The conversation at my favorite breakfast diner was already in full stride by the time I wandered in. It seems that most major news sources were reporting that President Biden was assuring friends and colleagues that he was running for re-election in 2024, despite his age and his relative unpopularity.
“The real story,” Eddie stated bluntly while stirring his coffee with the handle of his knife, “is that Biden’s wife, Jill, is finally onboard with the idea after weeks of contemplating the wisdom of a second term. She’s not sure he can do it, either.”
Without exception, everyone thinks Biden is too old for the job . . . everyone seated at the big round table in the corner of the diner, that is. It’s the table that waitress Shawna has dubbed the “Loser Table.” She calls it that not because she dislikes the men sitting there, but because the morning con-flabbers usually only order coffee, and she can’t make any money.
“If he’s re-elected and serves out his term, he’ll be 86 years old when he leaves office,” Herm said. “That’s too old for anyone to still be on the job.”
“How old are you, Herm?” I asked the farmer of 906 acres of corn and soybeans, knowing that he’s still very active in the day-to-day operations of his agribusiness.
“I’m 90, but that’s not the same thing,” Herm said. “My boys help me on the farm, and are taking more and more of the responsibility.”
“So, you think Biden doesn’t have any help?” I asked rhetorically. “Gracious! There are hundreds of layers of decision-makers between any issue and any president. No one ever questions the competence or ages of the bureaucrats.”
“Yes, but our President does make the ultimate decision,” challenged Dave, the farm insurance agent. “He’s more than a figurehead. It’s not like he’s the flippin’ Queen.”
“I’m not so sure about that,” chimed in Bud.
After the laughter died, Rudy made a good point. “I’m just afraid that he’s losing his memory. We can’t have that in today’s world.”
“I grant you that a diminished memory is not helpful,” I admitted. “However, isn’t that more of a wellness issue than age? I mean, 8-year-olds forget stuff all the time, and we don’t automatically assume they are incompetent or incapable. Age has very little to do with memory, as long as it’s not impaired by health issues.”
Just then Keith pushed back his chair and threw a dollar on the table. “I just realized I may have left the well pump running in the cattle trough this morning. See you, tomorrow.”
Danny and Jim followed Keith’s lead, and that’s when I first noticed Eddie on his phone. He was Googling the ages of Presidents. Google to breakfast diners carries the same weight in determining truth as the Guinness Book of World Records does for bars.
“Says here,” Eddie began, “that if Trump wins, he’ll finish his second term at age 84. It’s not like he’s a spring chicken.”
“Are you ready to place your order?” asked waitress Shawna as she sauntered over to our table. I told her not just yet, and nosed my face back into the menu. Eddie jumped back on the Internet.
As we dug further, we discovered that nearly every President outlived the life expectancy for males in their generation. Taking the first eight Presidents, for example, their lives spanned 79.8 years, during a time when the average male lived less than 40 years. With the exception of Lyndon Johnson, who died of heart disease at age 64, the Presidents since Herbert Hoover (excluding John F. Kennedy who was assassinated at age 46) lived an average of 81.6 years.
“Why do you suppose that is?” asked Randy as he, Stan and Ray left the table.
“A great deal has to be that they are all wealthy,” I supposed. “We know that access to healthcare is better for people with resources. Plus, they don’t work in dangerous jobs, for the most part, at least not on a daily basis. And don’t forget that the average age a person becomes a president is 55.6 years. That means they’ve already cleared half of their lives before assuming office.”
“I don’t care. I still don’t like Biden,” said Martin. “I can’t believe you want him to be president again.”
“Who said that?” I asked. “I’m no supporter. Most of what he represents, I don’t agree with. I just don’t want to get in the habit of saying people can’t do the job because of their age. I’d hate it if someone stopped me from working as I get older.”
“I just don’t understand you sometimes,” said Donnie, making his was to the door –– the last diner to leave the table.
“I’ll have the half order of biscuits and gravy, two strips of bacon, toast and jelly, and whole milk,” I said to my waitress, lifting my head out of the menu. I noticed now that I was eating alone.
“Where’d everyone go?” I asked Shawna.
“Beats me,” she said, bouncing three quarters in the palm of her hand. “I guess they are just sore losers.”
John O. Marlowe is an award-winning columnist for Sagamore News Media.