Daily Archives: March 2, 2023

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

It seems that all the young men at the front desk of the gym are named Brian. When I mentioned this coincidence to one of them, he said, “Yes, there are a lot of Brians around here.”

A lot of them may have the name Brian, but only one of them was our special Brian that meant so much to my fellow gym-goers and me. Like the other Brians, his job was to scan our membership card when we entered the gym. That’s all he had to do and periodically someone might have a problem with their card or have a question about some activity. But mostly, it was just standing behind a tall desk just inside the doors and electronically scanning the card for everyone who entered.

If one scanned the faces of gym-goers, one could see that everyone was different. We were focused intently on our disparate goals of self—our work-out goals, our life agendas, our schedules, our problems. But when Brian smiled at each of us, called us by name, wished us a good workout, we were joined in a community of regulars like the regulars at Sam’s bar in Cheers, the sitcom that aired between 1982 and 1993.

All the Brians could follow our Brian’s script, but they don’t. Our Brian seemed genuinely happy to see us and he called us by name. I looked forward to his smile as he said, “Good to see you, Miss Gwen.” Though I was not conscious of how I looked forward to Brian’s greetings and goodbyes, now that he is not there, I miss him and what he shared.  

Recently, Brian had the opportunity to realize his life’s dream. Though extremely happy for him, many of my fellow gym-goers and I have commiserated with one another about a feeling of loss that he’s not there in his usual place when we arrive. We miss that he expected us to show up the next day. We miss the smile on his face as we entered the door. He created that welcoming ambience that keeps people coming back.

The absence of Brian makes me think about how small gestures of acknowledgement can be significant gifts of validation. Ordinary gestures such as a smile, a wave, translate into, “I see you.” Calling someone by name translates as “You’re special.”

We’re all the same in the ways we miss Brian. Because…

“Sometimes you want to go
where everybody knows your name
and they’re always glad you came.
You want to go where people know
people are all the same.
You want to go where
everybody knows your name.”

Theme song from Cheers