Playful surprise a welcome spice to life


The line was moving slowly. People patiently waited for dessert. There was really no rush. The weekend was ahead and everyone knew in time they would get to the homemade goodies, the finale to the community pasta dinner.

It was at that point the woman waiting beside Dave Corbitt elbowed him. It was a powerful jab obviously intended to push him along. She was ready for the sweets. She looked up as he turned around to face her. They had never met.

“Oh,” she exclaimed, “I thought you were my husband.”

“I’m having trouble remembering things,” he replied. “When did we get married?”

Now she was confused, but cited a date.

“That’s a good thing,” Dave said with a sigh of relief, “because there’s a woman over there who says we were married in 1960.” It was the date he and Phyllis married.

Dave is 80 and still enjoys joking. He kept a straight face, but the older woman’s caretaker caught on and laughed. Those in line were likewise amused.

Dave told the story as we sat in front of a fire and enjoyed dinner in one of those moments where longtime friends recount experiences.

“He has that streak, he does that every so often,” Phyllis said of Dave. Dave smiled knowingly, and I wondered if we would get another story.

But the conversation shifted to what our kids were doing. Phyllis got out her iPad and shared photos of the people and places she was talking about.

Dave’s story resonated. He had transformed an innocent misidentification into a silly occurrence that amused those around him. Those on-a-whim unexpected reactions are diversions that can open possibilities. It makes me wonder if we shouldn’t look for them.

Since I’m writing on an iPad where, with every word I type I’m given the option of three to follow it, I’m reminded of Dave Faucher, our computer technician, and his daughters. Using an iPhone they would start a text and then select one of the three words. Naturally, they would get another three options from which to pick and soon they would have a message that was pretty much iPhone generated.

Taking whimsy a step further, I have always been enchanted by a friend’s childhood experience. The family would pack a picnic and pile in the car with no particular place to go. Once out of town and driving unfamiliar roads they would get to vote on which way to turn when arriving at an intersection. It was always an adventure, although I’ve got to imagine they didn’t always find an ideal spot and passed out sandwiches for the ride home.

No question for a time, Dave Corbitt had people wondering what was happening when he feigned forgetfulness. Maybe for an instant the older woman who poked him so affectionately knew from the start he was not her husband. Maybe she had playfully started the scene, only to discover she would be teased.

That’s the joy of surprise, even if it’s planned with your iPad or simply setting off without a destination in mind.

We could all use a little more playful surprise. Dave Corbitt has the right idea.


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