Between the hours of 7 and 10 am, almost every Starbucks in America is temporarily taken over by a group of four elderly men who return to hold court at the same table every day. They are, by and large, beneficent rulers, content to stake out a claim and nurse a tall cup of black coffee over the course of three or four hours. They require little from their subjects. Here’s a field guide for identifying the most common varieties:

The Prayer Group
This group is likely to come in earlier than seven; sometimes they’re waiting outside when the doors open. By the time they leave, their table is covered in ripped-open sugar packets, drawn-on napkins, and a substantial amount of change.
Most Likely to be Wearing: Collared shirts; ties.
Most Likely to be Overheard: Arguing about Colossians.

The Captains of Industry
Yesterday, these men ran the companies that filled Midwestern cities with steel and Midwestern rivers with chemicals. Today, they cut up their danishes with a knife and fork and laugh so loudly at each other’s jokes that young people flee in terror.
Most Likely to be Wearing: Expensive fleece jackets.
Most Likely to be Overheard: Laughing louder than a pack of jackals, I mean my God who knew a group of old men could laugh that loud, just what is so goddamn funny over there, you know?

The Cabal
These men will switch from sweetly holding the door open for you to loudly arguing about immigration policy before you’ve even had a chance to stir your coffee.
Most Likely to be Wearing: Suit jackets; shirts with political slogans printed on them.
Most Likely to be Overheard: Using the price of the drinks they purchased as an analogy for widespread social issues.

The Affectionate Shit-talkers
These are the ones who treat the baristas like they’re diner waiters, but in a way that’s so pleasant and broad it’s hard for anyone to mind.
Most Likely to be Wearing: Hats.
Most Likely to be Overheard: Cussing each other out/taking the piss/knocking that old son of a bitch down a few pegs, you old son of a bitch.

[Image via Wikimedia Commons]