Not the smartest thing I have ever done or…Don’t touch that!

I think if I ever write a book I will entitle it, “Not the smartest thing I have ever done, or…Don’t touch that”.  That’s the way all my stories seem to start off.  And this one is not an exception.  All it looked like was a badminton racquet, although it did have a notice warning, where the racquet met the handle, that said “don’t touch the racquet when the red light is on”.

The worst part about the whole thing was I was at a weekend cookout and poker party with the Christian men’s group that meets every Wednesday morning at 6:45am at the Poinsett Club in Greenville, SC.  Don’t get all high falutin on me.  Yes we play poker.  It’s nickel, dime, quarter, with a quarter maximum raise, two raise maximum, so the most anyone loses in one night is $6.  It’s just fun.  Well most of the time, until you either meet a racquet that says “don’t touch if the red light is on”, or you don’t understand how to play “high low” and you keep losing and everyone makes fun of you.

You see what makes this really embarrassing is that this Wednesday morning meeting has been going on for nigh on 30 years now and you know what I have to do?  I have to send an email out every week to remind everyone that we have a meeting Wednesday morning at 6:45am at the Poinsett Club.  You know what happens if I don’t send out this reminder?  These men, who are all very successful individuals, spiritually, economically, and intellectually, who have been coming to this meeting for the last 30 years, at the same time, will forget to come if they don’t get an email.  So keep in mind that out of all these men I’m with on Friday night, I turn out to be the dumb one, and I’m the one who remembers to send out the email without an email reminder.

So we’re playing cards, shooting the breeze, eating peanut M&M’s, and any other junk style food we brought, and we brought a lot, and we are playing out on Chet’s porch.  Chet has a “farm” out in Marietta, SC about 15 miles north of Greenville.  He has 17 acres, with a nice fish pond, good garden, sweet work shed, and you can go up in the woods and target shoot all you want without bothering, or more importantly hitting, anybody.  More importantly he has a tractor and ATV, which is why I think he bought all that property.  It’s why any guy would.  We all go up twice a year, once in the fall and once in the Spring.  Well this time we were up in the Spring and as it happens, in all wooded areas in South Carolina in the Spring, it was buggy.

So good ole’ Chet roles out these two yellow badminton racquets.  “Hey Chet!  What are the badminton racquets for?”  Good ole’ Chet replies, “they are not badminton racquets they are bug zappers.”  The look of incredulity among the fellas was unanimous.

Chet has a daughter and she and her husband were missionaries in Cambodia.  They have just recently returned to the States.  They “adopted” 3 Cambodian street children who were part of the vast population of orphan Cambodian children Hiatt and her husband had gone over to minister to.  I put adopted in quotes because Americans cannot adopt Cambodian children.  When Hiatt and her husband returned they placed them in a good school that will look out for them, so they weren’t abandoned. ( If you want to hear more about them, leave me a comment and I’ll shoot you some more info.)  While Chet and his wife Beth were over there visiting last year, they were given these badminton racquets doubling as bug zappers.  My first clue should have been the fact that when Chet came home he got busted by TSA for having 2 of them in his suit case.  The kids had put them in there without him knowing about it.  But instead of me making the connection that these might be lethal weapons capable of hijacking a Boeing 747, I thought, “they must not be too bad, since Hiatt had them around their kids and the kids used them constantly.”  Keep that in mind because you will need it later on.

So we’re on the porch getting “bugged” and Chet whips these babies out, plugs in the batteries and turns them on, and asks, wait for it, “anyone want to touch these things to see if they work?”  And one hand shoots up before anyone else’s.  No it wasn’t Lee, Lou, Lindsay, Paul, Lou, or John, or even Chet for that matter.  Yep, thanks for keeping up, it was me.

I’ve always been the one that volunteers for stupid stuff like this.  When I was on the rescue squad at Virginiat Tech as an undergrad, I used to let the paramedics use me for practice in starting IV’s.  It went okay until the 5th poke with a needle one evening, one of the practicing paramedics looked at me and asked, “Mark are you okay”.  Evidently all the blood had just rushed out of my face and I felt the need to “lay down for a spell.”  Good thing we didn’t get a call that night.  And yet…up goes my hand again for volunteer duty to test out something else.  P.S. Virginia Tech just called and they want me to turn my diploma in.

Have you ever gotten an electric shock?  I don’t mean one of the ones where you touch the 3rd rail of the Chicago L.  I mean when you touch two electric wires and you get a little vibration that scares you more than it hurts you?  It’s just a little zzzzztttttt.  You jump because you know it’s an electrical shock, not because it really hurts.  So I’m thinking, kids play with these so it couldn’t be too bad.  So Chet leans the death stick towards me, I hesitantly reach out my right index finger, and I touch it…nothing.  He pulls it back stares at it at a while, opens up the battery compartment, says “Oh yeah” flips the batteries around, and says, “Ok let’s try it again.” In hindsight that’s funny,” let’s”, as in let us.  There was no “us” it was just numb nuts me.  I reach out with my right index finger, I’m right handed, you would think I would be smart enough to use my left hand.  By the way, I have three numb fingers on my left hand from a neck injury sustained playing football in college that has just recently caught up with me.  If I’m going to be stupid I go all out, no room for smarts at all.  The phone is ringing again.  Caller ID says it’s my high school.  I wonder what they want?  I think I’ll let it go to voicemail.

I touch the racquet and…..I find out why the TSA was so concerned about Chet taking those scepters of power on the plane.  There was no tickle just a big…….KERRRR POWWWWW!!! If it had been a comic book there would have been lightning bolts coming out of my hand, above my head and the big KERRR POWWWWW written all over the cartoon panel.  I even said a bad word, or I should say yelled out a bad word.  It was kind of like Ralphie in the movie  “A Christmas Story.”  Though it wasn’t the big one.  It wasn’t the mother of all dirty words.  It wasn’t the F dash, dash, dash word, but it was the S dash, dash, dash, word.  I yanked my finger back so fast you would think a badger had tried to bite it and shook my hand up and down like I had just put it on a hot stove.  But that wasn’t the worst part.

The worst part was the howling that began to take place at the table.  I thought Lindsay was going to pee his pants, and he probably did because he had to mysteriously excuse himself 20 minutes later.  I look over at Chet and Lee, Chet a straight laced real estate agent and Lee a banker, need I say more, Chet had his head on the table sobbing with laughter.  Lee leaning back in his chair about to fall over and not caring about it, he is laughing so hard.  I couldn’t see Paul, our resident thinker, but I could hear him right next to me.  Lou was almost in pain, and I don’t think John knew what I had done since he wasn’t paying attention, but everyone was laughing so hard it was infectious that it didn’t take long for him to lose it either.  This went on for at least 15 minutes.  We couldn’t play cards, have a conversation, anything, because everyone was laughing so hard including me.  It got Lindsay the most, I don’t think he has stopped laughing yet.  All I have to do now is to point at Lindsay with my right index finger to get him started and it will be 5 minutes before he calms down.  This was 3 weeks ago by the way and I can still get him going.  I look at my finger and I am experiencing what Buddy the Elf was when they took blood.  My finger had a heartbeat.

The worst part is that I can’t give these guys any grief any more about being dumb enough to have to be reminded weekly about a meeting that has been happening every week at the same time for 30 years.

All it looked like was a badminton racquet, but when I turned it over it said “don’t touch when the red light is on.”  But I’m the dumb one who touched it when the red light was on.  What are you gonna do?


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