Back-to-school season means a period of the new. New textbooks, new classes, and new chatter about how this semester will be different. I am genuinely going to be on top of my work. But, in my opinion, the most glorious news: a new schedule.
Every year, May rolls around, and the concept of months of free time during summer sounds like a much-needed break. Every year, a few weeks into the promised copious free time, I come to the same conclusion — I thrive with structure.
To-do lists, classes, papers, and work shifts to complete all make me feel productive — no longer stagnant. Although I will most likely complain about my subsequent lack of free time about a week and a half into my newly scheduled life, I love it.
I understand the love of a ritual. A schedule promotes a sense of consistency. For example, every morning, I drink a glass of water and my cup of coffee. I would never judge someone’s sacred ritual. However, observing those who practice theirs brings me a little joy during my part-time job.
When I’m in Boston, I work at a local ice cream shop a few days a week. Almost every shift, I watch someone complete part of their daily, weekly or celebratory routine. Some make me laugh, some irritate me and some leave me confused every time.
Hard yogurt lady.
An older woman comes in every day. She is petite and has the wildest, curly gray hair. We serve a selection of “hard yogurt” ice cream made with low-fat milk instead of whole milk. Her favorite is peanut butter chip, which is also my favorite flavor. She orders a kiddie-sized scoop and always looks me right in the eyes when she thanks me and wishes me a good day. She is m
y favorite regular.
This little boy comes in weekly with his dad and is always dressed head-to-toe in his Spider-man costume. I never remember his order. It is probably something like cookie dough with gummy bears on top. Nonetheless, he never fails to make me smile while he pretends to throw webs or gets shy when another customer calls him a superhero.
This woman never orders. She comes into the store, waits in line, and asks for a sample of chocolate. After I hand her a tester spoon, she eats it and declares that she is not going to get anything, then proceeds to leave. I respect her willpower.
Four shots of espresso. Four — ordered at night! After he is rung up and leaves with his quadruple espresso, my coworkers and I love to theorize why he needs to be caffeinated at 8 p.m. Does he work the night shift? Frequently leaves all his studying until the night before? Maybe caffeine doesn’t affect him, but he loves the taste.
Late night nuisance.
This regular is the most infamous at the shop. It is almost as if this man enjoys seeing how close to closing time he can show up. Without fail, three minutes before we lock the door, he shows up. He always uses the bathroom and then places his order. It is typically past closing by the time he makes his exit.
Seeing these regulars has become part of my weekly schedule. A back-to-school must-do! Their rituals give me a sense of community and small-town interactions that become the foundation of my ever-so-craved structure.