I’m a Creature of Habit when it comes to many things. I know what I like and I stick to it, especially when it comes to restaurants and my walking route. And most of the time it pays off in the form of random, meaningful connections.
When I’m walking I only have a couple of routes. My favorite route is through a neighborhood. I look forward to the people and animals I meet along the way. They make my day better.
My favorite “haunt” is TJ’s Cafe. I visit usually once a week now, but when they first opened, I went probably four days in a row. I discovered they had the best biscuits and gravy and pancakes I had ever tasted. I continue to get that every time I go to the cafe. When I walk into TJ’s they already know what I want to order — order of biscuits and gravy with an extra sausage patty, chopped onions (try it on your gravy, it’s amazing) and pancakes to share, along with a coffee and a water. I don’t even have to order anymore. If I want to change anything, I know I’d better call it out the second I walk in the door.
But, it isn’t always the food that keeps me going to places such as TJ’s. It’s the people you meet, make connections with and get to know. Few things touch me as deeply as the stories of others and those connections you make with people in this life.
Two waitresses at TJ’s, Jules and Crystal, make my day every time I come in. Jules and I have had many talks over pancakes, coffee and biscuits smothered in gravy. She comes over and sits down in-between getting more coffee for me and others in the cafe. She always greets me, talks to me and shares stories about her life. Jules also likes to ask about my job at The Gazette and sometimes we discuss local news. Upon my return from a recent vacation to Eureka Springs, Jules expressed desire to go so we joked we were going to leave the next day.
“I’ll see you at 6:55 a.m. (our agreed time was 7 a.m.) and don’t be late,” she said to me as she began clearing the dishes off of my table.
Then our attention turned to credit cards with chips — on some machines you can’t leave a tip on the card after it’s been run. I happened to fall victim to this the last time I was there. Jules said it was no big deal — meaning she was willing to forego her tip — a sign of her generous personality. I would hear no part of that. She tried to stop me as I made my way to the car to get some cash. She joked and said she was going to lock the door on me. I jokingly said she’d have to remove me from the door as I stood in it to prevent her from locking it. And that would be considered customer abuse, I told her. We both had a good laugh and she got her tip.
On a side note, Jules once told me she’d quit her job if her name ever appeared in the paper. I’m hoping she makes an exception in this case and doesn’t quit, because I’d truly miss seeing her at the cafe.
You can put price on the food you eat, but you can’t put a price on human connection. You can’t put a price on those experiences and the stories you hear from people around you. These connections remind me to listen in life — to not be so closed off and so busy that I miss these connections. It’s important to be open to these connections. I am constantly amazed and deeply touched by the human experience — those connections you make that you don’t see coming.
I love random conversations on a sidewalk while waiting for a light to change such as the one I had on my way back to work following a funeral last week. I learned the man was from California and the he had once received a ticket for going against a yellow light. As he walked away, he told me to have a nice day. Little did he know he lightened my heavy heart a little. A small, but meaningful connection — and to me, that’s what makes life meaningful.
—Brandy Nance is the online and news editor for The Emporia Gazette. Her blog, The Wandering Pigeon, can be found online at the thewanderingpigeon.com, on Instagram and on Facebook. Brandy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.