when I want to feel good, when I want to go to my happy place, when I’m managing my way in the world today and it’s taking everything I’ve got. When I’ve craving a break from all my worries, it sure does help a lot. I would like to get away. So sometimes I got to go where everybody knows my name … and well, you know the rest.

Here’s the theme video. Enjoy:

And if you’re so inclined, pray for those folks in Boston. And pray for those folks in Boston that they see every day. The people that know their names.  And may not see them anymore.

As you were,



2 Responses to “Where everybody knows your name …”

  1. Josefa April 16, 2013 at 9:41 pm #

    This takes me back to September 11, 2001. We had a restaurant in Lincoln Park at the time. I woke up that morning, planning on going to a big wine tasting that day before heading over to the restaurant to open up. As we all know, things were different that morning. I headed down the Kennedy on that bright blue morning and looking at the Chicago skyline, wondering what the scene would be like had those planes hit one of those buildings and wept. I got to the restaurant and fielded calls from employees asking if they needed to come to work, if we were going to close? “Of course we aren’t going to close – if we close, they win (not really knowing who “they” were yet).” We didn’t have our patio license yet but we opened anyway. CPD was probably way too busy that day securing the homeland and could not be bothered with enforcing local liquor laws. People swarmed out of their homes that evening, just to go somewhere friendly, somewhere that didn’t have a TV playing those horrible images over and over again.

    Yesterday hit me hard. The finish chute of a marathon is always in a state of disorganized chaos, yet it is a place full of joy and an exhibition of the power of the human spirit triumphant. I was tracking a friend of mine who qualified for Boston last year. As you may or may not know, Boston is the holy grail for marathon runners because you need to run a qualifying time in order to even apply for admission. Boston is also pretty hallowed ground for women marathon runners because of the women who made it possible for us to compete in ANY sport today – Katherine Switzer and Joan Benoit Samuelson. So when my friend Tina qualified last year, we celebrated her triumph and followed her training in anticipation of this day. You see, runners are part of an extraordinary community and we celebrate other’s achievements almost as if they were our own. Anyway, I was tracking Tina online as I worked away from my home office, getting text alerts as she crossed timing mats at the 10K, half marathon and 35K marks. Despite injuries that plagued her training, she was on pace to finish in 4:20. At the 35K mark, she would have had about 40 minutes to go and I was excited to get that last text alert, notifying me that she had crossed the finish line. 30 minutes after I got that alert, I got a notification that there were bombs going off at the finish line. I stopped breathing for a moment and that is when this great group of runners that I know, all across the country, started communicating with each other, going to those places where we all know our names – Facebook and Twitter -and watched these events unfold together, trying to get through to someone that could tell us that Tina and Nancy were safe. I wept, I trembled, I finally got word that she was OK, and I kept trembling – for all those other runners, spectators, volunteers and first responders – knowing that the happy disorganized chaos had turned into something we won’t ever forget, each and every time we come to a finish line, from now on.

    We are a resilient bunch, but yesterday, our innocence was taken away. We’ll bounce back, but thankfully, we have that place where we can go and find one another for an encouraging word, some licking of our wounds, some celebrating and in this case, some mourning for our collective loss. We’re not afraid however, and the cowardice displayed yesterday won’t ever keep us away. Running changes everything but everything changed for runners yesterday.


  1. Finding my muse again | Stew's Brew - September 22, 2013

    […] that went more or less viral, collecting thousands of views as people shared them around – my post about the Boston bombing collected 10,000+ views in the space of a week or two – just amazing.  As people shared and […]

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