Ponderings with Doug January 17, 2020

Writer Robert Fulghum in his humorous book, Uh-Oh, tells about a neighbor of his who drives a brand-new Range Rover, a vehicle that Fulghum says “can outrun a lion and take a rhino charge head-on.”

One Tuesday morning Fulghum left his house about the same time as his neighbor. The neighbor was carrying a golf bag, a gym bag, a raincoat, an umbrella, a coffee cup, a sack of garbage for the dumpster, and his briefcase. He was in a hurry. Two little pieces of toilet paper stuck to his chin from a hasty encounter with his razor and a knitted brow testified to a hasty encounter with his wife. But he is carrying that talisman of his success, his briefcase–solid-brass hardware, combination lock, lined with watered silk with his name embossed in gold. The prestigious bag probably weighed ten pounds.

A neighbor lady two doors down, a social worker for the Episcopal church, pulls out of her driveway about the same time as this businessman and Fulghum. The businessman cranks the engine of his Range Rover like he has the pole position at the Indy five hundred. Uh-oh–he has put his coffee cup and briefcase on the roof of the Range Rover, and there they remain as he drives away.

The lady neighbor is right behind him in her eight year old Just-Get-Me-There-and-Back-Please-God Ford sedan. Fulghum is behind her in his 1952 GMC two-ton Go-Ahead-and-Hit-Me panel truck. The lady begins to honk her horn at the Range Rover, which the man ignores because he is already on his cell phone talking to London. She keeps honking. He finally hears her, flings down the phone, leans out of the window, and makes an obscene gesture at her. She continues to honk while waving him to stop.

Fulghum, then, hits his horn which he salvaged off an old Model A. It goes AAAOOOGAAH. The man jams on his brakes, flings open the door of the Range Rover and tries to get out–without first unlatching his seat belt. At the same moment, his morning cup of coffee slides off the roof, bounces across the hood, and smashes onto the street. This is followed by the brass-bound briefcase, which crashes onto the hood and scrapes paint off as it screeches to the ground.

The dear lady coasts slowly around the scene of the accident, smiles, waves, sings out “Have a nice day!” to her neighbor still dangling from the car in the clutches of his seat belt. Let me quote Fulghum, “And, no, she did not, as you might anticipate, run over his briefcase. No, she did not,” he says. “I did.” Fulghum reports the man is a little distant these days but his wife smiles and waves. Fulghum writes, “He’s not a bad guy. Like me, he takes on more than he can handle sometimes. Like me, he gets confused about what’s important. I see myself in his mirror. It’s less embarrassing to talk about how he runs his life than to talk about the cartoon quality of my own.”

Fulghum closes this story with these words, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and lose his own soul?”

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