A Twist of Humor

This is a column with a twist of humor. A new column will be posted every Monday.

Location: Newfoundland

I was born, raised, educated, and married in Toronto. I moved to Newfoundland twenty some years ago with my wife. So far nobody has asked me to leave. My wife asking me to leave doesn't count.

Monday, October 30, 2006

A Spark Of Genius

I stood there, looking at the kitchen floor in bewilderment. There strewn about lay the dismembered remains of the dishwasher. I hadn’t meant to butcher the dishwasher, but there it was, a bit here, a bit there, a piece under my foot. At the first sign the dishwasher was in distress I had wanted to call in a professional, someone who almost certainly wouldn’t have caused such grisly carnage. However, my wife who after all these years, and all evidence to the contrary, still clings to the hope that I will miraculously turn into a competent handyman. With this hope (delusion) firmly planted in her mind she insisted that I at least try to fix the dishwasher. So I did, much to the regret of the dishwasher.

My wife was once again disappointed in my handyman skills. It has always puzzled me that women, who are the more intelligent, logical, and practical of the species, invariably choose for their husbands men who end up disappointing them in some way. After some thought on the subject, I came to the conclusion that the problem lies not with the women, but rather with the material they have to work with. Women have this idea that when they take a husband in hand they are also taking in hand a superior clay which they can shape and mould into a superb creation. Alas, the clay is usually anything but superior and can not be coaxed into anything other than what it already is.

My wife’s dream man would not be a Galahad riding to her rescue on a white steed, slaying dragons and laying them at her feet. No, he would drive to her rescue in a pickup truck loaded with every tool known to mankind. The driver of the truck would have around his middle a fully loaded tool belt. And unlike me he would know how to use the tools properly.

When a decent interval had passed after the postmortem and burial of the dishwasher my wife suggested I should attend an appropriate shop class at the local community college at night so that I could perhaps acquire some handyman skills. I replied that although I would be more than willing to attend, there was a slight problem. Back in the mists of time when I was in junior high school it was mandatory for boys to take shop classes in woodworking and such things. (I believe a wife instituted this rule.) However, due to a series of unfortunate events I was banned from all shop classes in the Dominion of Canada, if not all of the Commonwealth, for the rest of eternity. So after twenty seven years my wife’s hopes were finally and utterly dashed-I was to remain just a lump of clay.

Even though my wife was disappointed, I was not. Now when something needs to be repaired or built or installed I just have to open the door for Bob or Ted or Reg or whoever we hired to do the job. I no longer have to listen to my wife ask me to do these jobs or ask when will they be done or ask why they aren’t done yet.

I guess that goes to show that even the most imperfect clay can have buried deep down a spark of genius.

© Mike Cook 2006

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Bonding Ritual

So there I was, thinking it was time to bond with my fifteen year old son again, and perhaps to also pass on some of life’s lessons to him. The wise parent will do these things in moderation, as the child usually wants no part of these rituals.

Before these rituals can start the parent has to have in his or her possession the child. It is in this fact the first obstacle is found. I was no exception in having to overcome this obstacle. My son is particularly wily at evading these rites of passage and it took me all of one morning to hunt him down.

I eventually tracked him to his closet, where he was scrunched into a ball at the bottom of his laundry hamper, cleverly camouflaged with his dirty socks and underwear. It is at moments such as these that a father allows himself to feel pride in his offspring and think the years of sacrifice have not been wasted.

Soon after I extricated him from the hamper, we found ourselves in the car on our way to a father and son bonding experience in the form of a hike along the coastline and then through some woods.

When we arrived at our destination I released my son from the trunk of the car. And there we stood, father and son, in the warm summer sunshine under a clear blue sky, staring out at the sparkling ocean watching a pod of whales breach and spout offshore. I exclaimed to my son how beautiful all this was and how lucky we were to be able to share it. I looked at him expectantly to see if he was sharing my feelings. He turned his youthful innocent face to mine and said, "You’ve seen one whale you’ve seen them all. Can we go home now?”

I wondered then if it might not be arranged for him to see a whale from the inside. Remembering why we were there I banished such uncharitable thoughts from my mind, for the moment.

With my son in tow and my compass in hand off we went to bond and explore.

Except for the day turning cooler and cloudy all was going well when I noticed my compass wasn’t working properly. I observed this malfunction around the time I realized I didn’t know where we were. Two hours previous to this, we had turned inland away from the coastline and had been walking ever since.

I shook the treacherous compass vigorously. That didn’t work. We were still lost. My son said maybe it wasn’t the compass that was the problem but rather the compass reader. With his impudence ringing in my ears I shook the compass even harder and when I looked at it again we were still lost. Obviously the compass was at fault.

