Tales from the Café: Come Here Often?

Time: Friday, 4:32 pm

Mocha Time is a bit of a double-sided café. During the day, we’re your mild-mannered coffee-based establishment, providing tasty caffeinated beverages and modestly priced sandwiches. At night, however, we transform in a classy corner of would-be New Orleans, smooth jazz on the Pandora and candles lit at every table.

…meaning we switch from counter service to classic restaurant table service. I get to be a real server!

It’s a bit of a production number, switching from one to the other, however. Stations get moved around, tables need to be set with glasses and silverware, candles get lit (I wasn’t joking about that, promise). I love the change, but it can be a hassle, particularly if we’re busy during the transition. It doesn’t always happen, but it does happen.

Today was one of those days. I’d been playing catch-up all afternoon, desperately trying to coordinate with my co-workers to get everything done, and with just under half an hour to spare, it looked like we were going to be able to pull it off–if for no other reason than no one had come in for the past 30 minutes. Thank God for small miracles.

The door jingled and I took a deep breath–and then exhaled with a grin as soon as I saw who’d walked in. Two familiar faces–some of my favorite regulars, though I didn’t usually see them come in at the same time. “Hey there Adam, hey Maggie.” Regular customers were quite possibly my favorite part of my job. They knew me, I knew them, and they were most probably not going to get mad at me for anything. And besides, Maggie had just had a baby, so she was double-plus fun to talk to.

“Hey Hunter,” Maggie said, grinning back at me. Adam smiled and waved, stepping up to the counter.


“Your usual?” My finger hovered over the button, waiting for the green light.

“Yup. No croutons this time, though. And put some chicken on the salad.”

“Can do.” Caesar salad, extra dressing, dressing on the side, no croutons, add chicken. Large iced tea, unsweet. Chocolate chip cookie. “$15.69. Getting a little fancy today, huh?”

Adam chuckled. “Yeah, something like that.” He handed me his card and I ran it through. A quick scribble on the receipt and he had his number and I had my three dollar tip. Clockwork.

Maggie took his place at the counter. “How’ve you been?” I asked, leaning forward onto my screen.

“I’m good! Tired, but good. Have I shown you a picture lately?”

“I can never see too many pictures. Hit me.” Maggie’s son Austin had been just over a month premature, and I had been eagerly watching the kid’s progression from tiny bitty thing to a good sized baby. He was precious. “Man, he’s growing like a weed, Mags.”

“He is! And starting to sleep in longer chunks, which I am so grateful for.” I laughed, and she gave me a tired smile. “I wish I could stay and chat, but I’m in a bit of a hurry. Two of my usual salads?”

“No problem.” I started punching in her order. Maggie always felt bad, since she and her other child had a bunch of food allergies, so the list of special preps needed was fairly long. I assured her it was fine. I didn’t care what the kitchen thought; if this was their biggest problem of the night, they should be happy. At least they weren’t busy at the moment. I was just glad we could help her out.

“Thanks, Hunter.”

“You’re welcome!” I finished the order and cashed her out, and came around the counter to lean against the front edge. “Now tell me more while we wait. I want to hear everything I’ve missed.”

We could afford a few minutes of chat. I’d learned early on that forming strong relationships with regulars was just as important as anything else in this industry. If they like you, you get more chances if you make a mistake, and they’re more willing to come back. The glasses and candles could wait just a few more moments.

Just a few.


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