Arthur Lough and I agreed to meet on Monday afternoon for coffee and conversation at our favorite downtown hangout. He was already there when I arrived, although I was not late. (Neither of us has patience with people who are always “running late.” In fact, during the first few minutes of our last meeting, we listed a number of people, mainly clergy, who were always late to their appointments, no matter what kind of meeting and no matter who they were meeting with. We agreed that it showed disrespect and was decidedly unprofessional.)
We had also agreed that we would each pay for our own drink whenever we met like this and thus avoid the uncomfortable whose-turn-is-it-today? moment when it was time to leave. Arthur was stirring his decaf Americano as I set my mocha latte on the table and took a seat across from him.
“It used to be that, when somebody asked me if I preferred decaf,” Arthur began, “I would always say something like, ‘Decaf? What’s the point?’ I don’t say that anymore.
“I remember the time I met right here with a guy who drank decaffeinated coffee with non-dairy creamer and artificial sweetener while wearing a t-shirt with the words ‘Keep It Real’ printed across the front. When I pointed out the irony, he grinned at me, showing a front tooth with a gold heart inlaid in it, and said, ‘Only in America, huh?’ I have no idea what he meant, but we both found it endlessly amusing.”
I laughed too, not so much because the story was all that funny, but mainly because Arthur so much enjoyed telling it. That meant that he, who could be depressed and gloomy by turns, was, for today at least, in a good mood.