When it comes to my daily routine, I am the type of man who is early to bed and early to rise. Usually I am half comatose by 9 p.m. and out like a corpse at 10. What this means is that I am also usually up before God.

As a result, I am quite familiar with the coffee and donut shops that are open at 3 a.m. (DONUTS at Lincoln and Pico boulevards for their apple fritters when they are still warm is a reason to stay up or get up that early!) The bacon maple bar at DK Donuts on Santa Monica Boulevard is a treat to be had with a whole slice of bacon on top. DK also has a wide variety of coffee creamers to suit my mood. Which is why I go there for my morning coffee on those days when I just can’t seem to get going.

Donut shops and coffee shops have a certain appeal to me. They naturally create a sense of community because they often have a regular crowd. I remember as a boy my father was a regular at Primo’s Westdale Donuts along with about six other old codgers. These men would sit around and talk politics and business, while their boys went out to conquer the world. I see the same thing in the coffee and donut shops today.

People naturally get into a rhythm or a routine and will patronize the same place because they feel comfortable there. As we become comfortable we are less likely to change, and it becomes a self-reinforcing system.

For years, I was a regular at the old Michael D’s coffee shop at the bowling alley. I knew the waiters and waitresses and they knew me. I saw them outgrow working there, and one of them had a dream of being a Santa Monica police officer, and today she is. I occasionally see her around town.

That’s the nice part of being in a small town; you get to know people and they get to know you. I was at DK Donuts yesterday when another police officer I know recognized me. It turned into a 10 minute chat about how people treat each other. He knows my family law practice means I do divorces and that’s what started us off. A fellow officer needs a lawyer to protect him in a child custody battle and he knew about my website, www.mensfamilylaw.com, so he wanted to connect us.

Our conversation went quickly from the mechanics of a nasty divorce to the larger question of how people treat each other. Here is a police officer who deals with the unruly public, the drunks and drug addicts, the mentally ill and the criminally sociopathic, and he’s telling me how people should just get along by using the “Golden Rule.”

I on the other hand, seeing the malicious and malignant behavior of individuals in regards to their former loves and their children, take the view that the Golden Rule only applies to people who are essentially mentally stable and treat others with respect and kindness — otherwise you have to set and enforce strict boundaries that prescribe acceptable behavior.

Perhaps it is because when I see people who are in the midst of the chaos of divorce it is my job to protect them that I take a sterner view of how to deal with people who have mental health problems. Perhaps it is because he deals with the people who didn’t choose to have mental health challenges that he has more charity than I do with people who exhibit personality disorders.

It’s interesting because we’re two sides of the same donut. I deal mostly with the effects on others of mental health, and he deals with the victims of mental health challenges. We had to cut our conversation short when he received a call for a “male 20s acting crazy” and he was off to go protect and serve.

I’m sure I’ll run into him again somewhere, maybe next time I’m getting my dry cleaning done, or at one of the other donut shops I like.

David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at dpisarra@pisarra.com or (310) 664-9969.

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