My regular customers are the best part of my day job.
We have one guy who works at Turbocam, and comes in to buy lunch a couple times a week. I brilliantly call him the Turbocam guy (I actually do know his name through some clever credit card stalking, but it's useless since the facebook search options have decided to fail me). He's got light brown hair, a normal, clean cut beard, and almost always wears a plaid flannel shirt. He comes in just before noon, always goes through express, and often has an older friend with him.
He's sweet, and quiet, and attractive, so I have a standing agreement with the express cashier that she puts on her light and pretends to need something so I can walk over when he's in line. It's all very sneaky, and subtle to the point that (sigh) he's probably never noticed. But I go to great pains to show off my management skills (look how fast I can make a void!), or make some stupid joke. Sometimes I even look right at him and say, "how are you?". I guess you could say it's getting pretty serious.
In the daily grind of our lives, it's easy to slip off into our own little world. We make coffee in our quiet house and commute with just the radio for company. We're tight with our coworkers, but only until 5 o'clock. The line behind us doesn't care about our day or our goals or that we think we're getting a cold. And it's always the nights we're feeling extra antsy that no friends are free.
There's a lot of joy that comes from going at life solo. Making our own routines, not looking to anyone else for a schedule. But there's also a lot of anxiety, and loneliness, and mundane-ness, too. And while we may be completely content with our lives, it can start to feel like you're just one in a sea of a million, unobserved, and easily replaceable.
But we'll never be completely aware of who notices us. We miss the sideways glances and the fact that they see us the minute we walk in the door. Someone somewhere knows our order by heart, loves the way our jeans fit, and legitimately looks forward to our regular Tuesday stop-ins. And yet we remain oblivious, too busy worrying about the frowning woman behind us and all we have to get done and whether or not we'll die alone.
Connection isn't found by scrolling through Humans of New York. It's found by being an active, present Human of the Here and Now. It's found by not simply stopping at 'good' when we're asked how we are, and by noticing the regulars in our community. We connect over the little things, the mundane rituals that get us through the week. The things we think only matter to us, but others learn to expect.
Turbocam guy probably just comes in looking forward to his sub. Perhaps he looks forward to our awkward joke exchange, too. But even if he's completely unaware that it's the same girl every time, his patience and smile and presence has added warmth to a sea of brusque, strange people. It's a connection that couldn't be any smaller, and yet feels so very deep.
Don't ever think that you aren't seen. Somewhere, a cashier has a nickname for you.