May 19, 2024


by: tguerry


Categories: Current Culture

The Group-W Bench

The Group-W Bench

In the heart of my hometown sits a family-owned coffee shop. It’s not one of those chrome and tile corporate-franchise monstrosities with trendy product names and ridiculous prices. Rather, it’s a hole in the wall filled with an eclectic mix of mismatched furniture and mismatched clientele.

Some days the music is too loud and other days the coffee is slightly burnt (nothing that a dash of salt won’t cure) but it’s the imperfections that manifest the shop’s perfection. In the heart of that coffee haven sits the Group-W bench, a ten-foot pine slat park bench resembling an old-time church pew.

Situated along one wall and fronted by three two-top tables, there is no privacy on the bench. Everyone is privy to the conversations around them. I like to think of it as that famous bench in Arlo Guthrie’s classic 1967 anti-draft ballad, “Alice’s Restaurant”, because the bench is continually filled with misfits and outliers.

On a recent Sunday afternoon when the North Texas Spring weather kept “normal” people secluded in their air-conditioned homes — how can weather be oppressively hot and humid, yet dominated by ice cold rain that feels like a swarm of stinging bees? — the misfits of the Group-W bench were in full bloom at the coffee shop.

At one end sat two Gen-Z women enjoying a conversation that oscillated between peals of laughter and conspiratorial whispers. The other bookend was anchored by a young couple engaged in the ageless mating dance of enchanting conversation and inviting body language. There in the middle, sat an old man scratching at the Sunday crossword with a less-than-reliable ballpoint pen while sipping a “large” (not “Venti”) hot coffee.

Those Girls
It may seem unfair to characterize a pair of young women as misfits without knowing their character, but much can be deduced by their mere presence at the coffee shop. Casually dressed and sharing a meal of avocado toast while engaged in animated conversation, they were by no means typical of their generation — those sitting at home, pecking away at smart phone keyboards and ogling the latest social media post for fear of missing out. These two were actually engrossed in the act of one-on-one, face-to-face, interhuman communication. And they were shamelessly enjoying their time together.

The Mating Dance
Counter to the free-ranging conversation of the two girls, the potential lovers at the opposite end of the bench were immersed in that time-tested practice of facilitating intimacy. His style was calculatedly charming and adventurous; hers, intentionally demure and enchanting. Don’t get the idea for even a minute that I’m mocking their interaction. Sans that tradition, you and I would have never come to exist. And apart from the privacy of a canoodling niche, the Group “W” bench was the perfect starting line for life-long relationship.

The Old Man
Unshaven and dressed in sawdust-laden work clothes, the old man might well have been mistaken for a homeless bum without access to a quiet work locale. What place would be worse for concentrating on a crossword puzzle? Wedged between the laughing friends and purring lovers his 45-minute endeavor could easily stretch to double that time. And that didn’t even account for the constant interruptions of passing acquaintances who entered the coffee shop and stopped to offer greetings. But with each and every encounter, he lay down his pen and fully engaged in the brief interactions. Perhaps that was the point.

In fact, what few people realized was that the old man had donated the Group “W” bench to the coffee shop’s prior owners. It happened back during the COVID conspiracy when our federal overseers attempted to convince everyone that mankind’s only hope of survival was isolation from all other humans and that face-to-face interaction was flirtation with death. Perhaps that old bench was his means of saying “Bullshit” to the status-quo and embracing the act of living life in community outside the counterfeit safety of solitude. Maybe that bench will even turn out to be the old man’s most meaningful contribution to his hometown. Where’s your Group-W bench?

Let’s talk. I’d really like to hear what you have to say, and it might even give me something to write about. Email me at
I’ll buy you coffee and we can compare notes. I promise not to steal your ideas without permission.


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