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An ode to The Regular

Last Saturday the mail at my house was delivered at 6:30 p.m. by a man flushed with heat.

He was a fill-in for a fill-in for a fill-in.

Or maybe he was only the second fill-in.

He was one of the two.

Most of what he put in my mail box was mail that belonged at my house.

Now: Guess who is at the last window at the drive-in bank where I have had an account since I first had more than a pocketful of money.

It's somebody new.

They're all new inside the main bank building around the corner. They're all new at the nearest branches.
Where are they putting them once I get to know them?

It has been my experience to note that the newest of the new tellers at the drive-in bank is at the far window because it's the last to fill with customers.

At the far window, simple greetings seem taken from a page.

This new teller asked to see my driver's license even though all I wanted to do was make a deposit before the guard, who I would have never seen before, came to close the lot for the night and chained my car inside the last lane.

Car title, birth certificate, passport, car tag, I would have sent anything in through the tube just to get out of there.

Do you remember the night when people who served good restaurant food did it as a career, not as a fund-raiser for college or an acting career? It still happens in places like the Oyster Bar under Grand Central in New York where grizzled veterans bring you solid fish in no uncertain terms, you want chit-chat, try around the corner from your waitress Marsha. Career servers are like good architecture, they add to the ambiance.

I have in the last two visits to my favorite restaurant been served by new waiters; making matters less secure, the first new waiter had already quit after just a week.

"You'd like a reservation? Name please? Cronley. Would you spell it? What's that? You've been coming here 24 years? Listen, pal, I'm new. Spell it or move it."

Some days, you cannot wait to get to the horse races.

Because look there, back table on the right side of the simulcast building, cigarette in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other hand and a program with question marks up one side and down the other, he's there, same as always, Wednesday, holidays, you can count on him.

There are no regulars like race track regulars.

It takes more than a few hundred lame horses and a few thousand bad rides and a couple hundred close losses to get a race track regular down.

You can sit next to a track regular at just about any time of the day or night and bear witness to his having almost just won a grand on three bucks.

With race track regulars, the game is like golf, where one good nine-iron, albeit wind-aided, will offset a round of shooting 99. With race track regulars, one good bet every so often brings you back as long as you can remember what outsmarting somebody feels like. With race track regulars, almost winning a lot is occasionally motivation enough.

Everybody has to have something.

There's much worse horse than horse racing to adopt on a regular basis, much, much worse.

So one night this week I bought a regular a cold bottle of beer.

He asked what this was for.

I told him it was for new times, not old times; here's to regulars, irregular as they have come to be.

Write to Jay at jaycronley@yahoo.com