A Man in Boxers with a Spear

My chosen profession is Safety Manager. I didn’t choose this profession, mind you, it chose me. At first it was an additional duty, perhaps given by my former employer as punishment, or warning to others, I’m not sure.

I pause to consider the wisdom of my profession, from time to time, when I do things that are altogether stupid, which happens at such frequency that I am often left in a dazed state.

One of those times happened last summer, when I found myself a bachelor for several weeks. My wife and youngest daughter traveled to Oklahoma to help family, leaving me unsupervised.

In the middle of the night I was awakened by a sound.

BEEP

I’m a light sleeper, so the beep at 2:30 in the morning had my attention. The beep was coming from one of the dozen or so smoke alarms on the main floor of our house. The smoke alarms are wired into the electrical system, but they have 9-volt batteries as backups. Whenever the life of the batteries is spent, they beep their imminent demise. Never at 2:30 in the afternoon, only at 2:30 at night. This was one of those times.

I crawled out of bed and went in search of the dying battery.

BEEP

I thought it was the smoke alarm right outside the master bedroom, which was altogether a good thing. We have vaulted ceilings in our house and the smoke alarm in the hallway was within reach. I went to the garage and grabbed my four-foot stepladder and removed the dying battery. I placed it on the kitchen counter and crawled back into bed.

Approximately 45-seconds later I heard

BEEP

And crawled back out of bed. It wasn’t the smoke alarm in the hallway. It was the smoke alarm in the master bedroom, strategically placed at the top of our vaulted ceiling.

I am just over six feet tall, but for reasons that escape me now, I took my four-foot stepladder, climbed up and reached for the smoke alarm. I was at least one of me short. Perhaps I thought I had hidden abilities and might suddenly become Stretch Armstrong or Inspector Gadget and my arms would span the distance. I found I possessed no such hidden abilities.

So I stood and stared at the smoke alarm and willed it to be silent.

BEEP.

At this point I should clarify that I wasn’t strictly alone in my house. Our two dogs were with me. They watched what I was doing and, as they often do, went to their beds and covered their eyes with their paws. One of them groaned. I wish they wouldn’t do that, because I find it distracting.

I considered just going downstairs to the guest room and ignoring the dying battery. But knowing the smoke alarm was beeping upstairs (even if I couldn’t hear it) would keep me awake.

Then I remembered. I had a spear.

I have a spear because I like to torture myself (and anyone fool enough to follow me) with the Spartan Race. The obstacle course requires the idiot participants to take part in a spear throw. If you don’t successfully complete the spear throw (or any other obstacle) you have to do burpees. Anyone who has seen me will understand that me throwing myself to the ground and jumping back up again is not a pleasant thing in the least. I bought the spear to practice in hopes of avoiding burpees.

It was in my office, waiting for me.

So I grabbed the spear and climbed up my four-foot stepladder in my boxer shorts, reaching for the smoke alarm.

(For those who have gazed upon me in all my glory, I want to pause a moment and let that mental image sink in; of me in my boxer shorts, spear in my hand, standing on a stepladder reaching for a smoke alarm. Have you got it? Has it seared itself into your mind? Good. I’ll continue.)

With the tip of the spear I was able to pry open the cover on the smoke alarm and pop the dying 9-volt battery from its place. I put it on the kitchen counter and crawled back into bed.

Two hours later my alarm went off

BEEP.

And I considered the fact I was a Safety Manager and had recently done what I encourage my co-workers never to do.

It was then I realized I wasn’t made a Safety Manager as punishment. I was made a Safety Manager as a warning to others.

That is all.

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Small Talk with a Wave

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Our neighbor came over last night to offer us some fresh peaches. We were grateful, because we sure do love peaches. I answered the door, and if it had remained a conversation between the two of us, it would have been a pretty straightforward exchange.

“Would you like some peaches?” My neighbor would have asked.

“We would love some peaches!” I would exclaim.

I would take the peaches, thank my neighbor, and call it a pleasant conversation.