I decided to make the best of the situation and pass on some outdoor lessons to my son. I said we should stay put and build a fire until we figured out a course of action. I then showed him how to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together. After that experiment I showed him how to start a fire with a match. We soon had a good blaze going. Admittedly it did get a little out of hand but luckily for us some heavy rains came along and doused the forest fire in no time.

The smoke that resulted from the fire wasn’t an altogether bad thing as it led a troop of girl guides to us and they led us out of the woods back to my car.

At the car I showed the faulty compass to the leader of the guides and explained how it was the reason we got lost. She took the compass from me and examined it. She then produced a map from somewhere and took some readings with the faulty compass. She looked at me and pronounced the compass to be in perfect working order.

“How odd” I said, “that a compass should give accurate readings out here in the open but erroneous ones in the woods. I’ve a good mind to write a stern letter to the manufacturer about this.”

The leader of the troop looked at me for a long moment and said, “Yes, odd would be a good description.”

At this point while I was nodding in agreement with the guide leader my son took my arm, “It’s time to go home dad,” he said. “Mom must be getting worried by now.”

While in the car driving home I told my son how happy I was to be able to share this time with him and also to share my accumulated knowledge with him.

“Dad” he said, “there is one thing you could teach me that I would find very useful. In fact it would have come in handy today. You could teach me how to hide so that no one would find me. You know, like you hide from mom when she wants you to do something that you don’t want to do - she never finds you.”

It is special moments like these that a father lives for. I absolutely glowed with pride.

© Mike Cook 2006

Monday, October 16, 2006

My Retirement Fund

It has come to my attention that I may need to put more effort into building up my retirement fund.

Originally it was my intention to make my way to the nearest ATM machine whenever I needed funds to maintain my modest lifestyle. I had thoroughly studied this idea over time and it seemed an easy and reliable way to secure money. Just punch in a few numbers, wait a second or two, and out popped some cash. Problem solved I thought.

However, there was a flaw in this plan which was not obvious to me until my wife had a talk with me.

Apparently, as she explained it to me, before one can withdraw money out of the bank machine one has to first deposit money into the bank, and before one can make a deposit one has to first earn some money. Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather when she told me this. I had to take her word for it, although it sounds like a rather bizarre and unfriendly concept to me.

Shortly after that shocking discovery I was thinking of alternative retirement plans when I read about a grandmother who robbed a bank of some money so she could pay her rent. I presumed because she was in her sixties and a grandmother she was retired. I thought here was a novel way for providing for ones retirement. I believe this is called thinking outside the box.

I can hear some of the less innovative and resourceful of you say, “Why don’t you just save more of your money?”

Well, to answer that, when I sent Revenue Canada a statement of my earnings they sent me in return a sympathy card and a note thanking me for the good laugh. For those who may not know, Revenue Canada is the government department on whose capable shoulders falls the onerous duty of taking people, turning them upside down, and shaking all the loose change out of their pockets. This is a duty they discharge with admirable enthusiasm if not outright joy.

Besides, I didn’t think the banks would mind if I funded my retirement through this means. After all I didn’t intend to take all the money from one bank but rather a little money from scores of banks. They wouldn’t even notice they were being relieved of their money if I did it this way. And if by chance they did notice, why, they would recognize in me and my methods a kindred spirit and a familiar business plan. I’m sure they would consider me as just part of the fraternity.

My musings on this subject came to nothing because to find enough banks to put my plan into action I would have had to travel to a more populous place like Toronto. I thought the competition in this line of work would be too tough, and my experience too limited for me to be successful in such a place.

I’m now doing further research on the ATM machines to see if there are any loopholes in what my wife said. I’m not getting my hopes up.

I’m reminded of some advice my father-in-law gave me years ago. He said, “Don’t grow old.” I wonder if it’s too late to follow his advice?

© Mike Cook 2006

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Dispatch From The Front Lines

I am writing this dispatch from the trenches at the front lines. Danger is all around me. I despair of making it to safety. I fear I will become just another casualty in this unending conflict. The trenches of which I write are dug deep in the harsh soil of menopause.

My wife is going through menopause which means I’m going through it as well. Among other things I now know what a cat scratching post feels like.

She usually has a high tolerance for what she perceives to be my shortcomings. As you are no doubt aware I have no shortcomings, so it is my thought this perception is a delusion brought on by menopause. When these delusions are upon her I seem to easily irritate her. When this happens, her retribution is swift, accurate, and painful, hence; my hunkering down here in the dirt of the trenches.

I’ve been ransacking my mind trying to find something that might have set her off and I can’t find one solitary thing.

Sure, she did ask me to clean out the basement and I would have been delighted to do so, except I can’t get into the basement because of all the junk in there. This is a conundrum I haven’t been able to solve yet. As soon as I do I’ll be right in there busy as a beaver. Until then what can I do?

