Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Norm Complex

I was in Chicago this past week, as evidenced by kb on his blog, sweet tartuffery. And as I walked into Einstein Bros, Caribou Coffee, and Chase Bank, I became aware of something that probably should have been obvious, but for some reason I didn’t realize until later on in the day – no one there knows me.

I wasn’t greeted by name as I am in DC. No one in the bagel or coffee shops knew who I was or asked about my weekend. No one in the bank said hello to me or asked me about my recent visit to New York. And of course they didn’t. Why would they? They don’t know me or anything about me . . . yet. It’s all about starting over.

I think about DC and how much I am ready to leave here and move to Chicago, my expected destination in September. I am so jaded on DC these days that I am trudging through my day and not noticing how nice I actually have it here.

Every afternoon, I walk into Schlotsky’s and Mr. Sing says hello to me and automatically gives me a large cup because he knows I will fill it with Iced Tea from the fountain. Once, when he was advised to replace the tea with something more popular, he told his salesman that he could not do that – he would lose a valuable customer, me. Everyday I see him, and every day he says hello and greets me by name.

Every day, I go to Chevy Chase Bank. Not only do I have my personal checking account there, I moved my agency’s bank accounts to CCB about two years ago. Every teller there greets me by my first name. Even the branch manager says hello and asks me how my moving plans are coming along. And I know them too: Maureen, the head teller, went to North Carolina last week to look for property with her husband – someplace where they can retire; Teller Lino just started working out and asks me every day for tips; Teller Marva is in summer school as well as working to finish her degree faster which sometimes makes her migrains flare up; Teller Valery just bought her first condo in upper NW.

My pharmacist at CVS, Mr. Alejo, greets me by name as well. Not because I have a hundred prescriptions, but because I gave him a yellow liveSTRONG bracelet for his younger sister who could not seem to find one. When he sees me, Mr. Alejo asks about my health, my recent doctor appointments, and even gives me names of new prescriptions to suggest to my physicians.

It’s a nice feeling to know that people know you and remember you, and think to ask you about your weekend, your health, your future. I am sure eventually it will be like that in Chicago as well; the guy at the local coffee shop will get used to seeing me every morning, the front desk people at the gym will become accustomed to seeing me around 9:00 each night, and the clerk at the little grocery store will inquire about how the steaks I bought last week turned out. But it didn’t happen last week and it won’t happen next week. Not in Chicago.

But it did in DC. It happened last week, it happened today and it will happen tomorrow. I count these people among the ones I will miss the most.