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The Garage Door Opener.

A Comedy of Errors. By Martin Green.


     I have a friend, Paul Lerner, a fellow retiree and also a writer. He writes a column for our monthly senior paper and has published quite a few short stories in what he calls e-zines.  Paul and I get together about once every week to hit tennis balls around; we’re both too old to really play anymore.  Last time we met at the tennis courts I saw that Paul had a new car and complimented him on it.   “I have to tell you a story about what happened last week,” he said.  We sat down on one of the benches by the courts and this is the story he told me.

     The new car had several features Paul’s old car didn’t have, one of them being a little box for the garage door opener instead of attaching it to the visor.   So Paul unscrewed the clip in back of the opener and put the opener in the box.   He wondered if it would be secure, but the opener worked so he thought that did it.  

     One day last week he came home from a round of golf and was planning to have lunch and then go to our shopping mall to get, he said, the latest issue of some writers’ market book.   But when he pushed the opener the garage door didn’t open.   As he’d feared, the opener must have shifted.   He opened the box and the opener fell out, scattering into different parts because, as he realized later, the little screw which fastened on the clip also held the opener together.  

     One of the pieces, plastic, which you pushed in to activate the opener, fell onto the passenger seat.   He put this in his pocket for safekeeping, found two other parts and got out of the car.   At this very moment, a little old lady came up and started telling him a long story about how she lived down the street in one direction and her sister lived down the street in the other direction, and that last night while they were in front of her sister’s house a car had come speeding by and the driver had called them foul names.   This was very upsetting to her, she said, and she wanted Paul to know who she was in case  she ever had to knock on his door for a safe haven.   At least, this was how Paul understood it.   She then began talking about crimes in their area and when she appeared ready to go on all day, Paul told her he had a garage door opener problem he had to take care of and would she excuse him.

     The little old lady comes into the story, Paul said, because by the time he went into the garage to open the garage door, then drove his car in and looked at the separate parts of the opener he’d forgotten about the plastic part he’d put into his pocket.   So he searched under the car seats front and back and of course found nothing.   Then he put his hand in his pocket and there was the missing piece.   His next step was to go into the house, sit down and try to put the opener back together.   

     Now, as I said, Paul is a writer and you know what klutzes writers are when it comes to doing anything with their hands.   So Paul tried fitting the pieces one way, then the other, all with no success.   But he persevered and finally the opener seemed intact once again.   Now for the triumphant happy ending.   Paul went out into the garage, pressed and --- nothing happened.   He pressed again --- still nothing.   Then Paul had a revelation.   Garage door openers had a certain code, otherwise anyone could open your garage door.   He looked more closely and saw eight little pins set either one way or the other and realized that this must be the code and that in fooling around to put the opener together again he must have moved one or more of these pins in the wrong direction.

     So he got the garage door opener from his wife’s car and with trepidation and great care he removed the screw and got it open.   Yes, there were the eight pins and, sure enough, the pins in the other opener didn’t match them.   Using a knife he reset the pins, then, being very careful, managed to reassemble the opener.  He pressed it and this time the garage door opened.

     “Congratulations,” I said.   “You’re now a garage door opener expert.”

     “That’s not the end of the story.”

     “No?   What happened next?”

     “Well, by this time I was so worn out I decided not to drive to the mall and get the writers’ market book.   I just stayed home all afternoon.”


     “So didn’t you read in the paper about that terrible accident at the mall?   At least half a dozen cars involved.   And at three o’clock, just the time I would have driven there.”

     “Are you telling me all those things---the opener falling out and coming apart, the little old lady, the pins being messed up---were so that you wouldn’t drive to the mall?”

     “What do you think?”

     After our tennis, I went back home and looked for the paper on the day Paul was telling me about, but, as always happens, my wife had thrown it out in the garbage.   So I’ll never know if there really was that terrible accident.   But, as I said, Paul’s a writer, and everyone knows what liars writers are.   


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