The Ingenuity of Fools

Dearest Rachel –

There’s an old saying that I’m fond of quoting that insists you can’t make anything foolproof, because fools are too ingenious. I’m reminded of it as I watch Chompers stagger about in his little wheelchair. It’s supposed to function on the same principle as training wheels on a children’s bicycle, where they stick out on both sides of the back tire, preventing the bike from tipping over. Given that he has so much lower a center of gravity than any bicycle, you would think that the wheelchair would completely prevent him from falling over.

As we would say to each other from time to time, you would think that… but you’d be wrong.

In fact, of the times I’ve set him out in the backyard to wander around on his own, he had toppled over twice today alone. Worse yet, it has been raining off and on today, resulting in a soaking wet environment for him to fall over into. Although now that I think about it, is it possible that the wetness of the ground might contribute to his propensity to topple?

At any rate, both times he would bark, which I would interpret to mean that he wants to come in (because of course I’m inside letting him roam and do his own thing), so I go out to bring him back in, only to find him lying there, helpless, with his belly in the air. Naturally, I right the contraption (and him inside of it), and mutter something to the effect of “I don’t know how you do it, old man,” as I’m bringing him in.

And it’s true, I don’t. Even when, as tonight, I had the rare opportunity to personally witness as he left the pavement of the driveway, to crouch onto the grass (and yes, he was crouching for exactly the reason that you might think. So at least he should be able to settle in pretty well for the night, having done everything that he needs to beforehand), and as his crouch apparently caused him to lean to one side, putting all of his weight on that side of the contraption, with the result that it very nearly flipped over completely. And I’m still literally thinking as it goes over I don’t know how he does it.

The experience of watching him lose his balance within the confines of a machine designed specifically so that he wouldn’t lose his balance is like that of watching a magician who has performed his trick, and then repeats it, a little bit slower the second time, all the while telling you “watch carefully, now.” And no matter how hard you try to keep your eye on the ball or whatever, he gets to the end, the ball is nowhere in sight, he pulls it out of your ear, and you’re left completely dumbfounded, wondering what the heck just happened.

To be sure, I don’t recall seeing anything in the wheelchair’s owner’s manual that suggests that the contraption is at all fool proof. At the same time, it doesn’t seem that it should be possible for him to fall over so easily. And yet, he does – like the opposite of the proverbial bumblebee that supposedly defies physics by being able to fly (of course, we both knew that wasn’t true, but it’s a good story nonetheless).

The weird thing is, most of the time this happens when I’m not looking. It was a particular incident when we were down in Tennessee. Normally, I would hang out on the porch, sitting in a chair that was set there just for that purpose, dictating to Siri another letter to you, while I would watch him. And almost inevitably, he wouldn’t move any more than a yard away in any direction from the place I sat him down. So, on the occasions when I didn’t feel like sitting out there on the porch while he did whatever he was he needed to, I would simply go inside, and wait for him to bark and call me out there to fetch him. And it was during those times that he would walk so much further – in particular, there was one time when he left the yard completely, crossed the entire width of Kevin‘s driveway, and tumbled into a gully on the other side. All of this in a fairly driving rainstorm (yes, again with the rain corresponding to his accidents – it does make you wonder if there’s a connection).

The good news is that, as far as I can tell, he isn’t hurt by his resulting tumbles, unless you count the damage to his ego. I may be wrong about this, but his bark after he falls over sounds to me no different from the one that he makes when he simply wants to come inside. So that’s something of a relief.

That fact tends to buttress another saying, that the Lord looks out for children and fools. Of course, that’s clearly not scriptural, as the most cursory review of the Proverbs would insist otherwise. Still, as you observe some of the stupid stuff we as humans – to say nothing of the remainder of the animal kingdom – do, and live to tell the tale, he would be left believing that.

And then again, on the other side of the coin, sometimes we do something so much to be expected, and it still goes horribly wrong. I think I remember seeing instructions on those snow tubes recommending that they be sat in rather than being laid down upon, and yet, who doesn’t go belly flopping down the hill? What happened to you wouldn’t earn you a Darwin Award, because it wasn’t particularly stupid of an action. And yet here we are, where are you paid a disproportionately high price for your choice.

Well, that got dark in a hurry. Believe me, I didn’t intend for that to. But it does demonstrate just how quickly something can go wrong, despite the fact but there seems no possible way or logical reason for it to do so.

For what it’s worth, take heart in the fact that I’m not about to accuse you of being an ingenious fool.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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