Visiting Central Pennsylvania on a business trip, I stopped in at a favorite restaurant, The Filling Station. Normally I am there for lunch will colleagues, but this visit had me flying solo. I took a stool at the counter, ordered coffee and an omelette. My order arrived promptly and like any good 21st century guy I took a photo of it with my cell phone and posted it to Facebook. While I was doing this, the door opened and the waitress said “Hi Scott, the usual?”
“Yeah, “ Scott replied, an older gentleman wearing a flannel shirt and jeans. He was tall, back straight and fit. “Who owns the Ford Expedition?”
“Are the damn lights still on?” I asked. I was borrowing a car, and suspected the courtesy lights were still on.
“Yeah” Scott replied.
“I’ll take a look, but I think they turn off on their own. It’s a borrowed car, so I am not sure how they work.”
I checked, could not get the lights to shut off and came back inside. Scott sat next to me. He was a regular, and other regulars at the counter chatted with him. I introduced myself after he placed his order.
We exchanged pleasantries, and soon he was telling me about his career at Hershey, how Milton Hershey really seemed to care about the town and listed the community institutions that once were run by the company. Scott exuded pride and love for his community.
We shared stories about St. Louis (he had passed through on several occasions and was impressed with the Gateway Arch.) He shared how he would be having heart surgery in a day or so.
Up the counter another older gentleman noted how his kids had been in a serious accident. Later he stood up and walked over between Scott and I and shared his frustrations with finding parts for a troublesome toilet. It was a vintage unit manufactured by Procter and Gamble. I asked if the tank looked like a box of Tide.
I often joke that women can meet, and within minutes they are like sisters. By contrast, men are thought of as distant and uninterested in relationships. Bacon, cars, sex – this is what is our world.
Admittedly, we were all of an age where we have had time to develop such social skills, but the comfort we all felt in talking about things that we love, things that frustrate us, things we fear belie this stereotype.
At 46, I was the youngest at the counter. These were all men who could be my father or my uncle. All from the heartland of Pennsylvania. None were weepy or emotive. We spoke of things meaningful and trivial. I think I was the only “professional” everyone else had a real job or retired from one. Though a stranger, I was quickly welcomed into the circle.
Common culture defines men as coarse, childish, simplistic, out of touch with anything but our base appetites. We are not.