Decameron Tale #17: Humor and Culture

DECAMERON TALES #17     August 16, 2020

A few weeks past, the heating element in the drier died.  A repairman named Jose came out and diagnosed the problem but had to order a part.  In the meantime, he made a temporary repair which worked flawlessly for weeks until his return.  On his truck was emblazoned the company name:  “Dick Cooper, Appliances”.  I greeted him by reading the full company name off the vehicle. ” Good morning Dick Cooper Appliances.”  Puzzled, he corrected me saying:  “No, my name is Jose.”  I sensed a bit of fun in the offing.  

When he pulled the drier forward, a cluster of spiders scurried in all directions.  I wasn’t surprised by the numbers but was taken aback by their sizes.  (The area around the washer/dryer is always thick with webs. Upon retirement, Sal revoked my laundry privileges.  I wasn’t folding properly.  I still maintain my rigorous de-webbing schedule, however.  When the tangle becomes as thick as in the Indiana Jones movie, I spring into action.)   

When confronted with such a situation, I abide by the rules of my childhood game of hide and seek.  The player who’s “it”, with closed eyes, counts to ten aloud and everyone hides.  I close my eyes, do the count, and lo and behold all the critters are gone.  It’s nearly foolproof.  Jose has a different approach.  He’s a stomper.  With the agility and elan of youth, he got them all.  I inquired if there was an additional charge for this service and if so, was it a flat rate (pun intended) or did he charge by the splat.  His response was a total blank.  The man is a true party pooper.  

I reflexively assumed that he emigrated some time past largely because his English was very good but heavily accented.  It is just as likely that he was native-born and grew up in a close Hispanic neighborhood.  My own Italian grandfather came to this country as a toddler yet retained an accent until his death threescore and six years later.  

My thoughts drifted to how we define ourselves.  What makes us Americans?  Legally of course it’s simple:  being born here or of American parents anywhere.  From a more philosophical view, perhaps it’s being imbued with what we hold dear.  

Most of us accept the easy explanations.  Do they look like us?  Do they speak like us?   Do they eat normal things?  (Gad Zooks!  Pickled garden slugs?)  These are mere inconsequential trifles in my opinion.  I have far more demanding criteria.  Do they laugh at the same things that I do?  Alas, Jose, as yet, misses the mark.  But I have hopes that after a few more service calls, I shall have him well in hand.   An expensive education though.  


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