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Oh, brother!

April 18, 2008
By Bob Seidenstein,
If last week could be summed up with a paraphrase, it’d be from the man who — until very recently — was our worst president: Warren G. Harding.

Harding said something to the effect that he could handle his enemies just fine, but it was his friends who kept him walking the floor all night.

In my case, those friends are the Brothers Griffin — Bunk and Bob.

First, some background: Bob and his blushing bride, Diane, spend half the year here and the other half cruising the states in a modest little RV, which is not quite as big as the Queen Mary.

Bob and I get along well because of several things we have in common: One is we’re hardcore, unrepentant Saranac Lake chauvinists, another is that we’re tireless talkers, and a third is that we’re compulsive nostalgarians.

So whenever we hang out, it’s “Old Home Week,” with us swapping tales of “The Golden Days Gone By.” Our special area of interest is our splendid local characters, God love ‘em, whose ranks have been sadly diminished over the years, leaving the town composed, almost exclusively, of normal people, may God have pity on their souls.

One worries … the other never hurries.

After Bob and Diane leave in December, I don’t notice they’re gone. But when spring rolls around, I get to missing them terribly. And so last week, when spring at least tried to make its appearance, I started thinking about Bob and Diane and decided to call them, which I did.

Unfortunately, I only got their voicemail. So I did the only thing I could, I left a generic message and promised to call again the next day. As it turned out, due to one distraction or other, I didn’t call back. But if I had, I would’ve prevented one very funky weird out. This was due to one other thing Bob and I have in common: We’re both compulsive, closet worriers.

The day after I’d called him, Bob was waiting for me to call again, as I’d promised. Unfortunately, by the time I remembered my promise, it was too late to call. I just figured, no biggie — I’d just call the next day … or maybe the one after that. I mean, how much could one phone call matter anyway?

As it turned out, it mattered quite a bit.

What happened was when Bob didn’t hear from me, he began to worry that something was wrong. He told this to Diane, and she, being Miss Proactive 2008, decided to call me and settle the issue right then. Instead, she got a recording saying my number had been disconnected.

“Disconnected?”Bob said. “Why would his number be disconnected?”

“I don’t know,” said Diane.

“Did you dial the right number?” asked Bob.

She of course had, and she told him so. But he, of course, figured she hadn’t, so he had to take over this difficult procedure himself, especially since he knew my number by heart.

Then, when he called, he got a busy signal.

“That’s strange,” he said.

“Why?” Diane asked. “I probably dialed the wrong number, and right now he’s talking to someone else.”

“I dunno,” Bob said. “I just don’t like it.”

“Relax,” Diane said. “Take a break and call him later, when he’s off the phone.”

It was sage advice.

It was also in vain, for whenever Bob called, by sheer coincidence, I was on the phone. So he kept getting a busy signal, and each time he did, his WQ (Worry Quotient) rose some more points.

Finally, late at night, Bob was positive that something was wrong, mainly that I was sprawled in my chair, stroked out and blue, with a core temperature of whatever the thermostat was set on. And further enhancing the paranoid splendor of this scenario, Bob figured I’d collapsed while trying to call him, so it was all his responsibility. Thus, he did the only thing he could — he called brother Bunk and asked him to call my number, figuring maybe his fears were unfounded and it was just a matter of a bad long distance connection.

Bunk called and called and each time he got busy signals, too. Finally, he called Bob and told him the situation.

“Well,” said Bob, emphatically, “I think maybe you oughta go to his place and check on him.”

“Yeah,” said Bunk, a lot less than emphatically, “maybe I should.”

They then hung up.

Bunk never called Bob back, so Bob figured no news was good news, and he finally relaxed and went to sleep.

However, the real reason Bunk never called back was the obvious one: He never came over. As much as Bob worries, Bunk does not.

I was blissfully unaware of all this till Friday, when I went into Grizle-T’s to drown my sorrows and ran into Bunk, who filled me in on the whole story.

“You know,” he said, finishing his account, “for a while I felt real bad, thinking, like Bob’d thought, that you were dead or something, and I hadn’t gone over and checked. So I’m real glad everything was fine.”

I lifted my glass to him, but said nothing. I figured there was no reason to tell him I was real glad, too.


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