Monday, Nov. 5, 42 A.B.

Freshly Raked Words

Yesterday the Diamondbacks won the World Series, West Wing won the Emmy for Best Drama Series, and I - well, I bought a 16' extension ladder.

I'll leave it to history to decide which of these three accomplishments will still be amusing my neighbors a year from now.

It's not as if I woke up yesterday full of the desire to go off and buy a 16' extension ladder.  In fact, it wasn't until I'd attempted to leap up on my roof for the fourteenth or fifteenth time that I even realized I needed one in order to clean out my gutters.  Eventually, however, my wife's repeated suggestion that we go buy a ladder drowned out the sounds of my boots hitting the grass and I agreed to go with her to buy one.  Not because I actually expected to buy one, mind you, but because I believed that any goose chase (no matter how pointless) is still better than any gutter cleaning (no matter how successful).  After all, goose chases (unlike gutter cleanings) sometimes take us past Dairy Queen.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself in Home Depot buying a ladder exactly like a person who isn't scared to death of heights.

Adding to my surprise: The discovery that it's not merely possible for a man like me to carry a 16' extension ladder through a store to a check-out lane, it's damn well expected by every clerk that a man like me might try to pass the job off onto.

Lest you think I'm making this up, let me assure you that I can still recall carrying this ladder all through that damn store in search of the check-out lane, then standing there in line behind a man with a small tube of caulk and a woman with a bag of nails, trying my best to be as inconspicuous as possible.  Remaining inconspicuous is a major goal of mine, and I generally do an excellent job of meeting this goal by buying only male-appropriate products at the pharmacy and dull-colored greeting cards at Hallmark.  Maintaining my anonymity while taking a 16' extension ladder through a standard check-out lane proved to be a somewhat taller order, however, and it probably would have been so even if I hadn't almost brought a ceiling light down on the head of the man with the small tube of caulk.

Making matters worse:  I had unknowingly selected the one extension ladder in the bunch without a price tag on it - or so it seemed as my wife, the cashier and I meticulously searched its 16' length for the bar code we heartily suspected must be there somewhere.  Thank goodness the woman with the bag of nails pointed it out to us (even though I suspect she only did so to avoid receiving an accidental appendectomy as we turned our would-be purchase this way and that).

To make a long story short (and to avoid incriminating myself any further before my court date), we gave the cashier a fistful of money and soon found ourselves standing between our new 16' ladder and our old 15' Mercury Sable.

"It'll fit," my wife assured me, opening the trunk.

"Like hell," I disagreed, suddenly remembering what a fistful of refund money could buy me at Dairy Queen.

Well, it did fit, but the Magician's Union would have my head if I revealed how.  Suffice it to say that less than a foot of the ladder actually ended up projecting from the rear of our Sable and no one inside the passenger compartment was actually severed in half despite what it might have looked like to those we passed on the road.

The real trick turned out to be my successfully using the ladder to clean out the gutters while keeping my eyes tightly closed due to my fear of heights.  I'm still not quite sure how I accomplished this feat, especially since at least one of my hands tended to be over my tightly closed eyes at any given moment, but I did.


And if you can prove that I really didn't, let's keep it our little secret, ok?

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(©Now by DJ Birtcher without a net)


Postscript:  After buying the ladder and using it without suffering any immediately fatal consequences, I was filled with a feeling of omnipotence.  Throwing all caution to the wind, I grabbed the smaller of our two rakes and went off in pursuit of every one of the leaves which was littering our yard, clogging our flower beds, threatening to kill our grass, and frightening the neighborhood womenfolk.  In less than one hour I had successfully apprehended and sent to the curb no fewer than 10,000 of these leaves.

I know there were at least 10,000 leaves because I'd done much the same thing last week when I'd actually taken the time to count 'em.

Well, sort of, anyway.  I had conservatively estimated 100 leaves per rake-scoop as I went about the task of filling 3 or 4 bags with the varmints, and it took at least 100 rake-scoops to get 'em all.  Simple multiplication told me that I'd rounded up no fewer than 10,000 leaves by the time I was done, and since simple multiplication didn't say "Keep this a secret," I'm telling you the same thing here now.

That 10,000 is an amazing number, when you think about it, and it's even more amazing when you consider that not a single one of those leaves needed to buy a 16' extension ladder to get safely down from its tree.

Which suits me fine, since as much as I dislike raking 10,000 leaves, that's still much easier than raking a single ladder (which I did once yesterday only because I never realized how much a ladder can look like a maple leaf before I actually had one of my own).

None of which now concerns me in the least.

What does concern me?

The knowledge that one of those leaves I raked yesterday traveled the farthest to reach me - and I don't know which one.

Thank goodness my piles of leaves remain at the curb where I left 'em.

Thank goodness I have all day tomorrow to exam those piles for clues.

Pick the right leaf, win a forest! (Shipping and handling NOT included!)

Partial line-up of some of the most likely suspects