About once a week I have my breakfast at Panera. It’s on my way to work so I like getting there early, while it’s still quiet, to eat my oatmeal and read. Creature of habit that I am, I sit at the same table, and have gotten used to seeing a bunch of other regulars, also in their same seats. There’s an older gentleman who sits at a nearby table and always orders coffee and toast. After he finishes his toast, he scrolls through his phone, props it up, and starts sketching on a napkin. Without fail. I circled by on my way to the trash one time so that I could catch at peek at what he sketches. Cars. He sketches cars. On napkins. One day recently I had an idea. I wonder if he’d like a pocket notebook for his drawings. (You may recall I have a few.) Is that weird?, I wondered. To offer a stranger a notebook? Maybe so, but Thursday morning I did it anyway. At first I got a a gruff little “huh?” out of him, then I explained that I noticed that he’s always drawing and I have all of these notebooks and maybe he’d like one. To draw in. Or for grocery lists or something.
He LIT UP. We talked about the “olden days,” when there were things like party lines and wonderful little stores downtown. I heard about his hernia surgery, and how he’s originally from Frankfort. And did I remember The Windsor beauty shop in South Utica because that was his aunt’s.
Thanks to a simple pocket notebook, I made a friend.
His name is Bruce and he’s 77.