Vanda and I were at Panera Bread for coffee and a bagel this morning before work. It’s been a favorite of our for several years. There’s always a crowd of older folks at the one near us in Boardman, Ohio. A little community has developed. We see many of the same faces whenever we go in, and even though we don’t know them or even interact beyond a smile or greeting, it still gives us a sense of familiarity.
There is one thing that makes me a little uncomfortable though. It’s kinda funny too.
As Vanda and I were throwing away our trash on the way out, one of the old boys was there at the same time and threw in his coffee cup. The weird thing is that it was a cup from Dunkin’ Donuts! He had been enjoying the atmosphere and fellowship in one coffee-house while enjoying the beverage of their competitor – and he wasn’t trying to hide it.
I’ve seen other people do that but they are always older, around retirement age. It makes me wonder if the perpetrators are thinking, “Go ahead and kick me out. I love my coffee and I’m too old to care what you think.” The coffee they love doesn’t fit in with where the group that they love chooses to meet, and they’re not willing to ditch either.
Most of the people who work there look young and may be intimidated. Maybe they’re afraid that if one of them is no longer invited than the rest will leave too. Or, maybe they don’t care. I can’t imagine they’ve never seen them. The seniors aren’t exactly smuggling in the keg-sized cups.
I wouldn’t dream of doing that. Maybe it’s because I’m too aware of what other people think. Or, maybe I’m afraid of being approached by a manager and being made a spectacle of.
This is my version of the way my teenaged daughter feels when I do something old-mannish, I guess. There are times I know that I’m embarrassing her for my own entertainment, but there are other times that I’m just being me and she’s just overreacting, maybe like I’m doing with this guy at Panera.
It’s far too easy to categorize and divide ourselves by our preferences. Most of the time they’re just not that important, and certainly less important than the positive interactions of healthy fellowship. Trying to see things from other people’s perspectives is a great way not to break barriers down, but to stop them before they go up.
Now I just need the boldness to ask one of those guys why they do it. Maybe that’s next week’s blog.