It's about 1 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and Pat Osness has yet to begin Christmas shopping for his wife.
Others might be growing anxious. But Pat is leaning back in his booth at Buffalo Bob's Smokehouse. He's right on schedule.
"I'm not desperate yet," Osness said. "If it was 4:30, quarter to 5, I'd be nervous."
This is how he's done it for years now, just like the others huddled around a family barbecue meal at Buffalo Bob's at lunchtime Monday.
Every year, five men gather here before strolling out into downtown Lawrence to shop for their wives: Wayne Osness, a retired professor of health, sport and exercise sciences at KU and a Lawrence resident for 46 years; Pat Osness of Denver, Wayne's son; and three men who married Wayne's daughters — Stan Thompson of Olathe, Rod Peck of San Diego and Owen Buckley of Kansas City, Mo.
For about 30 years — maybe 29 or 28? — they've been doing this every Christmas Eve.
"We were trying to figure that out this morning," Peck said.
As grandchildren have been born, grown up and had children of their own, as downtown Lawrence has lost shops and gained bars and restaurants, these men have met every Christmas Eve at Buffalo Bob's, before hitting Marks Jewelers, Weaver's Department Store and anywhere else that catches their eye.
They can't recall exactly how it started, but Wayne Osness knows the reason why.
"We all had something in common, and that's that we left our Christmas shopping till the last day," Wayne Osness said.
Of course, the tradition also gives them an excuse to get out of the house, enjoy each others' company and crack jokes.
And, truth be told, this year they were mostly done with their Christmas shopping before Christmas Eve. Well, except for Pat.
"Pat requires a lot of help," Thompson said.
"He has no taste," Peck chimed in.
But Pat wasn't worried.
Sure enough, after lunch, the group marched down to Marks Jewelers, where it took Pat maybe 15 minutes to pick out a nice piece for his wife. The others chatted with co-owner Rich Yeakel, who knew the Osness family growing up in Lawrence.
"At least they didn't wait till the last minute," technically, Yeakel said. They still had several hours before the store closed, after all.
The shops are generally quite uncrowded on Christmas Eve, Wayne Osness explains, making ultra-efficient shopping possible.
"All the sane people are home," Wayne Osness says.
The group does its best to avoid distractions.
"Usually we stay away from the bars," Buckley said — except, of course, for that one year when the big snowflakes were falling and the group had to duck into the Eldridge Hotel bar, where it got stuck for a while.
But this year, they headed straight to Weaver's after Marks. Wayne stopped off at the perfume counter to pick up the same Estee Lauder perfume he's bought for his wife for 60 years or so. Peck slipped away to find a raincoat, free of the others' input. And Thompson and Buckley followed Pat Osness upstairs to offer suggestions as he looked for something for his wife.
Familiar faces came up to say hello. But within minutes, the group had settled on a gray coat and a black dress.
All of a sudden, Pat was all done, with several hours to spare. All that remained was to take the boxes downstairs for gift-wrapping (this service, they say, is a big reason that Weaver's is a staple of the annual trip).
"The process that takes most folks weeks and months takes us an hour and a half," Pat said. And just like that, the men of the Osness family were ready for Christmas.