“I can’t install this nut. You’ll have to get someone else to do it for you.” Chuck stood in front of me, electric guitar in hand, with a look of abject disappointment on his face. I couldn’t control the grin that spread across mine, nor could I keep him in suspense more than a few seconds. “Okay. I’ll install it for you, but take a look at this label and think about what it would mean if it really were accurate.”
I took the guitar nut he had handed me (that’s the bridge piece that sits at the top end of the fingerboard), fancy plastic packaging and all, and read it to him verbatim. “Permanently lubricated guitar nut. Precision engineered with Teflon, the slipperiest substance on earth…” Trying hard to curb my laughter, I explained to him the difficulty I would have keeping the material in my vise. Imagine the trouble I would encounter as I clamped down onto the slippery piece. Why, it would be shooting out and ricocheting off the ceiling in nothing flat. And, when I tried to shape it with a file? I’d be likely to find myself smashing into the wall as the file (and me with it) slid off the top of the teflon. It was permanently lubricated, mind you.
Chuck and I laughed, and I installed the part he had purchased from some online supplier. The hype might have something to it, but the fifteen dollar price tag for a one dollar part smacks of snake oil sales technique to this old fashioned instrument repairman. He was very happy as he tried the guitar in my store today, so either the nut was great or my fitting job was superb, but regardless, as they say today, it’s all good.
I gather up the funnies like coins. This kind of currency is indispensable to me. It’s what keeps me going when the days bring unreasonable customers, as happened today, or I find myself overwhelmed by the sheer mountain of work waiting for my attention. The list of times when I have need of these coins to spread around seems to be growing as I age. It only seems fair that there are so many things with which to be amused. It would be a great shame to miss them in the midst of circumstances that threaten to smother and snuff out the joy of living every day. I’m still trying to figure out the exchange-rate, but I think the inflation of the difficult times has made the coins I have saved up worth much more in the present day.
The Lovely Lady’s father kept me going with his funnies all the time I worked with him. I would be repairing a guitar back at the workbench and drop a tool with a loud clatter. From the front of the store, I could hear his voice call out, “Did you lose a filling out of your tooth?” In similar fashion, a customer might drop her keys on the concrete floor. “I think you lost the set from your ring!” he would offer. While the Lovely Lady and her siblings had heard them all and would just groan, I delighted in these gems. I find myself using them more and more in daily life. Why, just the other day, I belched after eating something my doctor would have disapproved of completely and the words from my mouth came unbidden. No, it wasn’t the customary “Excuse me” I’ve been taught to say from my childhood. Rather, the hilarious words popped out (much like the sound which preceded them), “What did you expect to hear? Bells?”
Is life serious? You bet! There are so many junctures which demand sober attention and clear, pensive thought. That said, it’s essential that we be able to discern the moments that are solemn occasions and those that are not. Appropriate humor, shared in an appropriate manner, can diffuse tense situations, and relieve a combative encounter or even a frightening one. I still have a problem telling the difference sometimes, but I tend to think that to err on the side of humor will cause less problems in the long run than the alternative.
My father-in-law had a little poem (from an old folk song, I think) which he would quote frequently. It may have annoyed his wife, but I thought it amusing. “When I was single, my pockets would jingle. I wish I was single again…” To my knowledge, he had no desire to be single again, but he was tickled by the sentiments that there was no extra money for the married man. I understand (and identify) with the tongue-in-cheek verse, but I want you to know that tonight my pockets are jingling with all the funnies I’ve been saving up. I intend to keep spending them as needed. I’m pretty good at collecting them, too. Not much danger of going broke here.
With that, I’ve wasted about enough time on this for now. I’ve got to get back to my hog-killing…(yeah, one of his, too. What a great inheritance!)
“I am thankful for laughter…except for when milk comes out of my nose.”
(Woody Allen~American comic and film director)
“The person who knows how to laugh at himself will never cease to be amused.”
(Shirley MacLane~American actress)
Photo: Kheel Center, Cornell University
Originally posted 6//24/11
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2012. All Rights Reserved.