8:15am, Tuesday, Bendigo. Muesli’s eaten, shower’s taken and I’m walking to the gym just like every other Tuesday. Right on schedule, on the bridge just before the train tracks, I see the mother with the cherry tattoo on her shoulder pushing her baby boy in a buggy. Her five-year-old daughter, dressed in a blue school uniform, carries a huge (though nearly empty) rucksack that hangs from her shoulders to her knees. I walk behind them, watching the little girl’s blonde pony-tail bounce from side-to-side. She trots frantically to keep up with her fast-moving mother and their large grinning dog. Her small arm looks set to pull out of its socket as she’s yanked along, but she beams with adoration at her pet. Every day this makes me smile. As we approach the level crossing, the family manoeuvres to the left, to allow me to stand on their right – my regular position.
The family always turns left after we pass the bedding store while I continue ahead, and today is no exception. Soon I’ll pass two workmen building an extension to a wood-fire pizza restaurant: they’ll wave and comment on the weather. Like clockwork they shout, “Beautiful day!” I smile and agree. Dead on time ten minutes later, I enter the gym’s studio where I pause, taken aback at the sight of a Step where I ordinarily put mine. A girl calls out, “I’ve put your Step in your spot for you”. I relax and thank her. Though I do adjust the Step slightly as it’s not in exactly the right position …
It’s a relief that I have my usual location in the room because my clothing is a deviation from my regular attire. I’m wearing my green sports top which isn’t the one I normally wear for Tuesday’s class. We had some rain overnight so the washing didn’t dry. Instead I’m wearing the grey top which is okay. Yes, it’s okay … of course it’s thicker than the green one, so not ideal for today’s workout, but it’ll do. It’ll have to do. Don’t dwell on it, Rainman.
After the class I shower (in the third cubicle, always the third cubicle) and go next door to The Coffee Bean. The owner greets me brightly before I’ve even spoken, “Double espresso to go!” and winks at me. I’m startled by his confidence at my order; his certainty enhanced by the obvious pride in his wink. Jesus, my comforting routine is apparent to complete strangers. I return his smile and laugh, “No. Actually a long black to have here”. (Take that, Café-Owner! You’ll think twice before aiming your judgemental wink at me again. Oh yes, you will. I can be as carefree and spontaneous as the next person).
I wait impatiently for my order; resentful of now having a long black, and having to sit here. This was not my plan. My plan was definitely a double espresso to go. That’s how I always have my morning coffee … clearly. But I’m being contrary, probably predictably so.
You could set your watch by my afternoon visit to Hudson’s Café. I’m mildly disappointed that the girl with the nose-ring serves me as I prefer the guy with the beard (he brings my coffee to my table, rather than making me wait for it at the counter – plus he usually serves it with a chocolate). Miss Nose-Ring looks at me, “Long black to have in?” Hmm. I don’t want to be predictable, but it is my afternoon coffee and my favourite seat is vacant. Altering my regular choice would just be crazy. Wild, reckless crazy and I can’t justify it. I’ll walk a different route home – no, I’ve established the best route and I like it. I’ll walk home on the other side of the road, yes that’s enough of a break from routine for today. As nose-ring girl hands me my coffee, I turn to walk to my seat and stop. Someone’s now sitting there. God damn it. I don’t drop into the foetal position and start rocking, but I leave. And, as sure as the sun rises, I walk home on my usual side of the road.