When a group of retired friends grew tired of having the same conversations every Saturday, they didn’t just resign themselves to the less than invigorating meetings. Instead, as a lark, they decided to secure a table at a local farmers market, giving them a platform to dole out “probably bad advice” to anyone who asked.
Usually, according to a report by the Washington Post, the group met at Tony Caputo’s deli in Salt Lake City, as Caputo was also part of the circle of retired friends. However, when everyone decided they wanted to inject a little more excitement into their Saturday, they decided to leave the deli and head across the street to the farmers market.
“We were sitting outside, bored stiff from talking to each other, and I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to get us a booth across the street at the farmers market, where we can give advice,” said Caputo, describing the moment they decided to make a change.
Once at their table, they hung a banner, which read: “Old Coots Giving Advice — It’s Probably Bad Advice, But It’s Free.”
Mostly, the group was just hoping to have a little fun beyond their typical get-together. What they weren’t expecting was all of the people who would begin seeking out their advice.
Farmers market visitors began sharing their problems with the “old coots” and asking for them to share their wisdom.
“People ask us, ‘Are you guys qualified to do this?’” said Caputo, “and, of course, we have to say no.”
“But neither was Ann Landers,” he added. “Hopefully, we won’t mess people up too much.”
Throughout the summer, the group spoke with 30 to 40 people every Saturday, doling out advice.
“It started as a joke, but it’s become a phenomenon,” said Caputo. “Somebody told us the other day that we’re the most popular attraction at the market. We always listen carefully and don’t give gratuitous advice.”
When someone says they are looking for love, the “old coots” recommends they take part in fun activities that could help them meet people with whom they share common ground. If they are asked about how to keep a relationship going, group member Rich Klein always tells “tell people that the first thing you do is put down your phone and start talking.”
The group does make two topics off-limits: politics and religion. Otherwise, they’ve discussed nearly everything, including talking with a man who thought ghosts were following him, pointing a man who was going blind and didn’t know where he could find help to local resources, and speaking with a girl whose mom was pressuring her to become a professional chess player but wasn’t interested in pursuing her mother’s dream.
While the farmers market doesn’t run during the winter, the “old coots” were hoping to pick up where they left off when it returns in this summer.
“To be truthful, I’m not sure that any of us can claim to have much wisdom,” said group member John Lesnan, “but it sure has been a lot of fun. Maybe all of us coots really do have more to offer than we thought.”