Coffee talk

By Chuck Sigars | Mar 07, 2012

The pitchers and catchers have long since reported, so I’m calling this one. Winter is over. Now, that wasn’t so bad, was it?

I’m not ruling anything out, of course. As I’ve always said to people thinking of moving up here, if you don’t like the weather, just wait 11 months.

Some of them don’t make it.

But you know what I mean. Our big storm season has passed, and we did OK. Our little dance with the remnants of winter this week was just a reminder that it could have been worse. It could have been tornadoes, for one thing. I’m counting my blessings.

I was reminded of our big snow week back in January, though. It was minor in my life, fun to watch and the only downside being a sore back from pushing my neighbor’s car out of her driveway, but it did make me postpone an appointment. And that’s what I’m thinking about now.

We were going to get together for coffee, three men who formed one of those odd triangular relationships, nothing new there but helped by technology. He knew him, I knew the other guy, we’d sent some emails, and eventually we thought it might be fun to all get together.

Snow put it off only a week, and then there we were, sitting in a Starbucks at the tail end of the morning rush, enough gray hair to inspire EMTs to slowly drive by, once an hour, just in case.

They wouldn’t mind being identified, these guys, but hey: Get your own friends.

I can tell you this: They’re both wonderful writers, and I’m a regular reader. They know how to say what they mean, how to be witty and straight-forward and clear, none of this wandering around the page looking for a topic like some writers I won’t mention. They know how to do it.

They also have experiences and stories to share, and even though I tried to participate I would have been better off that morning to have kept my mouth shut and just listened. I’m a sucker for stories from people who actually leave the house.

As for things in common? The usual suspects, maybe, the sort that might get you 20 minutes of conversation on a long plane flight. We all have relatively long marriages and families who tolerate us, for which we’re all grateful. And we all live in this same extended community, the same one as you.

We all seem to like coffee, too.

But that’s about it, and that’s what puzzled me, afterward. Look: I’d do it again, I’d do it once a month, I had a great time with these two. And I know how it happened, how one suggestion turned into agreement and then planning, and snow aside we made it work pretty quickly.

Otherwise, though, we start to break that triangle. Two of us served in the military during the Vietnam era; one of us was in high school at the time. One of us is skeptical of religious faith and its place in our culture; the other two have some different experiences.

Two of us seem to have passion for baseball; not sure about the other guy. We didn’t get into sports.

So what was that about? This is the question I asked, later. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting lots of strangers through this curious business of writing about nothing much, people from all over the world and people in the frozen food section.

Sometimes, if I we end up sending messages back and forth for a few years and we end up in the same place, we’ve made arrangements to meet. I’ve had some nice lunches with old friends I meet for the first time. I’m all for this.

But this was different, and really? I knew why. It was about politics.

Note: We barely talked about politics.

Put these two in a room full of people, though, ask the liberals to form on one side and the conservatives the other, and these guys will be at the head of their respective lines. They’ve been around long enough to know where they stand, even when terms get tossed around loosely and lose their original meaning.

At some point, though, I suspect they realized something: There wasn’t that much difference. Neither of them would put up with being called a “centrist,” I think, whatever that means, and there is certainly no mushy middle with either, but what’s funny is how alike they seemed to me.

Different stories, sure. Different tastes in political figures, maybe, and feelings about certain issues, but the real stuff? The important stuff? Naw. Good men, good writers, good citizens.

And what’s remarkable, and a little depressing, is that being reasonable and respectful when it comes to politics seemed special enough that we thought it deserved a meeting to mark it, when really, in a better world, we would have been talking about baseball.

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