I’ve been painting my house . An old man shouldn’t be going up on ladders . I’ve told my old neighbor that bit of sage advice when he was putting up Christmas lights last year , but we seldom listen to our own counsel , I guess. I borrowed a ladder from an old friend of mine who also agreed in principle that we old farts shouldn’t be going up on ladders .
My house is a one-story thing , but there are a couple of high spots where
someone I need to get up on that high ladder to paint. I shouldn’t be up there , I know . Should I have some young person go up instead ? But , you know , s/he may not be as careful as I am . The older -and- wiser concept in this case becomes a sort of two-edged sword .
I’m careful . ” Especially on that last step ,” another old friend told me today when we sat discussing old people on ladders . His wife was there. She agreed . We all agree .
The U.S. Marines in Belleau Wood shouted : ” What ? You wanted to live forever ! ” just before they charged across No Man’s Land in a desperate attack . Or was that Douglas MacArthur who shouted that ? Well , yeah ; but besides that ; no one needs to be a hero in house painting and , yeah , some of us want to live forever —- at least until the house painting is finished .
So I climb carefully up on the ladder for a few minutes to paint the high spots .
My friend Bill stepped off of a curb two days ago with his hands full of papers and a paper cup full of coffee , he said, and he fell face-first onto the sidewalk . Papers flew everywhere. He was coming over for dinner in a couple of days but he called to say that there wasn’t enough alcohol in the city to make the other guests overlook his messed-up face. Well , that’s Bill . No one cares what he looks like I think , except Bill . He says he won’t come out in public for at least a couple of weeks .
I’m not going to ask Bill to help me with the painting . He’d fall off the ladder , maybe missing that last step , and the almost freshly -painted house would end up his after the lawsuit . Then I’d have to get myself an aggressive lawyer and sue my old friend Tom , who owns the ladder . Why did he do something so egregiously negligent as to lend the thing to me ?
Yeah , but I’d lose in court . ” You went up on the ladder without a helmet ? ” the opposing lawyer would ask . ” Isn’t it a fact that said ladder had no anti-slip treads —- not on any of the steps ?” I’d have no adequate defense . ” You were warned by several people not to go up on that ladder ,” the lawyer would say , ” indeed, even by the owner of said ladder . Is that a fact , sir ? ” Well , yeah .
Ada decided that the previously orange strip around the roof line should be black . I said that might be too dark . No , she said . After I finished that black strip around the house , risking my life a few times here and there to paint the high points , Ada looked at it and thought it might be a little too dark after all . She thought yellow might be nice .
As my carpenter friends say : Measure twice and cut once . Ada’s not a carpenter.
I can almost hear my lawyer now . ” Your honor : My client climbed up on the borrowed ladder to paint a black strip all around his house . Then , immediately upon completion , he climbed up on that ladder again despite his advanced age and diminished capacity , and in the face of extreme and unnecessary risk he painted a yellow strip that covered up the black strip that he had just finished painting . There is a clear mental competence question in play here . No one in their right mind , obviously , would take such peculiar action placing himself in such unnecessary danger despite numerous warning from close friends and associates . My client can’t be fairly tried before a jury as a mentally competent person. ”
” Objection , your honor ,” the other lawyer would pipe in . ” Isn’t it true that his wife wanted him to paint the black strip over with yellow ? He had no choice in the matter . Rather , your honor he had a choice and he made a rational choice , as he perhaps rationally considered the old adage : Happy wife , happy life .”
” Do you need to have your head examined ?” the judge might ask me , looking directly at me with an odd smile on his/her face .
” It wasn’t me who chose black , your honor ,” I’d have to say .
” Objection , your honor ! ” The opposition lawyer might spout . ” Irrelevant and immaterial .”
[And , no , I didn’t paint yellow over the black . Maybe next time .]