Regular Service

Walking into a place a whether it's a coffee shop, a bar or a diner — and being welcomed. And not in some boisterous Norm-from-Cheers way either. Being a regular means not having to make a spectacle.

It's a cold beer open and waiting at Jones Co. Tavern in Cedar Center after working a 3-to-11 shift in a Collinwood factory. (As one of the few places I've ever actually felt like a regular, the former hangout for John Carroll students and neighborhood folks had good food, dartboards and friendly service.)

Being a regular is more than just frequenting a place. It means consistency: same time (Thursdays), same order (Amstel Light and a dozen wings) without fail. Deviate and it's noticed, maybe even questioned with a genuine note of good-natured concern.

Being a regular means commitment. It's an oath of loyalty to the owner/waitress/bartender: I am here for you as much as I am here for me. And knowing the same holds true from them.

"It's a tradition for us," says Mona Bartholomew in this month's cover story. She's been a regular at Gina's Place with her father for a decade. "And they know us here."

Being a regular is the two eggs, two sausage, hashbrowns and toast of our existence. It's reliable, satisfying and affirming.

As a regular, your presence says, You're doing something right. You're worth returning for. It's the coffee at Dee's or the turkey sausage at the Big Egg or having a personal waitress "who's the bomb" at Big Al's.

And because you could go anywhere but have chosen to stop here, there's a red-white-and-blue freedom in being a regular.

Being a regular grounds you in a way that's essential, in ways that continue to disappear from our disposable-coffee-cup lives. It says, I'm here because I need to be part of something larger than myself. I'm here because I want a connection.

Yes, being a regular is like a great diner. Just ask Mickey Pieffer, who has been a regular at Dee's Diner with his brother Dan since 1965: "It's an extension of home."

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