The first time we visited the progressive suburban creperie, we’d allowed ourselves just enough time to eat before the late evening movie. Nestled in the crook between the faux rusticana post-antique used junk store and the self-consciously over-exotic soap and bong shop, the restaurant was the most convenient place to grab a bite, since it was right across the street.
The front of the restaurant was so completely open as to seem abandoned, and indeed, there were no staff to greet us. Such lack of structure tends to give me a kind of social vertigo, which can result in extreme bouts of self-doubt, leading to panic attacks if not promptly seen to. “Should we sit down, or do we stand? Where should we stand? Is there a queue? Do we order up at the front, or is that just for paying? Should we ring something? Are they even open?”
I stumbled about like a lummox, and nearly knocked over the beverage machine before a waiter finally intervened. Maybe my lack of coordination endeared me to the staff, but our anonymity was compromised either way. Still, after we were seated the evening progressed in a manageable enough fashion.
Partially owing to our first positive experience, we called on the creperie again the following weekend, at the same time as our first visit. We had the same waiter, who said we looked familiar. “Yes, we came last week too.” Ah, that’s right. Same table? Sure, why not.
Over the course of the following weeks we became regulars, and for this we were rewarded by the attentive staff who seemed to relish the predictability of our visits. It was unspoken that the table we’d first selected had become reserved for us, and we were treated to larger and larger side dishes, as if by incapacitating us the staff would render us increasingly reluctant to leave at all. Before we knew it there had built an air of expectancy around our visits. Oh, we were no less favored, but behind it there was the feeling that this had become a kind of dependent cooperative.
We knew the relationship had gone too far when, after greeting us both with a hearty bear hug in front of the other patrons, one of our regular waiters opened up to us about his problems with management. “Things around here, sometimes? They’re fucked up. Yeah, the cooks are sick of her shit too, but… People like you make it okay.” As our relationship deepened the waiters would fight among themselves just to seat us. Did we do anything to encourage such shameless fawning? I say we did not. In fact, by then our demeanor would best be described as that of cautious cordiality. “You’re such a cute couple,” they would tell us. “Out of everyone, you know? You guys! Anyway, I get them to make your crepe special, like usual. We’re cool, right?”
Too cool, in my opinion. Our visits to the creperie became erratic after that, and even when we felt there was no other solution, only one of us would go in while the other waited out in the idling car. “Oh, we’d really like to stay,” I would explain, “but we have to dash off, you see. She’s out in the car right now.” The waiter, crestfallen, would smile the saddest smile then, and wave at my partner through the front window. Or, before we even left home we would plot: “Let’s see, it’s Saturday. And last time we were there our waiter was there too, right? That was a Friday, I’m pretty sure. So there’s a chance that this is his day off, do you think?”
The worship became so ridiculous, the burden of creperie celebrity, that in the end we had to sever our ties completely. A friendly attitude will get you far, but oppressive recognition is something that no citizen should be made to shoulder. People cling to familiarity like it’s their mother leaving them at that creepy sitter’s house for the first time. So desperate are we for the barest sliver of regularity within the storm and stress that we celebrate even the most mundane repetition, as if that might somehow stem the tide. But, unless one finds oneself among socialites–the sociopaths of public intercourse–to seek anything more than civil anonymity from strangers is to court chaos.
Of course, this is coming from someone who has abducted pizza delivery fucks for looking me directly in the eye.