Saturday, September 28, 2013

Goin' for coffee


And God created trees

“Goin' for coffee,” has become a mid-morning cliche at our house as it has for about eight or nine other guys in town who have one major trait in common: they no longer have to milk cows, write lesson plans, punch a time clock or warm up a road grader.

We get to choose what to do between nine and ten in the morning. Some would say what we choose is ridiculous; there's better coffee at home. But as Jake says, we're not paying for coffee; we're paying for a warm seat and conversation—better coffee would be considered a bonus.

The rumour around town is that men's coffee gatherings are all about doing what men traditionally accused women of: gossip. Talking about the lives of people not present.

Well there is that to it, but like most generalizations, the sweep is broad, its accuracy questionable. Some sage is purported to have said, there are three levels of conversation topic: ideas, things and people, in descending order of quality. I paid attention one day and we spent some time on ideas, a lot of time on things and, yes, we did talk some about people not present and the rumours swirling around them. We covered the gamut, in other words.

Someone recently characterized men's coffee gatherings as fault-finding expeditions. Definitely, there is fault-finding: the town doesn't clear snow properly, Stephen Harper has done something really stupid . . . again, old Beazley shouldn't be allowed to drive anymore (be careful with this one; we're all pushing the shouldn't-be-driving time of life!) Yes, there is fault-finding, but then, fault is easy to find and we've all been around the block a few times: we recognize crap when we see it. At least, we think we do.

So here's the truth about coffee time. It's not about the topic, it's about the conversation. It's a stage-of-life equivalent to “let's play catch,” a young-life thing where we would happily throw a ball back and forth for an hour or so—pointlessly, apparently. Figure out what it meant to us then and you've figured out what coffee time means to us now.

It's not about the ball.

There are women's coffee times as well. No men there; no women in ours. In fact, if I sauntered into the back room of the bakery and joined the dozen or so women who meet there every morning, I expect there'd be considerable consternation, very little approbation, great relief to see me go.

Now there's a sociological, psychological, anthropological conundrum with some teeth! A topic for coffee time, perhaps? About ideas, to boot! Or would it descend rapidly into gossip?

“Goin' for coffee, hon.”

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