My outer office at Whataburger

By Gerre Joiner | Published Saturday, April 9, 2016

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As I grow older, I like to make the most of my limited time and energy, so I “book” meetings at Whataburger during regular coffee shop times (early morning or mid-afternoon).

I’ve planned weddings and funerals there. I am on the board of directors for a few non-profit organizations. Many informal discussions regarding the non-profits have been held in a corner at Whataburger.

Gerre Joiner

Gerre Joiner

It’s not widely known that I do a little iPhone consulting work from my office at Whataburger. My consulting is usually prompted when one of my friends pushes his phone across the coffee table while asking, “Can you do anything to make this thing stop?” or “What’s wrong with my phone?”

Mild cursing has been dropped into the requests depending on the complexity of the problem. I’ve been able to help quite a few times.

Most of the time, if I can’t help, Jack Brooks comes to the rescue. There have been situations for which I needed to sit down to a computer with a larger monitor to sort out a friend’s phone problems.

Bobby Watts’ situation was very complex. He had accounts with Apple, Gmail (more than one), Yahoo (more than one) and he/we could not get even one of them to allow us to log in, so we went to my house.

I went to work on Bobby’s problem using my computer while Bobby sat in a folding chair next to me. I had worked for several minutes, giving complete attention to my computer monitor, when I asked Bobby a question about one of his accounts. I got no response.

I turned my head to ask him the question again and found him asleep in the chair. I laughed. Then I went back to work.

It happened again!

I continued working and thoughts came to me, “I hope he’s OK.” Then I panicked. “What if Bobby dies in my house?” I hurried a little and came to a quitting spot.

Then I told Bobby, “I think I’ve done about all I can do.” He thanked me and left.

The next day at the coffee shop he told me what had happened. He had taken his “night pills” that morning. I’m not sure what meds Bobby takes, but I have a hunch one of them is a nighttime sleeping pill.

Bobby’s son, Dale, doesn’t seem as patient as his dad. Not long ago, he handed me his phone. It was displaying an odd message. He couldn’t use the phone at all. He makes a living answering that phone.

After I tried (without success) to fix it, he went to his phone provider. Dale told me later that he had spent four hours in the store that day trying to get his problem fixed. If I had to choose one of the Watts boys to work with on a phone problem, I’d choose a sleepy Bobby over an impatient Dale.

Every once in a while, someone contacts me and wants to meet somewhere so they can tell me a little story they think might be worthy of having a place in the newspaper.

Such was the case not too long ago when I saw retired veterinarian, Doc Cocanaugher, at a funeral. He said me he wanted to tell me details about a Decatur dude ranch that had been a very popular attraction during the war years of the 1940s. We met in my Whataburger office a few days later.

Doc went into great detail regarding a part of Decatur history that is probably unknown except to the oldest of the old timers. I wrote the story. Then I went to his office and left a copy of it with his secretary, knowing he would need to correct some of the details before I submitted it to the newspaper.

This good man died before returning the corrections to my story.

I’m trying hard to keep from looking or sounding “preachy,” but it seems to me that sometimes you fear that a friend is about to die (like Bobby) and then share a laugh with him the next day over a cup of coffee.

Other times you have coffee with a friend and share a story. Then a day or two later, news of his death reminds you that you’ll never have coffee with him again.

My motto for life: Make as many friends as I can and try to make sure they know the way to heaven. It’s all about trusting in Jesus. Sooner is better. Not one of us knows how many days he or she has on this planet.

Does that sound “preachy?” Or does it sound like it came from a good friend?

Gerre Joiner is a semi-retired church musician and has lived in Decatur since 1999.

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