Honing my skills as the village idiot

Published 4:06 pm Tuesday, May 18, 2021

By John Howell, Sr.

Publisher Emeritus

For most of my life before I retired I was the village idiot in my hometown.

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So successful was my tenure there that the powers-who-be have not yet been able to decide on a replacement.

Some say that it’s because I set such a high bar they have not found an applicant who could meet the standard I set. Others think that it is because there are so many worthy applicants that choosing from among them is proving quite difficult.

Further speculation that the choice has been made even more contentious by fierce competition among the powers-who-be themselves for appointment to the post has not been independently verified.

Whatever the reason, I find that even retired I continue to hone my skills without really trying. Recently there was an incident with my car. I returned from shopping at a farmers market one morning, gathered my purchases and carried them into the house.

The bad news is that I left my car parked at curbside, keys still in the ignition, engine running.

The worse news is that it was my wife who, many hours later in the early evening after noise from park and street traffic had subsided, discovered my oversight. The car, though low on gas, was fine, but I’ve yet to hear the last of her out-loud speculation about whether my oversight was a sure sign of spiraling into dementia.

There was another recently wherein my mask was partly to blame. There is mass confusion and then there is mask confusion. I fell victim to the latter.

Having ordered two large dressed shrimp po’ boys from Guy’s on Magazine Street, I attempted to add a tip to the total on the credit card display. There is a nice, petite lady with pretty eyes looking over her mask who is always at the register when you pick up your order from Guy’s. Guy himself is in the open kitchen, frying shrimp and oysters for his delicious po’ boys as fast as he can.

I have found that most of the time I can wear my glasses or my mask. When I attempt navigating with both, my glasses fog. I’ve tried various anti-fogging ointments. Some have worked better than others, but none keeps the fog away completely. Then there’s New Orleans humidity to compound the problem.

So with my fogged glasses at first on, then off, I attempted to pay for the po’ boys by punching with my finger the proper prompts on the credit card machine screen. That was where I added an extra zero to the tip amount, increasing the cost of the purchase to a price that I did not need to afford.

The petite lady with the pretty eyes caught it almost immediately and tried to call me back as I walked away, sack in hand. By the time I got back to the counter I must admit I was somewhat flustered. I wasn’t sure whether there was some problem with the credit card or something else, and there I was standing in front of people impatiently waiting on their po’ boys. When she told me what I’d done, she said it would be easier for her to give me the cash difference instead of trying to correct it in the credit card device.

Which was fine. She gave me cash back for the amount of the tip. I thanked her and walked out, chagrined but refunded. Such was my discombobulation that I didn’t realize until afterward that I had left her no tip at all.

Chagrined again, but I plan to go back this week and make amends.

Meanwhile, all is well on Laurel Street where a retired village idiot continues his ascendency to the lofty reaches of his profession.

Write to John Howell at johnhowl1948@yahoo.com