At the coffee shop, we were talking about Jim Traficant and the general decline of moral values. It's a regular topic.
U.S. Judge Lesley Wells recently sentenced Traficant to eight years in prison. This caused a lot of jabber on the 24/7 news networks.
"What's with the hoopla?" asked Harry. "Back in our day, they didn't waste money on trials and congressional hearings. If a congressman got out of line, why, we'd just stuff him in the trunk of a car and leave him at the docks."
"Yeah," Ed piped in, "and back in our day, a congressman's mother would never let him leave the house with hair looking like that."
"You're right," said Wally. "She would have grabbed him by the ear and maybe beat him with a toaster. Except we didn't have toasters in those days. We had to cook our bread with a burning cigar butt or by setting the neighbor's house on fire. They didn't mind, because back in those days, neighbors helped each other."
"I remember that toast," Leo reminisced. "That toast was a lot better than today's toast." We all agreed.
The waitress interrupted. "Are you just going to have coffee?" she asked, in that polite but irritated tone waitresses use these days, like you're bothering them by actually coming to their restaurants.
"Yeah," said Ralph, magnanimously. "Another round of decafs. There's an extra two bits in it for you if you get that pronto."
The waitress was a skinny little thing with enough metal stuck in her face to be an honorary member of the Steelworkers. She sighed and walked away.
"Jeez," said Theo, "what bee got under her bonnet?"
"Back in our day," said Warren, "waitresses were women with big bosoms who called you honey and had gams that wouldn't quit."
"And they weren't called 'single moms,' like they are today," Mike chimed in. "They were called 'widows,' and proud of it. They didn't complain if their husbands got mangled in industrial accidents and they couldn't have an open casket. They didn't take handouts either. They got jobs and showed some appreciation when you tipped 'em two bits."
"People in those days knew money didn't grow on trees," said Jerry. We all agreed.
Then the discussion turned back to Traficant. "What's the big deal about getting eight years?" asked Walt. "The prisons they got these days, they're like the Radisson. They got TV, exercise rooms. They probably got maids turning down their bedsheets at night. I should be so lucky to get eight years."
"You're right," said Oscar. "Back in our day, they had real prisons, with real criminals. We had the Sicilians and the Teamsters, criminals who took care of their mothers and went to Mass on Sunday."
"Have you ever seen these new gangs like the Aryan Brotherhood do a respectable car bombing?" asked Louie. We all agreed we hadn't.
Then the waitress returned. "Will that be all for you gentlemen?" she asked. "It's getting close to lunch, and we really could use this table."
"Hey, sweetheart," responded Marty. "Back in our day, waitresses showed respect for their paying customers."
"I'm sorry, gentlemen," the waitress replied, trying to sound sweet, but not nearly as sweet as they sounded when I was attending John Adams. "You come here every day. You stay for three hours and all you order is decaf. I don't mean to be rude, but I can't live off 25-cent tips."
We all looked at her like she was out of her mind, which she was. Exasperated, she left.
"Now, as I was saying about Traficant," Larry continued. "Did you see the only guy who voted against kicking him out of Congress was Gary Condit?"
"Yeah," said Harold, "what a mutt that guy is. Back in our day, we kept quiet about our mistresses. If one happened to show up dead or missing, nobody was the wiser."
"You're right," responded Willie. "And our mistresses were happy if you got 'em a small apartment and stopped by for a roll in the hay on your lunch hour. They weren't like these mistresses they have today. They're always whining about 'quality time' and paying for their health insurance."
"Back in our day, we didn't even have health insurance," said Denny. "Why, if we got our hand stuck in a drill press, we just put some tape on it and got drunk for a week until the pain went away."
Just then the coffee shop manager showed up. "Excuse me, but do we have a problem here?" he asked.
"No problem," said Charlie. "It's just the dames you hire around here don't know how to treat their regular customers."
"I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to leave," said the manager. "We really do need this table." He was a thin, bespectacled young man with an impressive case of acne.
"Now wait just a minute," responded Stan. "We've been coming here since --"
"I really have to ask you gentlemen to leave," interrupted the manager.
I thought Arty was going to sock him right there. But ever since he got his pacemaker, his wife won't let him brawl anymore. Joe and I might have socked him too, but kids these days don't know how to fistfight, so it wouldn't be fair.
Not knowing what else to do, we all got up to leave.
"Back in our day, they had real men running coffee shops," Mack said, when we reached the parking lot. "If a customer got out of line, he'd punch his lights out."
"Yeah," responded Howard, "and he'd hit 'em with a chair too. They weren't like these managers they have today, who politely ask you to leave."
We all agreed.
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