This blog is devoted to remembrances and essays on general topics, including literature and writing. It has evolved over time, and some older posts on this site might reflect a different perspective and purpose.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Man of Regular Habits

            Beginning back in the newspaper days I got into the habit of making Saturday breakfast something of a treat. At first I would sleep in a bit then go out to one of several cafes that I hit on a rotating business. Typically there was one special dish I’d have at each place.
            One of the destinations at the time was Good Golly Miss Lolly’s, which occupied the restaurant at the old Arabian Motel (named for the horse, not the ethnicity) in Aptos. At some point in the early 1990s it went out of business and I moved another restaurant into its place in the rotation.
            Several years after the demise of that establishment I was having lunch on the wharf in Santa Cruz. On the way out I stopped at the parking booth at the entrance to the wharf and when the woman in it and I saw each other, we locked. Each of us knew we knew each other but it took a few seconds for the penny to drop. She got it first.
            “Miss Lolly’s,” she said. “Bacon and cheese omelet.”

Creatures of Habit

            She had of course been one of the pleasant and efficient waitresses there, and like a New York City bartender she could tell you what a regular customer ordered, if nothing else. With my radio face and regular habits, I must have been easy to remember.
            From time to time someone will ask if Quill Gordon, the protagonist in my mystery The McHenry Inheritance is anything like me. I generally demur on that one, but in one respect the answer is a clear yes. Gordon is a man who sticks with the tried and true, and at one point in the book, the waitress at the local greasy spoon good-naturedly details his predictable tendencies.
            Most people, when you come down to it, are creatures of habit to a certain degree. One of the things I learned in the newspaper years was that our readers were and that changes, accordingly, had to be made incrementally. People got really upset if something changed dramatically, because they weren’t used to reading the paper in the way they now had to.
            Being a man of habits, I’m interested in those of others. I recall being really annoyed when I finished Neal Gabler’s otherwise excellent biography of Walter Winchell. How on earth, I asked myself, could someone write a 700-page book about a man who spent his life in nightclubs and not once mention what he drank?

The Benefits of Regularity

            Having set habits that are known to those you deal with can pay off. I regularly stop off at a produce stand to buy a lemon to go with my bedtime cup of herbal tea, and the cashiers sometimes have me rung up and my change in hand by the time I reach the register.
            These days my Saturday treat is a stop at the donut shop in Capitola. Not to say that I’m predictable, but I get there between 7:45 and 8 a.m. and get one with blueberry frosting and one with white frosting and sprinkles (the type favored by Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive).
            A couple of weeks ago I overslept and didn’t get there until 8:15. There were several people ahead of me, but the lady behind the counter saw me come in, waved me forward, and handed over a bag that had been on the shelf behind the display. My two usual donuts were inside.
            I guess you could say she knew my habits.