But my wife came to the door with me, and once the peaches passed from my neighbor’s hand to my own, the small talk commenced.

I am not an expert on small talk. I seldom, if ever engage in this alien form of communication. It baffles me, actually. If small talk is a muscle in your body, mine is woefully undeveloped. My wife, however, has a small talk muscle of Herculean strength. So, when the small talk commenced, I exited the scene, because that is what I do. Someone who doesn’t small talk is usually uncomfortable around those who do. I just sit there, trying to think of something to say with a constipated look on my face from the strain of exercising mental muscles I do not possess.

I don’t think I’m an unfriendly person (well, I’m at least not openly hostile). I just think a good conversation can normally be condensed into one word: “Hey!”

H = How are you?

E = Everything’s fine.

Y= Yes, we should definitely talk again soon.

The beautiful thing about the “Hey Conversation,” is that you don’t actually have to say the words. A wave is the sign language version of the “Hey Conversation.” And if your hands are busy, a nod of the head accomplishes the same thing.

It’s a benefit in a relationship to have one person without the ability to engage in small talk. It makes getting things done much easier, like going to the grocery store. I can make a run to the local market three and a half hours faster than my wife. When I arrive home, my wife will ask me if I saw anybody while I was there.

“I saw Bob.”

“Bob? What did Bob have to say?”

“He said, Hey!”

So while my wife and our neighbor engaged in small talk, I went to our bedroom. I napped for a time, clipped my toenails, then fished the lint out of my bellybutton and used it to knit myself a nice pair of socks. After a while I thought I would step outside and watch the moon come up. I stared at the stars, meditated and contemplated the meaning of life.

I listened to the crickets and in a moment of deep insight I comprehended what they had been trying to communicate to humanity all these ages: “The end is coming. The end is coming. The end is coming.” Or maybe it was just “Hey.” It was hard to be sure.

Eventually my wife came out to find me. Her small talk with our neighbor had ended.

She sat beside me, smiled, and said, “Hey!”

Which is why I love her so.

Putting Papa Out to Pasture

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My wife and I had the chance to spend most of the weekend with two of our granddaughters while their Mom and Dad were in the hospital to welcome their new sister into the world.

The oldest of their girls, Paisyn, isn’t quite three-years-old, and she reminds me of her mother so much it hurts. On Saturday she was riding her stick horse all over the house. She would gallop into the living room; rub the side of her stick horse’s head and say, “Whoa, boy, slow down. Settle down.” Then she would gallop away.

Later that morning she walked over to me with her stick horse in her hand. She propped it up beside the couch I was sitting on. She had attached a lead rope to its bridle and she handed it to me. “Hold onto him, Papa,” she said. Then she went to her room to play.

Whenever she came back into the living room, if I wasn’t holding onto the lead rope, she would put it back in my hands and sternly say, “Hold him, Papa.”

In the afternoon she came back to me with the lead rope in her hand. She wrapped it around my left wrist, slipped it into a knot, and pulled. It cinched tight (I asked her parents who taught her to do this, and they said she taught herself).

“Come on horse,” she said, and gave it a tug. So, being an obedient horse, I stood up and let her lead me. She led me into the kitchen, where my glass of ice water was sitting on the counter. She let me have a drink, and I was grateful her parents didn’t keep hay (or a curry comb) in the kitchen. Then she led me back to the couch.

She removed the lead rope and smiled, and I smiled back. “Thanks for putting me in the field for the night,” I said.

She looked at me quizzically, raised her eyebrows, and reattached the lead rope, only tighter this time. The circulation in my hand was being cut off.

“Come on, Papa,” she said.

I let her lead me again. We were heading for the back door. “Where are we going now?” I asked.

“To the field,” she said.

“I don’t really want to go to the field, Paisyn,” I said (it may have been a plea).

So she led me back to the couch and removed the lead rope.

That was a close one. I know there’s hay out there. Maybe even a curry comb.