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Ya gotta watch out for Dick

Updated on December 12, 2011

Our neighbor Dick has a sneaky sense of humor. A retired school teacher and administrator, he has a benevolent but authoritarian air about him, and he speaks in a calm, measured tone, so you relax and get sucked in and then bam, gotchya!

Many times he and I would be outside, talking from yard to yard and then together in one of our driveways for an hour. One time, after starting with the weather and progressing to more consequential topics, he told me, “Y’know, after 68 years of life . . . I’m beginning to suspect . . . that men and women . . . think differently.”

When I noticed that our automatic driveway lamppost light was not working, he told me why it was probably just the light sensor and that he had replaced his easily. Since our houses were built with a very similar floor plan, I asked him if he knew which breaker circuit the outside lamp was on. He told me he hadn’t shut off the circuit, that as long I didn’t mess with the lightbulb wires, changing the sensor was not a problem. At a job years ago I’d installed many millivolt switches that didn’t give you a shock, so I took his word that the light sensor was similar. Well, when I installed the new sensor, yes, I did get a jolt of 110 volts. And because I learn so quickly, I shocked myself twice more before I was done. (By the way, the reason household 110 current is so dangerous is because it is on the same frequency as your heart muscle – yes, I was foolish, and lucky.) So, the next time I saw him I told him I had a bone to pick with his repair advice, that I didn’t believe that he had not also been shocked. He replied, in a patient, tolerant, fatherly tone, “Well . . . I thought you knew that when working with electricity . . . you have to build up a tolerance.”

The first summer Suzanne and I were there, Dick and his wife Gerry invited us over for a little backyard barbecue. When we walked next door, after offering us drinks, he held up his beer and said, “I have to warn you: after just three of these, you can’t believe anything I say.” Our question that naturally followed was the count of the one in his hand. As he said, “Oh, this is my first,” his wife, carrying a platter of food behind him, said, “No; that’s your fourth!” A bit sheepishly, he confessed, “See what I mean?”

See? Ya gotta watch out for Dick.

If you enjoy my sense of humor, try my other funny stories:


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