It wasn’t funny when my husband, Manny, finally lost his patience, and yet I laugh whenever I think about it. Germans have a word for happiness one feels at the misfortune of another—schadenfreude. I’ll blame my DNA.
Prior to that mess of a day, when Manny was poked, he didn’t ruffle, flap, spray, sting, curl up, change colors, explode, or do any of the other things God’s creatures did under similar circumstances. It wasn’t natural.
My lot in life was to be the one standing at his side, looking hopelessly impatient by comparison. I was the official “Handle Occupier”—willing to fly at a moment’s notice.
I was sure, though, the time would come when he would be removed from the eagle’s perch to inhabit lower altitude space like the rest of us. Sometimes I fantasized how it would happen. He, unlike me, would never experience the frustration of finding clean, folded laundry tossed heartlessly into the dirty clothes hamper because a teenager was too lazy to open a couple of drawers.
But what could cause the fall of an optometrist? A career, if ever there was one, for nurturing this most enviable fruit of the spirit. Day after day he played with a View-Master-type-of-machine, asking his patients: Is that clearer or not clearer? Click. Clearer or not clearer? Click. Clearer or not clearer? Click.
No amount of indecision fazed him. He possessed twenty-twenty patience.
Then last spring our tax dollars went to renovating the town’s Department of Motor Vehicles—complete with a “Take a Number” dispenser. Like we needed one.
It took Manny a week to notice the increase of business to his office. People came with the same story: they had failed the DMV eye exam but were sure they didn’t need glasses. DMV told them to verify it with the optometrist. Fifty dollars later they left Manny’s office with a form affirming their adequate eyesight, which they took back to DMV—where they could now receive their rather washed-out licenses.
Something wasn’t right. Manny called over to the DMV and offered to calibrate their new equipment. They said their equipment was just fine, and besides, he wasn’t a state employee. In a rare display of irritation, Manny shook his head.
His caseload continued expanding. As a show of goodwill, as he was the only optometrist in town, Manny cut the cost of exams in half. Unfortunately, his lower prices didn’t prevent the growing buzz from evolving into a full-blown conspiracy theory linking Manny with the DMV. Rebellion fomented in the hearts of Blauburg’s citizens.
Manny learned what it was like to be unpopular—something every mother knows. His poor, naïve blood pressure turned vertical.
Then the town’s two-bit renegade newspaper, The Printed Truth, disclosed a relationship between my best friend, Carlene’s sister-in-law, who was employed by said DMV and me—the optometrist’s wife. The conspiracy was substantiated—payoffs had been motive all along.
Here’s when Manny took a trip to the dark side. Why he didn’t just go to the town council and ask for an investigation, I don’t know. I’m certain it’s what I would’ve done.
On that breezy mid-morning, after Manny crumpled the newspaper into the trash, he drove twenty-two miles above the speed limit, escorting one of Blauburg’s Finest right up to the entrance of the DMV. He ascended the steps three at a time in his tasseled loafers, never hearing Sheriff Loman holler, “Stop!” I can believe that. I’ve experienced the eerie absence of noise when one is wound tight as a hurricane.
The two customers inside had been folding and refolding their useless numbers, wondering if they, too, would be paying the eye doctor. Later, they would swear in an affidavit, that my husband had a manic look when he lurched toward the first cubby. Sheriff Loman entered the scene just as Manny was yanking out the last of three eye-testers with the plan—so Manny said—to recalibrate them.
I received my husband’s “one phone call” shortly after lunch. I didn’t tell him I'd already talked with Carlene who had heard the news from the sister-in-law who worked at the DMV.
Most of the charges were dropped when the state figured out they had distributed a batch of faulty machines. Just my luck—Manny became a local folk hero.
We laugh over it now. Well, mostly I laugh. It’s quite the conversation starter. Manny hasn’t really changed— he’s still waiting patiently for the day I can finally let this go.
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