Mark O’Brien: O ROMEO, ROMEO, quit whining

I see these groups everywhere I go in Florida.

They take over tables in restaurants for breakfast or lunch, muttering here, laughing there, flirting with waitresses a third their age.

I’m talking about those gangs known as ROMEOs — Retired Old Men Eating Out.

Their membership varies widely — ex-business tycoons sit with former ditch-diggers, military lifers and car salesmen.

I’ve been watching them from afar, wondering what they had in common besides their addiction to Fox News and endless conversations about the weather.

Recently, I summoned my courage to infiltrate some of these groups. (No great job of acting by me, says my wife, noting that I too am the age of many a ROMEO.)

Anyway, I was able to pass myself off as a ROMEO in good standing by grumbling about young people these days, denouncing the Affordable Health Care Act and repeatedly saying, “Old age ain’t for sissies.”

Eventually, after attending enough meetings, I obtained an agenda that serves as a blueprint for almost every ROMEO meeting.

Meeting begins:

Item A. General griping: Drivers these days, “rap music” and the need for a bigger automatic cost-of-living increase in Social Security checks.

Consensus: World’s gone to hell. Because? Obama.

Sergeant-at-arms restores order as Geezers A and B talk a little too long and a little too intimately to the waitress, who secretly hopes that one of these ROMEOs will leave her a ton of money in his will.

Real soon.

Item B. Subcommittees meet to review the same ground they plowed at the last ROMEO session: Careers, golf games, high school experiences, what’s wrong with women golfers, dirty jokes from 20 years ago, grown children doing a poor job of raising the grandkids, biased liberal news media.

Item C. Medical report.

Stents? Hip transplants? Runny noses? Paper cuts? “Hey, they changed the size of my pills.” (Please limit your comments to 10 minutes. Other guys need to get home and take their naps.)

Item D. More general griping: Air travel, social media, investments, women, football season, last night’s dinner.

Consensus: All bad. Because? Obama.

Adjourn. To parking lot for more grumbling.

These meetings make me wonder why many old guys complain so much.

Sure, decline and death are on the horizon. Worse yet, they come with the prospect of long, lonely days in airless, understaffed, brightly lit hospital rooms and the realization that we made mistakes and didn’t accomplish all that we set out to accomplish.

Still, most of us have had great lives, and we’re still alive and kicking, as the old folks say.

The glass is half-full, gentlemen. Enjoy!

Mark O’Brien is a writer who lives in Pensacola. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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