I used to want to hide the truth, but now I'm coming out. I am a Panera-holic. There is no sense in denying the truth any longer and why should I? I love my Panera habits. Each day I settle in with my coffee, book and salad while I enjoy my lunch and watch the world go by. What could be a simple meal becomes an experience. Not a day goes by that I don't interact with someone new or observe something interesting. Panera Bread is my little corner of the world where I watch, listen and learn.
Take, for example, this afternoon. Today is my first day (or partial day) on my own in Sarasota. I never imagined that a new town could feel like home so quickly. The feeling here isn't one of vacation for me, it is the comfort found in your favorite pair of well worn shoes. To be honest, I don't even understand how this peace has come to rest in me with such rapid speed. I'm a homebody. I love my bedroom and my kitchen and my living room at my parent's house in Erie. I used to be ready for even the most glorious vacation to come to an end so I could return to home sweet home. Things have changed in me. Today I hugged my Mom goodbye as she flew back to Erie. Initially, the plan was for us both to travel home via car to Erie for a week or so but when the time came to get serious about heading back up north I became more disenchanted with the idea. Within a week my life has been transplanted to the west coast of Florida and I am 100% okay with that reality.
But back to my daily Panera trip. Today I sat outside, enjoying the breeze and a salmon salad. The people watching in this town is top notch. To those who believe that people watching doesn't differ by city in regards to its goodness, I respectfully disagree. The beautiful thing about people watching in this town is the friendliness of the general population. Maybe it is just the high people get from the cinnamon aroma of Panera Bread or maybe it has something to do with this being the sunshine state, but people here just seem nice. Customers smile at each other, say hello to perfect strangers, hold the door for one another and even track down owners of missing purses. Which is where our story now takes us. My first moment of people watching excitement began when an older couple came walking out of the doors of Panera and started heading to their car in the parking lot. Within less than a minute a tall and manly older gentleman came running from the restaurant, leopard print purse in hand. He spotted the couple and yelled out "Ma'am, Ma'am." She turned around and threw her hands up in shock that her leopard print purse was on the arm of a stranger rather than her own. Clearly, she had no idea that she was without her purse. That man just did his random act of kindness for the day. Maybe most people would have done the same thing; I know I would run after a women who left behind her purse if I witnessed it too, but would everyone? It is moments like this that make me smile because I am reminded that there are many goodhearted people in this world. For all the negative and for all the evil littered throughout TV and the radio, there is still decency. There are still so many people with upstanding character and morals. I saw it today.
My second people watching noteworthy moment came in the form of a dog - surprised? The little Yorkie behind me was wearing a cone around her little head. My initial reaction is to want to say "aww" whenever I see one of those plastic tubes around a dogs neck. It just looks so pathetic. But then I realized that the little Yorkie was just like my little Pippy. That dog was friendly as could be! She came right up to me and put her paws on my chair, just the way Pippy does at home. She didn't try to scratch me or bark at me. She just wanted to make a new friend. I could only wish that Pippy would have been there too, she would have been all for this new friend. I can just see the "BFF" bracelets now. The two dogs would make great play mates. When the little Yorkie's owner went inside for a moment her puppy gave the look that I know so well. It says, "Where ya going?" and makes you consider turning back, forgetting whatever it was you were on your way to accomplish. For this woman it was to buy a loaf of bread - a task that would take approximately two minutes - but still I could tell she was torn. "I'll be right back, sweetie!" Her voice was so familiar that I realized something about myself. I'm like that! I'm the person who feels a little niggling of guilt when I walk away from Pippy and she cocks her head to the side, confused by my sudden departure up the stairs or out the front door. I wonder once I've walked away, "What is Pippy going to do now that I'm gone?" It isn't that I play with her non-stop or that I carry her around the house, but she follows me everywhere. If I'm in the living room, she's in the living room. If I walk in the kitchen she likes to come along and see what I'm up to.We're buddies - what can I say?
Today I was laying on the table in the doctor's office, getting acupuncture needles stuck all over my body, and my wonderful Chinese doctor said, "You find boyfriend when you get better." I laughed and told him that I don't need a boyfriend. He went on to say that it is good to have a companion as we get older and that it is good to find someone to share life with. I agree with him, and maybe someday I will have a boyfriend or a man to "share life with." But for now I don't feel deprived or lonely. I've got Pippy.