I grabbed lunch at Burger King (hey, I had a free Double Stack coupon) and decided to eat in. As I filled my cup with water and then walked to my table, I moseyed past what I could only assume was the Bellevue version of my grandfather's coffee club in Columbus.
Do they have different chapters, I wondered? Maybe a national network of old guys who drink cheap coffee at fast food restaurants? A loose grouping of individuals that secretly email and text message the latest in crappy coffee advancements, like when McDonald's has a new sweetener flavor or when Sonic debuts a different lid style?
While the two groups certainly didn't share such detailed organization, there appeared to be a few similarities. Each group was comprised of old men, congregating on a weekday in order to talk about – well, about anything they wanted. They're retired and have earned the right to sit and chat about politics, church or sports. This Nashville group was made of men who seemed to primarily discuss why Rolling Rock didn't taste as good as it used to.
Very clearly, one man was the 'leader.' I put that term in quotes because he spoke the most, but after a while, it was apparent that he did so only because he wanted to be heard the most. And, most of his speech centered around telling someone else why they were wrong: why Bob shouldn't be drinking Rolling Rock, why Dave should get a regular doctor, and why his boots were the best.
The guy next to him was about 15 years his senior (I know) and sat quietly and watched the traffic pass by. He never let go of his cane and never piped in, only glancing over periodically – I assume to make sure his compatriots hadn't left him alone.
As I downed my free burger, I wondered if I'd be inside some Hardee's or McDonald's one day, sipping coffee and spouting off whatever might be worth discussing at the moment. Every time my wife sees or hears my grandfather, she roars with laughter on the inside, patiently waiting for the day when I become just like him. I remind her she'll be stuck with me then and all of my detailed ways, being surprised at the latest invention, gadgetry or small happenstance that crosses my day.
I wonder who will be in my club with me – who will show up and drink coffee that costs less than a stamp (if we have stamps then). I wonder who will listen to my rants about politics, nonprofits or baseball. And I really hope there will be something to talk about in the first place.
Often times, in the quest to get where we're going, we forget what it will be like once we arrive. This is why people who have billions of dollars only want more. What looks like a refusal to settle or a refusal to stop may in fact be an inability to recognize one's own destiny, to sit happily underneath the very tree you planted. It's noble to plant a tree whose shade you won't live long enough to enjoy. It's ridiculous to plant a tree, watch it grow and then move on to another patch of land with another seed, fearfully claiming that you're 'just not a shade-kind-of-guy.'
This is especially important for 20-somethings and Gen-Yers to keep in mind. We think about climbing the ladder and making the money. Or we even think about starting the family and buying the house. And so we race and run and sprint and chase and head off into the wild blue yonder in search of these ideals and goals. But we rarely stop to think about what it will be like when we get there.
So when we do get there, we were so used to running that we don't know how to live as a walker.
I wonder how many 60- and 70-year-olds don't have a coffee club because they're still running, still climbing, still 'making it.' "Good for them," we say. But maybe they really want a cup of coffee about right now.