From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
The old men work together while he is alone, they are old while he is young, and they express eagerness and hope while the best he can manage is a fearful curiosity. In some ways, they are human representations of the universe around them: indifferent to the narrator, but giving him faces and bodies to react to.