The call came at 5:30 a.m., and within half an hour, I had two vehicles mired in a snowdrift. This shouldn't have come as a surprise; the gremlins had been tremendously troublesome all weekend.
Let's begin at the beginning. My wife and I recently attended a weekend gathering at Sauk Centre, Minnesota. And no, Sauk Centre is not an international hub for the hosiery industry. So much for truth in advertising!
We were to overnight at the historic Palmer House Hotel which, besides being historic, is famous for being haunted.
I am a ghost skeptic. I wouldn't believe in ghosts unless one came right up to me and said boo! - and then only if I caught the event on camera and posted the video on YouTube and made a million dollars.
We checked into our third-floor room with time to spare. All of the rooms were left open so that tourists such as ourselves could explore and admire the hotel. As we wandered about the third floor, I took the opportunity to search for a different TV clicker since the one in our room didn't work. Heaven forbid that I should have to get up off the bed to change channels!
After we had seen all there was to see on the third floor, we returned to our room, whereupon my wife expressed a desire for liquid refreshment. I took the hint and tromped down three flights of stairs to the hotel bar. Before I departed, I put the room key in my pocket, but my wife said I should simply knock upon my return and she would open the door.
Ascending three flights of stairs in an old hotel with a liquid refreshment in each hand is rather tricky. Summitting the last step, I peered down the hall to see my wife looking back at me from the doorway of our room.
Did you do that? she asked.
Fiddle with the deadbolt.
No! I just got here, and besides, the room key is still in my pocket. And as you can see, my hands are full.
Moments earlier my wife had been sitting on the bed, watching TV. She heard a sound at the door and, assuming it was me, went to open it. Approaching the door, she saw the deadbolt knob wiggle back and forth as if someone were trying to unlock it from the outside with a key.
But when she opened the door, the hallway was empty!
I made the mistake of pointing out that we had just explored the entirety of the third floor and were the only ones up there. She didn't sleep very well that night.
The next day we wended our way home as a pounding south wind transplanted millions of acres of snow. It was one of those winter days when the sun is blazing down from an azure sky, but the visibility is near zero at the surface of the planet. Phantasmal shapes arose and shifted and disappeared in the swirling whiteness.
We are hardy Midwesterners; it takes more than a little drifting snow to frighten us. We arrived at home in good time.
But the gremlins weren't done with us yet. Next morning came the phone call from my mom at 0-Dark-30, as they say in the military. The icy imp called Jack Frost had snuck into her house and had burst the water line to her dishwasher. A miniature Amazon river was gushing across her kitchen floor.
My wife said to take her car, which I did. Pointing the Impala east, I immediately espied a new snowdrift, a souvenir from the previous day's wind. I gunned it, figuring I could easily blast through.
Nope! Not even close!
So I fired up my pickup and tried to sneak past the car. The drift was apparently deeper on that side of the road. I was able to verify that it contained more than enough snow to high center a four-wheel-drive pickup.
It wasn't yet 6 a.m. and I was already 0 for 2 against the gremlins!
Our second car was pressed into duty and different route to Mom's house was taken. I arrived just as she was putting in a call to the Coast Guard.
I managed to stanch the stream, but not without an untoward amount of effort. Note to all prospective plumbers: always install plenty of shutoff valves! Take it from me, even one shutoff is better than none.
Later, without any further trouble, I was able to dig the car and the pickup out of their snowy graves. And I reckon I was lucky, because it was only a matter of time before the gremlins disabled my snow shovel.
If you'd like to contact Jerry to do some public speaking, or just to register your comments, you can e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org