BY BRYNN BOYER
“Spell ‘officiate’,” a woman says.
“O-f-f-i-c-i-a-n-t,” replies an elementary school aged boy, who looks to be her son.
“Try it again,” says the woman with her red hair pulled back into a ponytail.
I don’t know how long the pair has been practicing spelling words but they were here at Einstein’s before I was.
It’s 8:47 a.m. on a Wednesday morning and I’ve just taken a large gulp of fair trade dark roast coffee. I can feel the caffeine entering my bloodstream and slowly bringing my brain to life.
I tear off a piece of my whole-wheat bagel when I notice that there is one other person by themselves in the restaurant.
A woman, maybe mid-30s, encamped in the corner is wholly engrossed in whatever book she’s reading. I try to nonchalantly glance over to catch the title of the book, but her body is turned away from mine. When we make eye contact, I awkwardly look back to my mutilated bagel.
The music playing is something I don’t recognize, some kind of R&B jazz. Conversations from about four different groups blend together, like someone is alternately turning up the different settings on a stereo.
A girl about my age comes in and order a coffee to go. As I see her get into her Volvo, I wonder if she goes to Mary Washington. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s 10 minutes until 9 a.m., just in time to grab some breakfast before a class in Jepson.
“You had better get an A on this spelling test,” I hear the red-headed mother say to her son.
“G-U-A-R-A-N-T-E-E,” he spells quickly with a smirk, this time getting the word right.
My thoughts are interrupted by a wheezing laugh coming from the table behind me. Four older men, probably my grandparents’ age, are discussing Joe Gibbs and their recent heart surgeries.
If they ordered bagels, they are long gone, since the table is only cluttered with coffee cups.
One of the members of the Old Man Club is wearing a gray suit. The one beside him with the wheezy laugh is in a NASCAR jacket and baseball cap. He looks like a Grandpa Joe.
Across from them is an old man in a plaid shirt and vest. I can’t quite place his accent – something Slavic maybe?
“You look like you wore knickers growing up,” Grandpa Joe says in his country accent.
“Everyvone vore knickers in our generation,” German Grandpa chimes in.
Grandpa Joe does all the talking with an occasional interjection from German Grandpa. Grandpa in the gray suit hasn’t said anything so far. Maybe he’s nodding in agreement. I can’t tell because I don’t want to turn around and stare.
“You can’t see the trees through the forest,” Joe says. This conversational shift gets my attention. What are they talking about now?
“I’m not gonna see this country go to hell in a handbasket,” Grandpa Joe continues.
I gather from the context that the conversation has turned to illegal immigration. I hear him say that in 40 years, after all the baby boomers have died, Mexicans will take over the United States.
“They will annex us to Mexico and we’ll become a third world country,” he says adamantly.
As they start to discuss post-World War II foreign policy, a subject that even caffeine can’t help make more interesting, I notice a bald man with glasses come in.
He walks over to Corner Woman, who is still reading her book. She gathers her things quickly and walks out with him, getting in his truck.
After their exit, my attention turns to the Old Man Club again.
They have apparently gotten out of 1945 and moved onto more modern politics: the current presidential election.
“The only reason Hillary stayed with Bill after the whole Monica thing was she knew she’d be doing this eventually,” Joe says. I’m assuming he means the fact that she’s running for President.
Finally, a song comes on that I recognize: “Gloria, I think they’ve got your number. Gloria! I think they’ve got your area.”
What the heck does this song mean anyway? No one else seems to be concerned that this poor girl is being stalked by guys who mysteriously got her phone number and address.
The Old Man Club is more interested in discussing in detail their coronary disease and multiple aneurysms.
I glance at my cell phone and realize that I don’t have much time before my class in Chandler will begin.
Good thing I’ve finished my bagel.