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Revised 26 December, 2009
TO JERRY WHO BROUGHT ME LAUGHTER.
Those of you who read about the day I spent buttering up the mundane in my life, you may have thought I had learned a lesson never to be repeated. And so it was. I never repeated the same mis-chances twice. I usually could and did move on to bigger and better ingenious ways to bring chaos to the world, although it must be admitted by all that not all of these journeys from order to the absurd were necessarily exactly my fault.
As I grew up and grew older, one would think that I would revel in past glories and leave well enough alone. I was, after all, supposed to have learned how to be more elegant, sophisticated and worldly in my adulthood than I had achieved thus far.
And so, I must set the scene. As with all theatrical blunders, you must round up the usual suspects, bring them to the ultimate scene and let the play begin…..
The stage was set in an elegant home in Hollywood. It was a fundraising event for a political candidate. The house was beautiful, the kitchen sublime. There was everything one could want for a house full of important and supporting guests. We were dressed in our best bib and tucker and needed only to complete the preparations of the last minute hors’ d’oeuvres and the final cleanup before the guests arrived. Jerry was in his tux and I in my evening finery, sipping our wine while putting the polish on the last tray of goodies.
Enter the houseman, stage left: The houseman, it turns out, was a former student of mine from back in Iowa. (We do know how to turn them out back there.) His job was to gather the dirty kitchen rags and throw them in the washer so that the kitchen would be spotless in the event an inadvertent guest wandered unto the scene. And here the play begins.
The houseman was a houseman and not an architect or learned professor for good cause. His mental airplane was on the runway, but the landing gear wasn’t making contact with the ground. In all fairness, he was possibly not entirely to blame. After all, as Dickens stated in his epic novels, “its nobody’s fault….nobody’s to blame.”
Under the sink there resided two vats of powdered soap. One such vat was normal laundry soap that any domestic could handle with little issue or error. The other vat was a highly concentrated cleaning product, one about three times the equivalence of the other and most definitely something that should only be used by those who know how to read and have the sense to use a measuring utensil to prove they understand the concept behind the extra strength of the soap. The houseman was not a person of this caliber.
The houseman did as he was instructed, with the exception of reaching into the proper vat, and stuffed the pile of dirty cloths into the washer, finishing the deed off with a full cup, as the non-concentrated box of cleaner demanded…his big mistake being that he reached into the wrong vat and put three times the amount required in to do the job.
As my friend and I were innocently chatting and completing our chores in the final preparations, ready to walk out in our gilded finery to greet the guests and pass around the goodies, we heard this odd sloshing noise coming from the corner of the kitchen in which resided our impending doom. Slowly but surely, the faithful little washer was sloshing the water to wash the rags and swiftly and surely, it was churning up the soap suds into an ever increasing avalanche of foam. Now we all know that you can’t put ten pounds of potatoes into a five pound bag and expect them to stay there. Well, neither can you put mounds of soap suds into a tiny container and not expect them to do what soap suds do. They continued to expand, while our backs were turned, and suddenly gushed out the bottom of the washer door and spread swiftly across the entire kitchen floor, to the horror and dismay of our host and myself. What to do?????? What to do??????
And so we did the only thing possible in the face of disaster and impending doom. We improvised.
Jerry ran, or rather slid, to the mischievous washer and shut it down with the hopes that it would go and spew no more and then threw piles of dry towels on the floor and began attempting to mop them up with his feet. Swiftly, the others rushed to his aid and proceeded to do likewise.
And thus we were, dressed for our finest hour, skating about the kitchen floor with towels stuck to our feet, chasing soap suds and broken dreams of an evening of social triumph and glory, and yet, the entire fiasco took place entirely in the background. The unsuspecting guests had arrived and the show played itself out without us. The guests enjoyed the elegance of the evening of this big and important event, never even having a clue as to what they had missed in the very next room.
I have often wondered what those guests would have done had they witnessed Jerry and I skating the great fandango in our evening attire, braced up by the kitchen towels and the mounds of suds. Would they have grabbed rags and joined us, thinking this a fun new means of entertainment, or would we have brought the curtain down in our disgrace?
Life is full of unexpected humor but most of us never have the opportunity to learn the importance of laughing at and with ourselves. I sometimes wonder if the good Lord is not sitting on his heavenly throne observing his puny creations and wondering where it all went wrong.
As to me, I found a friend who understood the importance of improvisation in the face of disaster. His staidness of character is a grand study of the lessons of the Puckish humor that frequently bubbles quietly beneath the surface of our dignity.
Thank you, Jerry, for an experience I will never forget. May your life be full of the blessings of the unexpected and may you never forget the importance of knowing how to laugh.