A new establishment is opening in the space once occupied by my old Café.  I hope I can find a new home and office there but I doubt it will give me that sense of belonging that I had at my old joint. Still, we live in hope.
I’ve written in the past about the Café I used to frequent on a daily basis for four years. It was my office and my home away from home. It is no exaggeration to say I loved that place.
A lot of the credit for the magnificent atmosphere of the Café goes to the staff over the years. There is a certain kind of woman who ‘fit in’ at the old joint. Some came and went without notice. Three, however, will forever be associated by me with the downtown Café.
- Alyssa… always grumpy and miserable. She rarely had a nice thing to say about anyone or anything. Like Lucy in the comic strip Peanuts, Alyssa managed to lift ‘crabby’ into an art form. I loved seeing her pretty yet sour puss behind the counter;
- Ashlee… the opposite of Alyssa. Whereas Alyssa was forever grouchy, Ashlee was always sweetness and light. She had a corn-fed aw-shucks kind of minister’s daughter, country girl air to her. Innocent and sweet, sometimes to the point of being completely clued-out, I was so sad when she moved on to another restaurant; and
- Jennifer… the cook. She was there the longest and she was the one with whom I had the closest relationship simply by virtue of the amount of time we were at the Café together.
In fact, it was exactly because of all the time we spent together that the subject matter of this article arose.
Allow me to explain…
One of the many things that I enjoyed about the Café were the various ‘running gags’ among the employees and patrons. These gags developed and expanded over time.
The longest, most elaborate and most intricate of these running gags was The Café Rules which were the result of a series of directives, decrees, regulations and plain old bossy-boots orders from the cook and manager, Jennifer, often with input from Alyssa, concerning what I could and could not do in the Café.
It is important to realize that the Rules only applied to me and no one else. They were a playful attempt to control my behaviour while I was in the Café. Whenever a new edict, dictate or command would be announced, I’d jot it down in one of my notebooks. This went on for the better part of two years.
(my office and the Café)
At the request of several of my friends and readers, I present to you for the first time…
The Café Rules
- Only one visit to the bathroom per day.
- If you’re in the bathroom, pooping counts as two visits, therefore you have to forfeit a visit from the next day (e.g. If, on Wednesday, you poop in the bathroom, you aren’t allowed to use the bathroom on your next visit. If you are in the Café on Thursday, you are out of luck until Friday).
- No blowing kisses.
- No pouting.
- No going behind the counter. Staff only.
- No free biscotti for just coffee, tea or soft drinks. (e.g. Biscotti with cappuccino, yes. Biscotti with Diet Coke, no.)
- Biscotti can only be given by Staff; you cannot take them. They can, however, be purchased: three for $1:00.
- No leaving newspapers lying around the Café.
- No leaving used or dirty dishes, cups or glasses on the counter.
- No taking too many napkins.
- No wasting napkins.
- No putting Jewish newspapers at bottom of the (milk, sugar and lids) standing unit. 
- No unnecessarily contradicting Jennifer. NB: Contradicting Jennifer is, by definition, unnecessary.
- No distracting Jennifer with idle chitchat. NB: Anything that doesn’t interest or involve Jennifer is, by definition, idle chitchat.
- No ‘winding up’ Lorenzo. He needs no encouragement. 
- No encouraging Ray to be even more Ray-like. 
- Jennifer reserves the right to give an unlimited amount of ‘time outs’ (e.g. No speaking for five minutes).
- No explaining common terms, slang, jargon, expressions, euphemisms, colloquialisms or idioms to Jennifer unless specifically and expressly asked to do so (e.g. the ‘metrosexual’ incident).
- No putting money in Jennifer’s ‘personal tip jar’ (i.e. bra or cleavage).
- No complaining, kvetching, whining or expressing shock, dismay, chagrin, etc., when Jennifer takes a vacation or a day off, especially in light of all the Jewish holidays you take off.
- No taking up more than one table at a time.
- No putting your personal stuff in the staff closet without first obtaining express permission to do so.
