You’d think a bunch of old guys, all about the same age, could get-together without arguing. That just doesn’t happen with our Tuesday morning group at Sophie’s Forge Café, located right across from the forge plant where we most of us put in our years of work.
We’d been meeting every Tuesday morning at 7:30 since Billy Simpson retired nearly 20 years ago. I’d beat him out the door by a few months, and he bumped into me at Frank’s New Deal Hardware store a few days after his retirement.
“We old guys oughta keep in touch,” he said.
It seemed like a good idea at the time, and mostly it is, but, well, you see, Billy can have lots of opinions. That’s OK, but he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I know, because my wife is a retired history teacher, and she really knows stuff. So she keeps me informed.
Anyway, he suggested rounding up a few of us forgers – that’s what we called ourselves anyway, the “Old Forgers.” You get it?
The upshot of the whole thing is this regular Tuesday morning breakfast. You’ll find us all at the round table in the front of Sophie’s place, viewable through the big window she has in the front. There are seats for eight, and usually we fill six or seven of them. There are a couple of interlopers, my good friend Al, who’s a retired cement finisher whose knees are always killing him, and Felix, who is a real lawyer, with a law school degree and all. He’s really smart, but he doesn’t show us up. Just one of the boys, he is.
Back when we worked there at the Forge, Sophie’s was a busy place, what with maybe 3,000 of us working there. Now, it’s pretty quiet. There are less than 600 people at the Forge now, and Sophie’s closed her back dining room except for special parties. It ain’t like the old days, that’s for sure. Damned imports!
Sophie is always glad to see us, I know, even though she scolds us for talking too loud. We can’t help it; half of us can’t hear. You know, that loud thunder from the large forge still reverberates in our ears after all these years. She’s slowed down, too, and it’s obvious she can’t hear either, since she always screws up the orders. That’s why we welcome Patty, who’s younger and still has a cute figure. Besides she gets the orders straight.
This Tuesday’s argument started simply enough. Billy Simpson, spying one of the young engineers for the company, stopping by Sophie’s for some schnecks (sweet rolls), said, “Look how ratty he’s dressed. In those unpressed pants with all those pockets.”
“Yeah, nobody dresses in suits any more, either,” added Felix. “When my wife and I were at the ballet Saturday . . .”
“Oh, hoity doity ballet! Listen to him, trying to impress.” That was Billy interrupting the barrister.
“No, he’s not,” I argued. I liked Felix, and I knew he was really not trying to impress, just trying to make a point. “Let him finish, Billy.”
“Well, at the ballet,” Felix continued, miffed at Billy’s interruption. “You’d think guys would wear suits for a nice night out. But no, they were there in jeans and old sweat shirts, you can’t believe it.”
“What did you wear, Felix?” Billy asked.
My friend Al sat quietly through this exchange, but then entered the conversation. It was funny that when Al talked, we all listened. He always made some sense of things, and as years went by we grew to know it was best to listen when Al talked.
“I hate guys that wear suits,” Al said, quickly looking at Felix and adding, “Except for you Felix, my friend.”
“Why, Al?” asked one of the other guys.
“Simple, guys in suits are ruining the world,” he began. “If you work for a living, like we all did, you can’t wear a suit.
“The guys on Wall Street, those bankers who made bad loans, the financiers and the hedge fund bums who are responsible for our stealing our jobs, even the people in Congress. They all wear suits.”
“There are women doing that now, too” commented Sophie, who was hovering over us, ready to pour coffee and heard the comments.
“And look at them, Sophie,” he said. “They all are wearing suits, too.”
I had to agree with Al. It seemed guys and gals in suits were indeed ruining the world.
“Not all of us in suits are so bad, Al,” Felix said.
Al smiled. “Think about it Felix,” he said. “People in suits control the world, and seem to have very little interest in us, the working people. Even our socalled friends in Congress seem to have deserted us these days. They don’t seem to care about jobs. But, Felix, you and few others are an exception. You may wear a suit sometimes, but you never forgot your roots.”
Even Billy had to agree. “Maybe if they got their hands dirty, the suits would remember us.”
Al smiled. “I have a suit, I have to admit. Bought it 16 years ago for my youngest daughter’s wedding.”
“When you going to wear it again?” I asked.
“Well, I hope it still fits for my funeral.”