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Some find ways to socialize

By Lisa Tindell

Social distancing has become a way of life since the beginning of a nation wide pandemic. Some Brewton men are finding a way to continue to socialize even when the odds are not in their favor.

Autry Hall, Joe Smith, Eddie Cantu, Roger Williamson, Jack White and James Smith gathered Monday at McDonald’s on South Boulevard, to enjoy their time together – a daily event for the crew for the past few years.

“We meet up every morning like this now” Hall said. “They are doing this in Milton, Fla., too.”

Although social distancing guidelines have closed down eating inside restaurants across the country, this group of men continues their traditional gabfest.

“We’ve been meeting up every morning for about four years,” Joe Smith said. “There are usually about 10 of us that gather. Some of them have gone back to work.”

Edmund Minchew, manager of the local McDonald’s, said the men are a blessing and makes the day brighter.

“It’s hilarious,” Minchew said. “They meet up at the same time they’ve always met up.  I technically can’t stop them because they’re not in the building.  It’s not 10 or more people so it still falls within the guidelines.”

Cantu joined the group about two years ago and has been a constant part of the meeting since then.

“I retired about two years ago from the city,” Cantu said. “We are all retired now and it’s just a good time.”

Although the spot has changed, the men still think gathering is a good thing for the group – and for business.

“We started this about two weeks ago when they shut the lobby,” Joe Smith said. “They are really good to us here. We get our coffee and breakfast and come out here to sit. They will even bring coffee out to us and we even tip the girls. The manager is even okay with us being here so that we can help drum up business.”

Morning coffee isn’t the end of their day, according to Cantu. The group moves across the street for their afternoon meeting.

“It gets hot here in the afternoons,” Cantu said. “That just means we go across the street in front of the old Dollar General in the afternoon.”

Joe Smith said the group numbers vary by the day and time, but they intend to keep on meeting this way.

“We will keep on meeting until they open the lobby back up,” Joe Smith said. “It’s good for us and it’s nice to be able to just hang out together.”

McDonald’s has joined other restaurants across the country by offering drive-through and pick-up only. The lobby is closed for inside dining. That will continue until officials change the social distancing guidelines.