- Do not clutter the table with your stuff (e.g. bags, hat, gloves, cellphone, keys, wallets, appointment book, novels, magazines, newspapers, envelopes, cheque books, notebooks, etc.).
- Do not hassle, harass, annoy, pester, beset, taunt, toy with, poke, prod, fondle, stroke, pet, proposition, flirt with, wink at, blow kisses to, hug, snuggle, cuddle, engage in suggestive talk with, massage or otherwise have improper or inappropriate dealings with the Staff.
- Don’t tie the teabag string around the mug or cup handle.
- Don’t take too many peanut butter containers.
- Stop asking for whole wheat bagels. We only have multigrain.
- No criticizing Jennifer’s grammar (e.g. the ‘very unique’ incident). 
- No correcting Jennifer in any way when there are any other customers present.
- All corrections must be made in a helpful, constructive and non-condescending manner so as not to hurt Jennifer’s feelings. Failure to do so may result in a ‘time out’ (see 17 above).
- No going into the kitchen without express permission to do so.
- No scratching at the Café door or window like a lonely puppy. Knock like a normal person.
- Stomp excess snow/moisture from shoes before entering the Café so as not to form puddles on the floor.
- Do not leave the Café without first saying goodbye to Jennifer.
- If leaving the Café for a short period of time, advise Jennifer of the reason for leaving, approximate length of absence and/or estimated time of return.
- No dozing off at the table. Naps are not allowed.
- No looking over Jennifer’s shoulder when she is reading or writing.
- No hovering.
- Accept whatever Jennifer serves you without complaint.
- Don’t stand around blocking the Café traffic.
- No barking at Jennifer.
- No hogging the newspapers.
- No taking sandwich bags to use as personal tabletop garbage bags.
- No annoying or overly loud cellphone ring tones.
- No touching and/or leaving fingerprints on counter top display trays (cookies, scones, croissants, etc.)
- No ordering cappuccinos after noon.
- No putting cream in cappuccinos.
- Under no circumstances are you allowed to make a list of rules regarding Jennifer.
And that is where The Café Rules ended. Given time, I am sure the list would have gone upwards of a hundred rules. But… it was not to be, sadly.
Since the closing of the downtown Café, I have been more or less homeless, wandering around aimlessly, never quite getting that sense of ‘belonging’ that I had there. The Fonthill location comes closest to that feel, I suppose.
We’ll see what the future brings. If the new place has a good feel to it, maybe Ray, AC/DC guy and I and the rest of the cast of characters will go there until it starts to feel like home. Hopefully, it will.
Anticipated opening date of the new replacement establishment is early next month.
I will keep you posted!
 There were two locations of the Café on Main. This article deals only with the original location in downtown Welland, ON, which closed its doors at the end of June, 2011. The other location of the Café on Main is in Fonthill, ON, which is still operating and doing very well. And yes, I go there often, although I do not have an office there. Yet.
 This was a kind of tall iron standing unit with several levels… one for cream, milk, sugar, etc., a higher shelf for lids, cup sleeves and stir sticks. The bottommost shelf or level was for old newspapers. Regular local newspapers were allowed. Large thick English language Jewish newspapers (e.g. Yated Ne’eman, Hamodia, Jewish Press, etc.) were not allowed. The standing unit is presently ensconced at the Fonthill location of the Café on Main.
 Lorenzo is a very talented and gifted local chef who owns and operates his own Italian restaurant. Larger than life, he is usually a good-natured guy. If you get him going on any subject, however, he can be a force of nature.
 Ray. What can I say about Ray? Ray is one of the many local characters who frequented the downtown Café. A friendly smile, long ponytail, tattooed arms, jovial nature. Definitely a Peter Pan Principle kinda guy. Ray clicks on all cylinders at all times. He needs no encouragement. It was characters like Ray, AC/DC guy, the Tip Jar Bandit and a host of other unique and interesting people who prompted me to dub the place The Seinfeld Café! I miss you all.
 Unique means one of a kind. It is an absolute state. Something is either unique or it is not. There is no such thing as being ‘very unique.’ Pointing this out to Jennifer earned me a time out.
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