And it is true she repeatedly asked me to check the oil in the car. Did you know that a lack of oil will cause your car’s engine to burn up or do something as equally disconcerting and expensive? They really ought to do something about that.

O yes, yesterday she asked me to cut the grass again. She obviously doesn’t know anything about lawn maintenance because if she did she would know the grass is much too long to get a lawnmower through it. Besides, the lawnmower seems to be lost somewhere in the grass.

All these things are inconsequential and I can’t think of anything else that might have irritated her this time. I’m sure you are just as bewildered as I am.

Well, I guess I’ll just have to take shelter here in the precarious safety of the trenches keeping my head down until this blows over. What’s that I hear? Listen! She’s calling me for supper. What a crafty beggar! She knows I’m starving. Maybe she’s in a better mood. Maybe she’s not. O my! What to do? I am hungry. Life in the trenches is such hell.

Well, I think I’ve no choice but to go over the top and take my chances. My stomach is rumbling something awful. I do believe I smell roast beef. I hope I’m not being betrayed by my stomach.

If you don’t hear from me again think well of me and as one who did his duty. OK, here I go, wish me luck!!

© Mike Cook 2006

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Good Samaritan

The other week I got to thinking that I should do some good deeds. You know, the Good Samaritan thing. I cast about in my mind for a likely candidate upon whom I could bestow my good deeds when I thought of poor Mrs. Buddle. She was an elderly widow who got around with the aid of a walker and lived in a big old house by herself and as luck would have it she had, as far as I knew, no one to help her out around the house.

I went to her house and rang the bell, knocked on the door, banged on the window and helloed until she answered the door. I didn’t want her to miss out on my good deeds.

When she finally opened the door I informed her I was there to help her around the house. “I don’t need any help,” she said.

Having a sensitive nature I knew she was worried about taking advantage of me. Walking past her into the house I cheerfully said, “Don’t worry about me. It’s no trouble giving you a hand with a few chores.”

Despite her insistence that she didn’t need any help, I decided to start my work by fixing the window I had broken when I banged on it earlier. Unfortunately in my attempt to repair the window I broke the window frame and damaged the moldings. After reflecting on the shoddy workmanship of whoever made the window frame and moldings I decided to put the window repairs aside and find another good deed to do.

Mrs. Buddle, who was still worried about taking advantage of me, told me not to bother and go home. I told her not to worry it was no bother at all to lend her a hand.

I then decided the best thing I could do was give her house a good vacuuming. Unfortunately when I tried to start the vacuum cleaner it wouldn’t work. I made several attempts to start it all to no avail. I then did the only thing I could do. I took the machine completely apart to find the source of the problem. I had my head inside the vacuum cleaner when I heard Mrs. Buddle say my name. “The vacuum cleaner won’t go if it’s not plugged in,” she said while holding the vacuum plug in her hand.

“My dear Mrs. Buddle,” I said as gently as I could, “of course it won’t go if it’s not plugged in.” Imagine reaching a point in your life when your memory is so bad you aren’t sure if the vacuum cleaner needs to be plugged in to make it work. Tch, tch. The poor soul.

I had to put the vacuuming on hold because I couldn’t get the vacuum cleaner back together. I believe this was due to some design flaw in the machine.

It was when I was taking the vacuum cleaner out to the garbage that Mrs. Buddle became even more agitated by the thought she was taking advantage of my kindness and asked me again to please leave. I told her I wouldn’t think of leaving without doing a few more chores. “Why,” I said, “I can work the rest of today and most of tomorrow too.”

I went around the house being as helpful as I could. Mrs. Buddle’s toilet had a small leak so I tinkered with that for awhile. I’m sure Mrs. Buddle’s neighbors won’t mind her using their toilet while she waits for a new one. I then cleaned Mrs. Buddle’s good china. You wouldn’t believe how fragile that stuff was.

It would have touched your heart to see Mrs. Buddle follow me around the house with her walker telling me to go home. The poor dear was extremely concerned that she was imposing on me. I told her over and over not to worry, she wasn’t imposing on me, and I wouldn’t think of going home until I had finished helping her.

The absurd notion that she was imposing on me became such a burden for Mrs. Buddle that before I finished my chores she got her husband’s shotgun, pointed it over her walker at me and said, “If you don’t get out of here I’m going to blow a hole in you big enough to drive a bus through.”

My sensitive nature being so finely in tune with the needs of others I could see she was feeling very guilty about her perceived imposition on my time so I gave in to her whim and left.

I highly recommend to anyone the doing of good deeds. It’s a tonic for the soul. However, I have to say that in my experience, some people are awfully touchy about being helped, so please follow my example and be tactful.

© Mike Cook 2006