Coffee chat might have gone to the Olympics

Vacations offer the chance to see and do all things new, but my favorite part of vacation put us in small-town cafes at breakfast.

At breakfast you get groups of men gathered to say good morning and to find out what, if anything, happened the night before. My husband and I once spent two hours eating breakfast in a small Montana place because I couldn’t give up the conversation. And I wasn’t even part of it.

Well, last Tuesday I wasn’t in Montana, but time conspired with me while I ate my grown-up grilled cheese sandwich with fries. I like eating early enough that I have the room to myself, so I wanted to whine aloud when the waitress pulled two tables together. But I tugged up my big-girl panties and swallowed the whine.

Soon two men, then a third, pulled up chairs, and one of them ordered two pots of coffee. I giggled a little, until I realized he meant it to be for all of them. At least I think he did. Within minutes, a fourth man arrived, kidded immediately about his chosen path to the restaurant.

But Lumpy never showed. Through talk of an in-town detour, the Iowa State basketball team, bowling and some stuff I didn’t catch, they waited for Lumpy. I drank an extra soda just waiting to see if he showed, and finally, when I couldn’t in all good conscience just sit there eavesdropping, I stood and grabbed my coat. That’s when Lumpy walked in.

Oh, how I wanted to sit back down, but I couldn’t figure how to do that without a better reason than listening, so I left.

I wanted to hear what they said about the Olympics. Surely they talked about the Olympics.

This year I’m watching every event I can, and when I think I’ve had enough and try to leave, some announcer goes nuts and draws me back. The biathlon and speed skating announcers may be the loudest. Ice dancing and all parts of figure skating get whispers from announcers. It’s the need for quiet concentration, I guess, like golfing.

Still, I wonder why sometimes. When a skater glides into perky music and does a bit of a quick step, the audience comes alive, cheering and clapping. That’s certainly not quiet, and goes a long way to lifting that skater’s spirits.

Most of the time, however, figure skaters dance to soft, flowing music, the kind of music my mind tells me I can play if I just lay my fingers on the piano keys. My mind is wrong, of course, but the thought flitters around my heart.

I like to listen to this kind of music with my eyes closed, totally buried in the feel and the flow. The sorry fact is, this music puts me to sleep. I used to insist it carried me to a spot where I could glide across the ice wearing chiffon so it would wave in the breeze, but the only gliding I find is in my dreams.

There I glide to a table full of coffee-drinking talkers.

So long friends, until the next time when we’re together.

Sandy Mickelson, former lifestyle editor of The Messenger, may be reached at