Be careful recounting your woes, as they can always be worse


Sometimes the least expected guests are the most welcome. It happened Sunday, soon after hanging up from a call from Kathy Herr in Montana.

Kathy wanted to know how we were and exchange news. Rick, her husband, was off on a fishing trip with a couple of buddies. One of them had a truck with a camper and they had a boat in tow as well.

“The guy with the camper, he’s 83,” said Kathy.

I could visualize the scene. The guys squeezed into the camper at night and wedged into an even smaller boat during the day. While they probably were spending a lot of time around water, my guess was they weren’t catching a whole lot of fish. I’m sure the days and nights were spent swapping stories. It sounded like a good time.

“And what’s happening there?” she asked.

I thought a moment and realized it’s been a long spell of woes.

There’s no truth to the old wife’s tale of bad things coming in threes. It’s been more like a baker’s dozen.

It started a couple of months ago on a visit to my father. He wanted to go out for dinner, so we went to the club to find a table on the patio overlooking the golf course. The evening was perfect; a slight breeze, no bugs and long shadows stretching over manicured fairways and greens.

What could go wrong?

A waiter arrived with a pitcher of water and a basket of hard rolls. They smelled delicious. The first bite met all expectations, but the second had me puzzled. I clamped down on something hard. I wondered what might have fallen into the dough. I found the offending nodule and it was a broken tooth; mine, in fact.

That was just the beginning.

On returning home, I lowered the driver’s window and its motor made a grinding, so I played with the switch. It broke. Luckily the window went up, so I left it that way.

Back home, the computer flashed an ominous message that it was running out of memory. I took the recommended measures, but two days later it was warning me that Armageddon was approaching. I started trashing whatever I could, dumping programs that hadn’t been used in years. I gained some more space but in the process wreaked havoc with our wireless system and printer.

I disconnected the computer, leaving the modem and router. For a while we had Internet on the laptop, but that became sporadic and soon died. As my son Jack would be with us the week of the 4th, I figured he would know what to do. I found that Cox cable had pulled from the side of the house but still connected and precariously hanging. I found some line and tied it up to the chimney – a makeshift arrangement until Cox could arrive. The cable wasn’t the problem, however, and only after buying a new modem and router did we link to the world again.

Were we cursed, or was everything reaching its planned obsolescence simultaneously?

Kathy listened to my litany of woes.

“It didn’t stop there,” I told her.

By now I’m sure she regretted the question, but there was more and I felt compelled to tell all.

“Last weekend,” I went on, “this crack appeared in the windshield and it keeps going.”

She moaned.

I went on to the grand finale.

The pool pump had been acting strangely for several weeks; the system was full of air and, even with all the rain, it needed water. Jesse St. Pierre pressure tested it Saturday. The news wasn’t good. The intake line was leaking; to replace it would require cutting out a section of the concrete deck and digging down at least three feet to reach the bottom of the skimmer. Jesse would be there Sunday to do it.

By now Kathy was ready to hang up and regretting Carol hadn’t answered.

But that wasn’t the end.

Looking for something to do until Jesse arrived, I went to work washing windows. I started with the porch, hosing them off before returning with a sponge and detergent. A squeegee completed the job. I was doing the side windows when a strange popping came from the front porch. White smoke was pouring from the floor outlet, with flames curling up from the plastic cover. I failed to see the outlet cover was open when I sprayed the windows.

I raced inside to grab the kitchen extinguisher and alert Carol. Ollie was with her.

“Get out,” I urged.

She called 911.

The extinguisher and a hosing seemed to do the job, although the outlet continued smoldering.

Firefighters were there in a matter of minutes. I shut off the power and I accompanied one of them to check the basement, following the wire to the point where it went through the foundation. There was no sign of fire.

By the time we got back to the porch, another six firefighters in heavy jackets, pants, boots and helmets were on the scene. Several police showed. It could have been a party.

To ensure the fire had not spread into the walls, they could have cut out the porch flooring. They took a moment to loosen the outlet box and pull it out. They then used a device to read whether there were any hot spots. There weren’t.

“Wow, what a turnout,” I exclaimed, as I looked at the assembly. There had to be 12 firefighters.

“When we heard it was you, we all came to see,” responded one with a laugh.

I told them they’re welcome anytime.

Maybe the pool will be running by then.


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