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Prime Time/Caterers, coffee, consultants: change, change, change

I do hate to point out that the world used to be a far different place, but doing so is one of the privileges (perhaps a requirement) of age.

And Bob Dylan himself turned 70 a few weeks ago. He was the guy who made a lot of money reminding us "The Times They Are A-Changin.'" With all due respect to Bob, I must say that the Times They Have Changed, and here are just a few items. All of them conveniently begin with the letter "c," as does "cool." Which I like to be called, as in "cool grandma."

Let us begin with caterers. My pal, whom I meet at the mailbox, and I chatted about caterers the other morning. She was a farm wife and the notion of calling in a crew of folks from their state-approved, stainless steel food preparation kitchen was beyond imagination. Pot luck suppers and Cooking-for-a-Crowd recipes are still with us. But I remember the big frying pans and bubbling pots of my childhood as my aunts cooked for the threshing crew. The word "caterer" was not in their vocabulary, and surely not in their wildest dreams.

Then there is coffee. Folger's. Maxwell House. That pretty much covered it in the old days. When we moved to this town just over 20 years ago, you could not buy a latté anywhere. Honest. I came from the city where Starbuck's, Dunn Bros, Caribou Coffee and all the rest flourished. Most of them have now come north. And the world of choices is ours: Mild, medium, strong, one shot or two, flavoring, skim, whole, or soy milk, lots of foam or just a little, for here or to go. The notion of "Just a cup of coffee, please" would baffle that nice young barista. Of which there were none - baristas, that is - in Bemidji 20 years ago.

Among dedicated coffee drinkers are consultants, of whom we will speak next. The answer to business and government's prayer is the consultant. Never mind that you are getting paid big bucks to be at the top of the corporate ladder. Never mind that the voters elected you to study the issues and make decisions. There's gotta be somebody smarter than you are. Of course there is. It's the consultant. He or she is a person who can focus on a narrow topic or a given assignment.

The consultant who gathers information from others knows how to run a focus group. She has a supply of felt-tipped pens and huge Post-Its that go up on the wall to list the ideas the group comes up with. Consultants are people-pleasers, which is how they stay in business. And yes, they're smart, too.

I did a few consultant gigs back in my previous life. Both involved interviewing individuals and writing reports. Consultants are good report-writers. How else can their wisdom be shared with the folks who hire them? One consulting job took me to New York City and I made $500 a day, plus expenses. Consultants probably make a lot more these days, and there are more of them than ever before, so yes, it's a good gig.

And, to conclude, there's the calculator, another ever-present-beginning-with-c word that came into everyday use in the 1960s. Remember how we spent our grade school years mastering addition and subtraction, and the "times tables?" The handy pocket calculator was unheard of. Now most of us wouldn't think of trying to balance our checkbooks without one. And come to think about it, the checkbook is probably on its way out, too.

My dad wrote a book called "Arithmetic in Agriculture," but I didn't get the math gene. He is, of course long gone. A copy of the book sold last year on EBay. I think I have one in the basement storage room. But let's see: EBay. Maybe there are some E words. Oh, you've had enough of this game? Got it. Come back next month for something completely different.