I came across an interesting article in National Journal summarizing an online survey done by YouGov.com. The subject was intelligence and the results were absurd. Of course, you, my faithful reader, have way above average intelligence. After all, you’re reading my work, aren’t you? What more proof do you need?
In the online study, a whopping 89% of respondents said that they were at least as smart as the rest of the population. Just 34% admitted to having average intelligence. Only 10% considered themselves dumb-asses. The results were also broken down by gender. 61% of men claimed to be smarter than everyone else. Hahaha! That’s a good one.
Obviously, not everyone can have above average intelligence. If that were the case, all the above average folks would become average again. Damn, that pesky math stuff keeps screwing things up.
Besides, intelligence is tough to pin down. There are two broad categories: test taking aptitude and common sense. You can have a handle in one area and be totally hopeless in another. I tend to fall in that category.
I managed to get through school with good grades and picked up two degrees along the way. That alone doesn’t mean I’m smart on a day to day basis. You be the judge.
There was a small water stain in the ceiling of one of the upstairs bathrooms. A trip to the attic proved fruitless. After thinking it through, I decided that a clogged gutter must be the culprit. Rainwater was backing up, inviting wood rot and leaking down into the bathroom. Virginia isn’t just for lovers, it’s the perfect environment for the scourge of wood rot. My conclusion was perfectly sensible. And that was the last sensible idea I had that day.
The gutters on that side of the house are at least twenty feet above the ground. I retrieved my trusty extension ladder and brought it over to that side of the house. The sixteen foot ladder came up short. I didn’t let that stop me. I had an alternate plan.
I knew I would need some help. Lucky for me my best friend Gerry was in from New Jersey. He and my wife met me in the bedroom on the second floor.
“What are you doing?” Lee asked.
“I think the leak in the bathroom ceiling is coming from an overstuffed gutter.”
“How could the gutter get filled?” Lee asked. “There aren’t any trees near the house.”
“I don’t know, they blew in from somewhere.”
I opened the bedroom window and started the remove the screen.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“I’m going out on the roof. Don’t worry, it’s flat here.”
“You know that you’ll never be able to get that screen back in place after you’re done, right?”
“Don’t be silly,” I snickered.
“What’s that for?” Gerry asked, pointing to the coil of orange extension cord on the bed.
“I don’t think I’ll need that.” I crawled out the window and onto the roof. The gutter in question was just around the corner. I made my way up a small peak in the roof, laid down flat and peered over. I couldn’t see into the gutter from this vantage point. And the pitch of the roof on the other side was steep. Mount Everest steep. Getting down to the gutter safely would require careful planning and execution.
I hustled back to the open window.
“Hand me the extension cord,” I said to Gerry.
He retrieved the cord and handed it to me. “You want me to plug it in?”
“Not necessary. Here’s the plan. I’m going to tie this cord around my waist and you hold the other end. I’m heading over that peak and down the other side of the roof. If I slip, you’ve got me.”
Gerry stood there watching me tie the wire around my waist. He tilted his head. “You’re kidding, right?”
“Let me get this straight. You are going over the roof with this extension cord as your lifeline with me holding the other end.”
“It’s just in case.”
“You realize that I can’t lift a sack of potatoes without getting winded, right?”
“You’re right.” I turned to my wife. “Lee, you’d better get ahold of it, too.”
“Listen to me, buddy,” Gerry said firmly. ”This is stupid. You’re probably going to die.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“Richard,” Lee said, using my full first name, “come back inside. I don’t want to be a widow.”
“As long as you both hold on, I’ll be fine.” I turned around and started my trek across the roof.
Gerry turned to Lee and asked, “You have your cellphone?”
She held up the phone. “911 is already keyed in.”
I made it back to the top of the short peak and stood up. The gutter was about twenty feet down the slope. My overly confident frontal lobe was up for this challenge, the primitive hindbrain was not.
Snippets of Gerry’s message began bouncing around my brain. “…stupid…you’re probably going to die…die…die”
My adrenal glands kicked into high gear and released a tidal wave of fight or flight hormones. Heart rate and blood pressure went through the roof. My mouth went dry, hands trembled and my eyes dilated. Now, I had no trouble seeing how stupid I was.
I finally had sense enough to be scared shitless. Panting, I dropped to my knees and slowly crawled back to the open window.
“See anything interesting out there, buddy?” Gerry asked.
“My imminent death.” I could barely get the words out.
“Get back in here, you idiot,” Lee said. My safe return brought no tears of happiness. She wanted to murder me. “And put the screen back.”
“No problem,” I said it and meant it. I wasn’t lying face down waiting for EMS or the metaphysical shuttle to the great beyond. As far as I was concerned, I didn’t have a care in the world.
Actually, I did have one problem. The screen. I couldn’t figure out how to reinstall it without going back out on the roof. That wasn’t happening. Finally, I came up with a workable solution. I hid the screen in a closet, left the room and closed the door behind me. Three years later and the window remains screen free. And it looks just great.
My wife wouldn’t know. She won’t even glance at the window when she enters that room. For my part, I never bring up my high wire act out on the roof. That’s how we stay married.
Still, I remember that day like it was yesterday. That’s because Gerry won’t let me forget it.
What are friends for?