You can find them in most every small town–groups of men who shove the tables together in a neighobrhood eatery and share an hour of good-natured camaraderie. I saw it when I lived in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. 20 years ago, and I saw it last Thursday morning at George’s Pancake House on Oak Park Avenue. Thursday morning must be their morning because I just spotted them gathering (about 8 a.m.) as I walked past on my way to work.

This group has a name, ROMEO, which stands for Retired Old Men Eating Out.

“No,” said one member of the group, “it’s Romantic Old Men Eating Out.”

“No,” said his seatmate, “it should just be ROmantic Men Eating Out.”

Well, there’s certainly plenty of gray hair in the mix, but they could probably add an “A” to the acronym: Retired/Romantic Old Amiable Men Eating Out. ROAMEO.

One granddad brought his grandson with him, who looked to be all of 5 or 6 years old and seemed so comfortable with all the attendees that he must be a regular.

These are good-natured gabfests with lots of joshing and ribbing and catching up. Brings a lot of energy to an eating establishment. Makes one a little jealous of retirement.

And speaking of senior citizens, a friend waited over an hour to vote early at Oak Park Village Hall yesterday. She didn’t mind the wait for herself but was appalled to see older people, some with walkers, waiting in the long line. Shouldn’t there be an express line for the elderly? she asked. Good question–one that Cook County should ask themselves next time around. Early voting ends today.

I had been talking with my mother, who is 82 years young, about early voting, but she was deterred by the waiting time. She wouldn’t last an hour in line. So we’ll be taking our chances on Election Day. I’ll be driving her to the polls even though she has a history of voting Republican and could very well neutralize my vote. That’s democracy. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

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