It seems webcomic artist Stan Stanley is on the wind lately. Last week a film crew made a short movie at my flat and the Sound Guy noticed two Stan sketches I have in my hallway from back in the day when she used to have art sales on LiveJournal. (Remember LiveJournal? Yeah.) It turns out Sound Guy (his new name forever) was a big fan of Boy Meets Boy, one of Stan’s earlier comics when her nom de plume was K. Sandra Fuhr. Since then I’ve been re-reading her autobiographical comic Stananigans! and rediscovered her two strips about wanting to be a regular where you can have “the usual” and the cupcake-related benefits thereof. I can appreciate the way people feel about having a regular haunt where everybody knows your name and I am wild with envy for anyone who gets free cupcakes, but I’m one of those people who finds minor social interactions awkward. I hate forgetting people’s names, though I do it all the time. I hate mixing two people up because they look a little bit alike. I feel terrible when a restaurant accidentally brings me the wrong food because their English isn’t very good and/or my accent is incomprehensible. Having a “usual” loads up an already weird interaction with a whole lot more baggage.
I love chit-chatting and swapping jokes with waiters and bartenders — I’m not being antisocial. But when someone asks if I want my usual, they’re making a big assumption and my first thought is, “YOU DON’T KNOW ME.” I can’t help it — their assumption complicates everything. It should be simple: I buy something and they make the magic happen, not: they guess what I want, I evaluate whether or not I like the subset of the menu that’s been presented to me, and then justify why I might contradict them. I had a similar experience lately when I was dating someone who ordered for me at restaurants without asking what I wanted. It’s so patronizing.
Then there’s dealing with the fall-out. If it turns out I do want my usual, then suddenly I feel like one of those sad-acts who goes to McDonald’s every day for ten years to eat the exact same burger. I am predictable, I’m in a rut, and what’s worse it makes me picture the last six months of the exact same meal being pumped into me all at once like a human lard-balloon. And if I want something different today? It turns into a major production. “Woahhhh,” the server will say. “Don’t want an orange soda today, huh? What’s that about? Is it not good enough for you?” Maybe I feel like a cola today, all right? Didja ever think about that? Why is it suddenly a federal case?
As soon as anyone offers me “the usual”, it’s an instant guarantee that I’ll never go there again. I’d rather not deal with a whole bunch of expectations I never wanted. I guess if that’s antisocial then my punishment is being deprived of free cupcakes. This saddens me deeply, but then I feel happier knowing that people like Stan have earned them. Oh! And since I don’t know if they exist anywhere else, I thought I might end on a happy note and share those beautiful Stan sketches I have in my hallway. I really love her work, and if you haven’t seen them you should check out her new comics The Hazards of Love and Abernathy Square.