Marty’s: Learning From Boston Routines
The air bites in Boston, and so far it has been a very enjoyable city. So, to follow up from the last post, Boston and I have started off our joyful relationship. We understand each other, we’re on the same page, we speak the same language, we’re in sync, our personalities match up, we laugh and cry at the same things.
Today, walking around Gordon’s campus, I felt as though I sunk into a city that fits me well: Boston is everything I’m about (well, not everything, but some very key things): literature, music, writing, old buildings, coffee, the cold, the small city feel…all these things make me feel pretty settled while I’m here—settled as in “comfortable, at peace, like myself.”
But there’s also something about Boston that makes me unsettled. I’m doing things that I don’t normally do. For example, I’m wearing a hat right now. I never wear hats. I don’t even own a hat and the last time I bought one was in 9th grade. I guess I feel uncomfortable and unlike myself when I wear hats, which is probably the reason why I don’t wear them; but tonight was different and I decided to wear one. Maybe it’s because it seems more fitting in Boston, or maybe I wanted my head to be warmer than it was last night, or maybe my hair was just scruffy. Whatever the reason, it took walking a couple of blocks to feel comfortable. Being in Boston made this possible. A different town, different weather, being around my friend’s friends that don’t know me. Here, I have the opportunity to try things I wouldn’t at home and live life differently than I would at home. I find that I’m a little more spontaneous here: a little more free and open to go wherever people tell me is the place to go.
That’s another thing. I find it intriguing to fly in to a place—a community of other college students—and discover that they have all these rituals, all these favorite spots to go on weekends, all these favorite restaurants, coffee shops, and hangout spots: places I’ve never seen before. And it’s all normal life to them; I just go along for the ride to see what they’re raving about. For example, one of the popular things to do on campus is go to this rock climbing gym. Some people go there four nights a week. (It gets intense.) This was weird to me, not because I think rock climbing is weird, and not because we don’t have rock climbing at Biola, but because I was brought into someone else’s normal routine. I would have never guessed that that’s what Gordon students love to do on campus, and yet there I was, experiencing their normal lives, seeing them live their routine. I was an onlooker, a visitor, an observer. I caught a glimpse of a regular night for them.
Last night, they took me to Marty’s: a donut shop fifteen minutes from campus. “I need to take you to Marty’s,” my friend Tom said. He then explained that what you do is you go there at midnight, which is when it opens, and you knock on the door to have the guy let you in. No lights are on in the store except in the back kitchen. After he lets you in, you go to the back, drop a dollar in the bowl, and go pick out a fresh, hot donut that was made by him just a few minutes ago. And then you stand there in the dark diner area, talking, eating the donuts. Bakers do their job through the night, but they usually don’t open up till around 5 or 6 in the morning. What this guy does is keep his doors open all night for people like us to come in and eat fresh donuts.
There ended up being about fifteen people there last night, all from Gordon. I was cast into a ritual of theirs as I stood there in the dark, meeting people, and eating my freshly baked donut. I was told how some old locals will come in to the shop at 3 AM. It’s when they wake up! I glanced back at the baker every couple minutes, wondering about his life and wondering what he thinks about as he works through the night. It was wild to be there. Everyone was buzzing with energy (from the sugary donuts) and the conversations were lively, but I couldn’t stop pondering about the baker, the baker, the baker: the man back there in the white apron who works alone, all night long.
Everyone has their daily routines. We all have a Marty’s, we all have our rock climbing gyms—we all have our favorite places that we show our friends when they come to visit our hometowns. But I think we all too easily sink into the routine of our own lives until we believe that life is comprised of how we live it. This is not the case. Life is much bigger than me. Once we travel to someone else’s hometown and experience what life is for them, our worldview becomes fuller and richer. This exchange of rituals also helps us to better understand the person, which helps to better love them. All of life isn’t contained in the way I personally live it and the fullness of life isn’t found solely in what I do day to day. The world is much bigger, and there are a lot more people out there with different daily routines, different jobs, different traditions, different religions, different worldviews. Our job is to meet them, befriend them, and listen, listen, listen…learn, learn, learn…love, love, love.