I Hear America Sipping

Mary - Yarmouth, Maine
Entered on March 7, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: community
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I believe in coffee and conversation.

There’s probably one in every small town in America, and probably one in every small neighborhood in every large city in America. It might be a counter-and-booths place, a bakery or bagel shop, or a certain few tables in a favorite local restaurant. It might even be a neighborhood pub. No matter what it looks like, it’s a place where the guys gather each morning in knots, layers and shifts for coffee, conversation, banter and good-natured abuse. It is a place and a time of true friendship.

The coffee shop is the real seat of local government, the place where a few words to the right person can settle a problem, or start one. It’s “the office” where business is often conducted and concluded. It’s where favors are traded, support is offered, sports are knowledgeably dissected and world, national and local news are thoroughly discussed. It’s the place where political issues are debated as fully as the Founding Fathers hoped they would be, the place where Tom Brokaw always went in jeans and a flannel shirt to take the pulse of the American public

Each coffee group has its own daily schedule, a loose timetable of comings and goings with a complete change of scene and men about every 45 minutes to an hour. Each group has a core of five to seven guys, and they are an integral part of each other’s lives, usually knowing each other’s daily schedules better than wives or secretaries do. These men don’t gossip of course, but they definitely know what’s going on in town, whether it’s a messy divorce, a cost overrun on a town project, or who’s going into an empty storefront long before it’s publicly announced.

These guys don’t all live in the same neighborhood, attend the same church or belong to the same clubs. They have varying degrees of individual friendship with each other, and they don’t often get together as a whole group outside of the coffee shop. The guys sympathize with each other about their kids’ college cost, sports schedules, and newly acquired driver’s licenses

What gives each group its particular character is of course the daily banter and good-natured abuse. Once in a great while things can get edgy within the group, when banter may be felt as barb, a jab just sharp enough to make someone prickly. But it passes.

Yes, no matter when or where a coffee group gathers, there is strength, decency, caring, camaraderie and a deep sense of community. From the cracker barrel gathering at the general store a hundred years ago, to coffee down at the local bagel shop just this morning, in small towns and in close-knit neighborhoods in Maine and across this country, I hear America sipping.