RIDING THE HOBO RAILS (imagining the unthinkable) By John Watts


Married men all over the world know of the dreaded scenario where some unthinkably unforgivable mistake happens which might necessitate a consequence doled out by the spouse far more severe than just sleeping on the sofa or being in the dog house.

I’m taking about costly mistakes with consequences measured out in substantial dollars and cents in which life and death ECONOMICS are involved.

In my case it revolved around a DOUBLY costly mistake suffered in the short space of 2 weeks with 2 different cell phones.  I had looked everywhere for it.  No pockets turned up successfully full.  No crannies had coughed up the highly coveted plastic.

It just happened that this was the replacement cell phone for the disastrous other one that mysteriously disappeared in front of the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum in Nashville, TE.

Do you see the problem here?  Too many indicting incidents in too short amount of time.  No chance for a reasonable hearing should I come clean.  No chance for laughing it off.

In fact just daring to utter that I had lost this replacement cell phone again would be fresh grist for my wife’s constantly churning mill—which runs most strongly on perceived slights and infractions done on my part.

And so as you can imagine that I dug with redoubled ferocity around the house and car and walking routes that I could recall frequenting that day, to see if I could reunite back with my little hand held friend.  But all to no avail.

All the time I kept the dreaded reality of my loss a secret from my spouse.  I felt the pain alone and gamely tried to smile at appropriate intervals.

In fact, we had scheduled a matinee movie to attend at the local mall on the same afternoon which made the contrasts even more difficult to bear.

So as my wife gaily volunteered to drive us to the theater and chatted about what kind of snacks to purchase, I harbored a deep dread in the pit of my gut.

It turns out that the movie was fun and well worth the money.  I managed to be entertained against my will, and for a few precious moments, almost shed aside my worries and forgot about the plight waiting up for me when I got home.

Once we returned back to our front driveway I practically jumped out of the car while it was still moving—all in the hopes of reapplying myself to several new theoretical hiding places before my wife caught wind of what I was doing.  I tried the bathroom and the nightstand but to no avail.  No cellphone anywhere.

My goose was cooked.  So with deep resignation I slumped back in to my arm chair where I do the bulk of my critical TV viewing, and plotted what would come next.

I would obviously have to escape.

At first it would be subtle.  My mind spun thru the options.  I would merely act out on the same time filling solo activities I have done in the past when faced with “ME” time away from my wife.  I would go to the bookstore.  And then I would order a cappuccino and read something.  And keep reading.  And keep reading.

And then I might order a sandwich.

And then, the best time filler of all, I would whistle to my loyal dog and take him for a LONG stroll.

But most likely, my entrenched feelings would begin to lose their resolve around dinner time and I would meekly shuffle back into the house, towing the dog along.

My wife would forget about the latest, intractable conflict, and overlook her deep disillusionment of my mistakes, and call me in for a tasty supper.

And then, safely ensconced on the sofa, the TV would do the rest and we would move on to the next chapter.

Crises averted.

But what if I STAYED OUT there?

What if this new replacement cell phone being MIU was the last straw?

Calm down.  It’s no problem.

Because I know ALL the trail systems that circulate around our sub-division and would be off for the river to live dirt cheap.  I even know of an abandoned tree house that a kid and his Dad built back in 1985.  The kid has long since grown up and moved out.

Its construction seems still sound for occupancy.

I also could sleep very cheaply at the local regional park upstream as they have rental cabins for only 50 dollars a night.

If all that failed, well then I could simply sleep under the interstate overpass or make a lean-to in the forest.  I could bath in the river and air out my clothes on a branch before going to work.

So as you can see, I was by no means, a man without provisions and clueless.

I was ready for any marital blowup that might extend beyond the proverbial “sleeping in the doghouse.”

So with all this said–you can imagine my “saved from death row” reaction, when lo and behold, guess where I found my new replacement cell phone?

The same black hole in the lower region stuffing of my arm chair that has, in times past, harbored several sets of car keys and a huge assortment of coins that somehow, slipped had out of my pants pockets the night before.

As so it happens in life that the solution does not become apparent until we reach the point of simply given up and stop trying so hard.  In this case I was just glumly sitting down ready to work on my couch potato build, when my hand scrapped into the outline of my cell phone in that side hole of my arm chair.

And so it came to pass–as a fearful husband who wanted no part of a new argument that might mar the magical momentum of a good night–that I never directly mentioned my very close call with shame and dishonor had that 2nd cell phone never resurfaced.  I acted like I had never lost it—even though I wanted to jump up and down and kiss it.

And my wife and I had a marvelous evening.  Full of Hallmark movies and an after dinner glass of wine with dark chocolate.  And my suitcase stayed in the upper closet.

But let’s imagine the worst case flip side.  What if my lumpy, personally designed arm chair had never fessed up to stealing my cell phone (along with 63 cents)?

Well then, I’m afraid to have to tell you dear reader, this is when the final DOOMESDAY protocol would have to be implemented.  All the keys in my top secret nuclear missile carrying submarine would be turned.

Because then, the much imagined, often glorified PLAN B would be put into place.  And I would be ready.

I would be Woody Guthrie riding the rails as a stowaway in an empty cargo car.  I would be Huck Finn, barefoot and with eccentrically tossed provisions thrown hastily into my rucksack.

All of these adventures and more loom ahead as the next possible scenario for the NEXT time something gets misplaced, broken or damaged.

So don’t underestimate my survivability.  Just when everyone expects a badly laid out retirement for me stretching ahead (thru the next impossible sounding decade numbers) with not enough benefits and a dimly lit, Lysol smelling senior citizen center—I will be writing incredible journal entries under the open sky.

I will be free out on the open highway (without a cell phone or safety net)!


About John Watts

I like to write transcendental community based essays and stories along with photo journalism pieces.
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