I’m not certain what else to call people that you meet by accident, spend time with at a certain cafe or pub for several years off and on, and discover that you are sharing woes and offering assistance and condolences.
On Saturdays for many years I’ve gone to brunch with my folks at a cafe owned by a family friend. I went to school with their daughter. We’re regular enough that I’ve been mistaken for staff, back before the owner got shirts made for the employees. The cafe has attracted regulars – the Wednesday morning coffee group, the High School lunch groups, the Early Birds – you know how it goes with cafes and some bars.
Some time ago, after seeing the same people at about the same time every visit, the folks and I made the acquaintance of a friendly and slightly odd gent. I won’t go into details, because his story is not mine to tell, but the four of us share some interests and we all learn from each other. Sometimes he sits with us, sometimes he doesn’t. He’s one of those lucky souls that could eat a blue whale and not put on weight, much to my chagrin. Anyway, nice guy, basic Good Old Boy, veteran, the kind of person who shows up to lend a hand.
A few months ago he came looking for us at brunch. He needed to talk. Again, the story is not mine to tell, not entirely, but he wanted, needed, someone to explain some medical things and to listen. So we did.
It’s funny how that develops. People as different as chalk and cheese cross paths often enough, nod and howdy often enough, grouse about over-priced store tomatoes and lousy lumber and high gas prices enough, and get each other coffee refills enough, and something happens. You may not know last names, or even real first names, but it becomes, “Hey, y’all. Don’t know if you heard, but Jose’s kid was the one hurt in that wreck last night. We’re chipping in to get ’em some groceries,” or “That’s a darn shame, Mary, I’m so sorry. No, it wasn’t your fault. You had no way of knowing he’d go looking for you when you didn’t answer his calls because the tree tore your phone line down. How can I help?”
The only thing you may have in common is a fondness for the short stack with floppy* bacon and black coffee, but that short stack with floppy bacon becomes a bond that turns into help when needed.
Americans are just strange, I guess.
*Do not start a religious war in the comments over floppy vs. crispy vs. charred bacon.