The year's first meeting of the Glendale Chapter of LeTip began about 5 minutes late Wednesday.
But officials at LeTip International in San Diego would be relieved to learn that the members were blameless.
LeTip is a business networking organization now in its 11th year. By charter, its members convene weekly for breakfast at 7:16 sharp. The Glendale group meets in the restaurant on the third floor of Buffum's in the Glendale Galleria.
All 20 who made up this week's breakfast were on time. They had to wait in the chilly air on the roof of the Galleria parking structure until the employee assigned to let them in arrived.
They adjusted good-naturedly, beginning to shake hands and exchange tips on the concrete causeway leading to the store. Each one also approached the unexpected guest, me, offering both hand and name. That later turned out to be significant.
About 7:20, the door was opened and the group filed past unattended displays of hats, stockings and purses into the Southwest-styled restaurant with a picture window overlooking Music Plus and Color Tile.
President Charles C. Simon, an attorney, called the meeting to order with a tap on a glass. The Pledge of Allegiance followed and then the reading of the LeTip creed. It defines a "tip" as "a qualified business lead" and prohibits conflicts of interest.
Each member then stood and stated name and occupation. Among the men and three women were a psychotherapist, a chiropractor, an insurance agent, a stockbroker, a jeweler, a lingerie salesman, a banker, a cheesecake maker and two lawyers, from different fields of law.
Next, all present assembled business cards into neat stacks, which were handed from person to person around the table.
The main speaker stepped to the head of the table as the waitress began delivering the choice of Continental or Western breakfast. Optometrist Movses D'Janbatian, a member of the group, had chosen as his topic the latest innovation in his field, the disposable contact lens.
"In a moment I will show you one and then dispose of it, so that you get the idea," D'Janbatian said.
He summarized the development of the contact lens from the first glass instrument of 30 years ago to the soft lens developed by a Czech scientist in the early 1970s. The latest advance, the long-wear lens, is made of an inert, sponge-like material that soaks up water, transmitting oxygen to the eye, he said.
Without saying whether the disposable lens represented an advance in science or merely in marketing, D'Janbatian listed its advantages: no more cleaning, no more risk of eye infections, no more desperate calls from patients who have torn their lenses on the eve of a trip to Europe.
"That always seems to be the case," he said. "Whenever you lose a contact, you're going to Europe the next day."
In conclusion, he opened a tiny package and showed how easy it is to dispose of a lens, flicking it behind his back.
He didn't mention the cost, but when someone asked, he said it would be from $460 to $600 a year, depending on the period between changes.
Someone asked about surgery to correct poor vision. He advised caution. There has been much publicity about the successes, but not the failures, he said.
"You never hear about the guy who went to Vegas and lost $10,000," he said.
"I do," said Lisa Nemeth Simon, the psychotherapist, earning the biggest laugh of the morning.
During the next event, called the Show Boat, computer systems analyst Robert Amirian gave away $100 gift certificates from his store, printed just for LeTip members.
"The wording on this is as if you bought it to give to somebody," he said.
He also passed around sample computer diskettes with his firm's name on them.
"We're planning on flooding this town with these diskettes," he said.
Last, the bucket was passed. It was painted white and marked with a list of fines, from $2.25 for missing a meeting to 25 cents for failing to shake hands with the mystery greeter.
No one had to pay that one, everyone having shaken my hand without knowing that I would later be designated mystery greeter. About half had to pay both for failing to bring a guest and failing to bring a tip. The worst offender, insurance agent David Carlisle, wrote a check for $13.50 to cover multiple infractions.
Just before the meeting broke up, podiatrist David Swanson, the group's ethics chairman, thanked cheesecake-maker Richard Yasko for the best cake his receptionist had ever eaten and then said he was leaving the group to become president of the Sylmar Hang Gliding Assn.
It was a conflict of time, not interest, he said, almost coming to tears.
"I'm going to miss everybody," he said. "It has been really wonderful. It's been one of the greatest groups I've ever been in."
Swanson was trying to say that the fellowship had been as good for him as the business.