October 24, 2006

An Everyday Loyal Customer or Borderline Autistic?

Near our offices, you have a handful of available lunch spots in walking distance, and wider variety the further you drive. One of those reliable stops is Carl's Jr. Nothing fancy, but the fast food joint offers enough variety to make it interesting, and it's worth stopping ever couple weeks or so. Given that the Cal Bears football team has a "buy one, get one free" offer on every game ticket, we're finding our trips to Carl's Jr. are coming with a fair regularity - following Saturday football.

But while we have been to the restaurant a fair number of times in the five-plus years at the company, and I can recognize some of the staffers by face, there are clearly others who have made Carl's Jr. an every day experience. One gentleman, quite heavy by any standards, can be counted on to have his lunch there every single day we show up. His routine, without fail, is to get his lunch at Carl's Jr, and then retreat to a corner table with his back to the front entrance. While in previous years, he tended to bring reading material from home, he's been reading the newspaper every time I've seen him in 2006.

His being at the restaurant is as much of interest as any of the menu items. Our first glance upon entering the restaurant is over our shoulder to see if he's there, in his regular spot. Today, arriving a bit earlier than usual, we were surprised to not see him there. Instead, two men (not regulars that I know of) were eating their own meals, likely not knowing the spot "belonged" to someone else. Yet, halfway through our meal, my colleague pointed out that the regular was back, and I looked back to see him wedging behind the table - in the one directly adjacent next to his usual spot, even though there were many more convenient open tables in the restaurant. That he even had to make the adjustment over from one table to that next to it seemed to pain him, as he looked uncomfortable in his new surroundings.

While having a routine is not uncommon, we've all heard about those with Tourette's Syndrome or Asperger's Syndrome who have to have things a certain way, often to the point of exactness, before they are comfortable. As I've never sat with Carl's Jr.'s favorite patron, I've never learned what makes him the way he is. I've never seen anybody sit with him, and I've never studied what he orders, to see if he eats the same meal every day. It wouldn't surprise me if he did, even as his weight has ballooned, even in the time I've seen him.

Other than the obsession with Carl's Jr., and the preoccupation with sitting in the same seat, day after day, there's nothing overly odd about this man. His clothes are tidy, his demeanor quiet, and his hygiene is clean. As far as I know, this could be his only vice, or his only escape from whatever other pressures move him to and fro. But he certainly makes me wonder. All I know is that the next time we go back to Carl's Jr., I'm sure he'll be there, furthering the mystery.

Listening to ''Trilogy'', by ATB (Play Count: 36)

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