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Very Short Stories

July 28, 2013

This a collection of anecdotes both ancient and recent that I tell people when the occasion arises.  They are in no particular order.

  • Used oil container:  A former professor who I worked for did his own maintenance on his car, including oil changes in his garage.  He asked around for a container that he could fill with used oil.  The janitor in our department gave him the ideal thing.  Liquid floor wax originally came in this container.  It was a cardboard box, cube shaped, with a plastic liner and a cap and pouring spout on one side.  He took home several of the empties.  When one was full of used oil, the professor put it out beside the garbage cans on garbage day.  He put a sign on it that read “Used oil – do not crush”.  He happened to be watching when the garbage truck came by.  The men threw it in the back of the truck and started the hydraulic crusher.  Suddenly, there was a great spurt of oil out the back of the truck, so quickly that the men had to jump out of the way.  After that they were practically killing themselves laughing.  Then they drove away leaving a huge puddle of used oil on the driveway.
  • Trade-in convertable:  My father once took in a beautiful convertable in trade for a newer car.  At least, it was beautiful on one side.  The other side was all wrecked.  When we drove down the street, people on one side would admire the car while people on the other side would look at it in disgust.  It was a full-sized car, flat across the top except for the windshield and windows.  No roll bar on this baby.  No seat belts, either.  My father asked me to find out why the power windows didn’t work.  I took off the door panel and examined the mechanism.  It all seemed to be in good condition.  I was able to roll the window down and up by turning the coupling on the motor.  Then I checked the wiring.  The power window fuses were missing.  This is going to be easy, I thought.  I snapped in a couple of fuses and tried it.  The down button worked.  The up one did nothing.  I rolled it all the way down with the down button.  Still the up button did nothing.  It wasn’t so easy after all.  I removed the fuses again and laboriously rolled it up by turning the coupling on the motor.  When I told my father what I’d discovered, he decided it was best to sell it like that.
  • I stole a bible:  For a while I lived in two rooms of a rooming house, the former kitchen and dining room.  I also had access to the basement because my entrance was the former back door.  Stuff stored in the basement changed frequently, probably because the landlord was moving it out of other houses.  Of course, I was curious of what would show up next, so I checked frequently.  One day I found a box full of bibles.  They were all different.  I picked out an old Gideon bible and kept it for myself.  It was the one with the dates in the gutter between the columns, starting at 4004 BC.  I never did tell the landlord, but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.  The box of bibles disappeared a few days later.
  • The coincidence:  When I was a student at university, I lived in room and board, along with two other students.  We each had small rooms in the basement.  One was taking Architecture and the other Engineering.  I was in Physics.  The future Architect came from Peterborough, Ontario.  His name was Tom.  In the spring we all left.  I got a summer job in Scarborough, Ontario.  One day, with a couple of acquaintences, I rode the streetcar to visit the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto.  We walked in the main gate.  Standing right there was Tom!  I never expected to see him again, and there he was right in front of me.  I said “Hi Tom, how are you doing”, mostly to impress the other guys.  Then we continued on to see the CNE.
  • Lurching ahead:  When I was learning to drive, my father went with me in his car one day to see how I was doing.  Everything went fine until we stopped at a red light.  The driver of the car along side was somebody my father knew.  He rolled down the window and stuck his head out to talk to his friend.  Everything went fine until the light turned green.  My father still had his head out the window.  I had to do something.  I had to get the car moving.  I shifted into first.  It must have been first.  I let the clutch out.  I gave it some gas.  Suddenly the car lurched forward.  Then it stopped.  Then it lurched forward again.  My father was holding onto the window frame with both hands to prevent his head from smashing into it.  The car continued lurching and stopping.  Finally he yelled “put the clutch in”.  That did it.  The lurching stopped.  Everything was fine again.  When he pulled his head back inside, he said “I’ve never seen anybody do it that many times!”.  It was just bad luck, I suppose.  I’d never done that before or since, either.  Seat belts put a stop to that hazard.

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