No country for old men l Chuck's World
Last updated 4/11/2018 at Noon
Three newspaper columnists walk into a Starbucks. You haven't heard this one.
In retrospect, it should have had some poignancy attached, although it ended up just being fun. Three of us have gathered from time to time over the past few years at our local coffee shop, which is almost always the most convenient one. At our advanced ages, convenience becomes important. That’s why we drive around parking lots for 15 minutes, looking for the closest space to the front of the store.
Not that any of us have that particular nasty habit. Or really much in the way of typical senior-citizen behaviors, really, although I think it’s important to perpetuate these stereotypes. For one thing, it lets us get away with stuff. We can pretty much park anywhere we want.
We also don’t gripe about the old days, when we could buy a cup of coffee for less than four bucks. First, we don’t go out for coffee all that often, so it’s a special occasion. Second, we’re old enough to realize that we’re alive today mostly because of caffeine. Sometimes you just have to pay it back.
We do this every few months, aging writers who’ve all three passed a fair amount of time over the past quarter-century pushing keys and personal opinions out into the newspaper-reading population, which is itself aging now.
I’d also like to note that I’m by far the youngest of the three. By far. I’m sort of their caretaker, really, when you think about it.
We all came to our particular form of journalism by virtue of widely varied life experiences, although I can’t really guarantee the virtue part. Two of us served during the Vietnam era, while one of us was in middle school (I’m just trying to be fair). None of us are native to this particular area, although we’ve all been here for many decades, long enough to acclimate and still not really know where Poulsbo is.
These other two write like the wind, by the way. They remain sane and coherent voices in a chaotic world, and they pull it off consistently. They can actually start a column writing about a subject and finish still talking about the same thing. I have no idea how they do that.
We’ve occasionally appeared in the pages of the same publication, but usually we cover our own territories, with our own philosophies. One is a rabid political conservative, the other a wild-eyed liberal. The third drinks a lot of coffee. I mean, a lot.
It’s a dynamic relationship, then, and always cordial and fascinating. None of us, in fact, end up disagreeing on much of anything when it comes to the way the world works. Maybe a bit when it comes to possible solutions, but we tend to hedge our bets since the other guy always seems to make a lot of sense.
Both of them write about our crazy politics more than I do, and both have endured feedback of the kind we’re all used to by now. People call them on the phone, and leave nasty comments online reflecting on their heritage, parentage and intellectual deficiencies, along with some commentary on their appearance.
They shake their heads and roll their eyes at this, with some talk about how humans have managed to stay away from extinction given our apparent drive to disconnect our brains.
I’ll also occasionally get some juicy emails from readers, who say things like, “My cat does that too!” It’s a shared pain, really.
But we don't talk about this much. We just hang out, talk about grandkids, talk about our wives, talk about housing prices and trips and, did I mention the grandkids? Just cracker-barrel, caffeine-fueled conversations in the midmorning, when the only non-baristas in the place are rushing or old enough to not need to anymore. That would be us.
We catch up, we exchange news, we comment and kvetch, wonder about the world a lot but generally try to stay positive. We're all accustomed to anonymity, elder status placing our relevancy somewhat south of, I dunno. Everybody else. And this is just fine.
We got surprised recently, though. A guy in Starbucks recognized one of us, came over to shake his hand and express his fandom, and he seemed stunned to find all three bylines sitting at this one table, apparently plotting either world domination or another round of coffee. It wasn't celebrity, just colliding worlds. Just fun.
And just temporary, we know, with a definite expiration date. The days of newspapers on front porches are dwindling, along with regular readers. We know this is progress, and that we might be the last gasp of the printing press. People will still read, and still want news, and get it. What exactly they get is a question, but the medium is not the problem.
And it’s not our problem, not really. Old columnists fade away, and we’re OK with that. We’ve all lucked into long marriages to lovely women, and they could use more of our time. We’re just enjoying the company while we can, our occasional brush with greatness in the coffee shop, and those grandkids.
The world belongs to them now, not us.
Although I’m really a lot younger, did I mention that? I mostly just hang around in case one of the others needs a ride to the hospital or something. I just sometimes need coffee.