Friday, March 6, 2009

You're Late

The coolest thing happened this morning on my daily commute: I got noticed.

My current route is a nice 13.5-mile set of roads that mostly meander through quiet subdivisions and a couple of car-free trails. Usually, I stretch it to an even 15 miles by turning left on Franklin Pike Circle and going down to Panera Bread at Old Hickory. There, I refill my cheap travel coffee cup (which fits perfectly in the rear bottle cage on the Casserrol) and eat breakfast.

Like most humans, I am a creature of habit. I like to park the Casserrol by the rear door at Panera, leaning it against the glass wall right next to my favorite table. Then I go in and order either the orange scone or a cinnamon roll. Sometimes I will also get the nice folks at Panera to wrap up their Three-Seed Demi loaf (good, hearty, whole-grain bread ... yum!) for my lunch. Once I get my food and beverage, then, I can sit at the table, with the Casserroll separated from me by a thin glass partition, eat my scone or cinnamon roll, drink my coffee, and read whatever book or magazine I have brought with me.

On cold mornings, this repast can stretch to about 45 minutes, depending upon what I brought to read. This week, I've been reading Sue Grafton's "'A' is for Alibi." The Randowife has consumed all of Grafton's books, but I'm just starting. Are they good? Well, I've been lingering at Panera for almost an hour every morning this week, so you tell me.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

The folks at Panera know me, probably because I'm almost always the only guy in there walking around in cycling clothes. Usually, the person at the counter just asks if I want the scone or the cinnamon roll, and if I also want the demi today. Then we chat for a bit about the weather. If it's cold, they offer sympathy. If it's nice out, they offer a kind of congratulations ... almost as if it's my birthday.

My table (and it is "my table" - Panera doesn't have a headwaiter, but if they did I am certain that he would shoo people away from my table in the morning - "I am so sorry, monsieur, but thees table, eet ees reserved for monsieur Randoboy") is next to a couple of longer tables. Most mornings, there is a men's Bible study group at one or both of these. It's usually different sets of middle-aged men, and maybe there are groups from different denominations, but they're all getting good Christian fellowship on their way in to work. Not surprisingly - since this is Brentwood, TN - I've never seen a men's Koran study group, or a Buddhist study group, or a Jewish study group. Maybe they're at another Panera ... or Breugger's Bagels.

And, of course, I do my own preaching there, usually when I'm getting coffee. As we're lined up waiting for the Hazelnut Roast, somebody will often ask the obvious question: Why did Lance come out of retirement?

Just kidding, the question is usually a "duh" one, such as, "Did you bike here?" (to which I must bite my tongue to forestall my sarcastic answer regarding how, no, I just like to dress like a dork) or the more thoughtful query: "How far did you ride?"

Most are impressed with the fact that I had ridden 10 miles so far, and we go on from there. I tell them how wonderful my cycling commute is, how cars don't bother me much so long as I stay off the really busy roads, and how a 15-mile commute lets me burn off my morning scone (and probably the cinnamon roll, too ... I'll have to check the calories). Some of them even say that maybe they'll try it, although I must admit that every morning I still seem to be the only dork in cycling clothes hanging out at Panera.

This Yehuda Moon comic kind of sums it up:
Anyway, this morning I was running a little behind, and I didn't get to Panera until 7:15. A guy in the parking lot called out to me, "Hey! You're late this morning." I didn't recognize him - he didn't work there and I don't remember giving him my coffeepot spiel - but he had obviously noticed me. I had made an impression on him as "a fellow human that commutes by bike." And the more people there are that get to know more folks like me, the more people there are that will behave when they pass us in their cars, give us our space, and treat us like humans.

So, I'm doing a good thing. Hopefully, my employer will understand, then, why I must now start hanging out at Panera even longer every morning.

If altruism burns calories, maybe I can have the scone and the cinnamon roll.


  1. And maybe lingering longer (what a phrase) will get you to "B is for Bicyclist.

  2. I long to linger longer.

  3. but if you linger longer, that would make you later.