I used to go to Bob’s Big Boy restaurant just about every day from the mid-seventies until the early eighties. I’d have a milk shake and sit and think. There’s a safety in thinking in a diner. You can have your coffee or your milk shake, and you can go off into strange dark areas, and always come back to the safety of the diner.

Besides fast food restaurants, I collect other stories of creative people hanging out in mundane retail spaces. Pee Wee Herman loves a particular Walgreens. Andrew Bird wrote a song about how much he hates big box stores like Costco. Zan McQuade writes beautifully about how she learned to love the mall.

My favorite recent example was novelist Amy Daws, who found the cure for writer’s block in her local tire shop — after bringing her cars in for new tires and getting a bunch of writing done, she started taking her friend’s cars in for maintenance work so she had an excuse to write there, and eventually the management just invited her to come hang out whenever she wants.

Top image: my former local Dairy Queen on Manor Road in Austin, TX (used as an illustration in Show Your Work!)