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I have to do a bit of math for a moment here so hang on while I count something on my fingers. Bob, Bob, Herman, Larry, Art, Clay, Jim, Paul, Greg comes back sometime this spring, Tara occasionally stops by, and we usually set our watches when Malcom breezes in and out, and then there’s me. I just ran out of fingers so hang on here while I take my socks off. That’s 11 devotees, along with other regulars and stragglers, who pass through Coffee on Collins as we tackle any issue that seems to waft through our caffeine-charged arena.

It’s very hard to track how many items of interest we handle on any given morning — note I didn’t say resolve, it’s more like a discussion that occasionally breaks into a wrestling match then breaks into dyads and triads and quads (feel free to look those up boys) based on who’s sitting next to you versus those on the other side of the table and how long it takes to beat the topic to death.

By the time a quota of aforementioned klatchers arrives, the early arrivals have usually beaten their meteorological observations into finally admitting that there isn’t much we can do about it. But since there has been a lot more grumbling than praise about the recent weather we are now focusing on the possibility that any day now things could change for the better, i.e., we’re looking forward to complaining about the heat. An unsophisticated observer doesn’t really appreciate that we complain about living here in the winter because it not only gives us something to talk about, but more importantly it’s a safe bet that our observations won’t stir up a great deal of controversy.

Free advice, most worth what we pay for it, is a frequent topic, statements like “Geez, Ulmer, why don’t you shave, you look pretty shaggy.” Or, “You know that whipped cream on your nose fits your personality.” Or, “Screw that opposing wind lecture, Ulmer, you’re wrong.”

I do have to say that stretching the truth has become a bit more difficult since Paul figured out how to Google what he thinks are facts on his phone. Paul also uses his phone as a thesaurus so he can cheat on the crossword puzzles he brings in every morning. The cyber world has infected everything; for instance, when Clay’s phone goes off we know it’s 8 a.m. and time for him to take his pills.

I must admit that there have been times when we veer into politics/policy differences, and we usually know that our emotions have risen when Herman decides to become the table referee by saying something like, “You guys knock it off or I’ll knock you into tomorrow.” Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t, but if we can hear him over our discussions we know it’s some sort of warning bell from across the table.

Which brings me to the point I began with here; the 11 of us have been doing this for a long time, some folks have come and gone, others just pop in when they can, but the core group has been attending this gathering for years. By now you’d think we’d have come up with some sort of moniker, T-shirt or secret handshake, but given the price of coffee and the number of us on fixed incomes none of us seems to be interested in becoming any more elite than we already are — rather, we like things as they are

So, although my philosophical leanings are outnumbered 10 to 1, as long as I buy my own coffee they seem to tolerate me.

Here’s hoping you find folks who enjoy being around you as much as you enjoy being around them.

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Dan Ulmer is a parent, grandparent, as well as a retired teacher, counselor, politician, lobbyist, public employee, nonprofit executive and opinionated citizen who believes that we need to do what we can to leave the world better off than we found it.