I had the Fluffy Burger today. It's named for the big burly guy with the awesome tattoos who was a cook there for a few months. I miss him. And that burger? Oh. My. Gawd. It's a big ol' hunk of meat, with melty white cheese, grilled mushrooms, more melty white cheese, grilled onions, two or three more slabs of melty white cheese, and some sort of grease sauce. ~slobber~
One of the ladies who works behind the counter has friended me on Facebook. I don't know how she found me, but she did. She was excited to learn that we both come from the same small peninsula on an island that is part of another country altogether. How unlikely is that?!
Very unlikely, actually. I had to explain that I wasn't from that area at all. I list it as my home town on my profile because it is also my real-life last name. We had a laugh about it.
I don't strive to be anonymous online, just un-googleable by my real name. My chosen career necessitates secrecy - as much as is possible - about my personal life. I grew up in a glass house and that's where I first learned to keep secrets, for better or worse. I don't mean that bad stuff was happening at home. Rather that privacy was always at a premium and secrecy was how you bought it. At this point, my brother would be rolling his eyes. He - having grown up in the same glass house - thinks I am way too revelatory online. And I am. Within carefully controlled boundaries and under an assumed name. It's weird inside my head, I know.
I keep secrets that don't even need to be secret. It's become habit. Occasionally I think it's not especially healthy.
I recently told a group of 4,000+ women that I'm a part of on Facebook what my real name is. I've been in that group for more than 10 years. All but me and about three others are clergy members. There was no reason for them not to know my real name. So, when a post asked for us to update our introductions, I put it out there. It felt weird, but good.
About a year ago I stopped at a friend's house for a quick visit on my way through Dallas to somewhere else. I count this woman as a good friend. We've read each other's blogs for a decade or more. I've spent weekends in her house. I've been to her churches to hear her preach several times over the years.
On this particular afternoon, I sat at her fabulous kitchen table (it is a seriously cool table) having a cup of tea. Another of her friends dropped by and she started to introduce me to the woman. She said my first name, then a look of desperation dawned on her face. I'd never - not to my memory - ever told her my last name.
I introduced myself to the friend.
So, yeah. I keep secrets. More than I need to.
Today, when I walked into the diner, the lady at the counter handed me a large, unsweet tea in a to-go cup. She'd seen me in the parking lot and had it ready by the time I opened the door. It's nice to be known.
I placed my order and took a seat in a rickety booth. The cook - who I don't remember seeing before - yelled at me from behind the grill. "What kind of bun do you want?"
"Surprise me!" I yelled back. She grinned and slathered a jalapeno bun with an ungodly amount of butter before dropping it on to the grill.
Once I'd finished the cholesterol-fest, I got a refill and headed out the door. As I was leaving all the employees yelled "Bye, Rachel!!"
I'd not been there for at least two months. I only recognized one of the three ladies working. But we joked around a bit and they all called me by name and made me a hella-good lunch. I felt like a rock star. I know this sort of thing is not exclusive to small towns, but it is a part of small town living that makes life more pleasant.
As I was driving back to the office, (in a town 10 miles away where the only lunch option is a beer store that serves BBQ) I remembered another name-related incident from this summer. (It's really, really good BBQ, by the way.)
A couple of months ago, a Facebook friend sent me a message that he'd be in my part of the world and suggested dinner. I'd never met him, but enjoy what he has to say online, so I readily agreed. We arranged to meet in a neighboring town, a place with a more robust restaurant choice. I asked what kind of food he wanted. He told me his preference right away: Tex-Mex. Points to him for decisiveness. Tex-Mex is infinitely do-able in my part of the world. There were two places that sprung to mind and I chose the one where I had an ever-so-slightly smaller chance of running into people I knew. We agreed to meet there at 6:00 p.m.
The day of dinner, he sent me a message and said he'd gotten waylaid by the bishop and was late leaving his church. He wouldn't be there until 7:30 p.m. I told him that was the absolute first time I'd ever gotten that excuse, but assured him that 7:30 was fine.
Actually, I was thrilled. Everyone in town eats dinner at about 6:00. I don't know why I picked that ridiculous time in the first place. For someone who tends to be secretive about their private life, it was the worst possible time to meet. By 7:30 the restaurant would be cleared out and we'd have the place practically to ourselves. Yay for the bishop!
I pulled into the parking lot right on time and discovered the guy had messaged me five minutes earlier that he'd arrived and was waiting at a table. Points to him for punctuality. I grabbed my wallet and headed inside.
As I entered the door, my eyes jumped over the three long tables pulled together, spanning the front of the dining room, to the smaller individual tables behind them. Sure enough, there he was, looking just like his Facebook photos. Points to him for honesty. I smiled and waved.
All forty people seated at the long tables in the front of the room smiled, waved back and said en mass, "Hi, Rachel!"
Turns out the entire town of Key, where I live, 20 miles away, had decided to have a late dinner there that night. Seriously. There were, like, fifty people I knew. Right there in front.
Well, maybe not fifty. But, still, it was the entire young(ish) adult department of the local Methodist Church. All of 'em.
I said hi, patted few shoulders, and smiled at the rest as I skirted the edge of their behemoth dining table and made my way to where my dinner companion sat, bemused and somewhat curious.
His first words? "I feel like I'm on the set of Cheers! I forgot about small towns."
And don't get the big head about being well known. Because when you get back to your office and start seeing your afternoon appointments, you will realize that one of those women you didn't recognize at lunch knows you because she is the girlfriend of your 2:00 p.m. guy. And she will use the tip money you gave her to help to pay off a massive debt the lazy bastard owes because he won't get a job and pay it himself. But now he'll get off probation without going to jail. And she will be awfully happy about that.