RANDOM ANECDOTES NO. 5

           Early in my career I developed the bad habit of continuing to work on whatever I was doing when someone stopped at my desk to talk to me. I heard everything they said, and thought I was being very efficient; multi-tasking before I was even aware of the term. But it all ended one day when a young co-worker was telling me about a problem she was having that she thought I might be able to help her with. I continued doing whatever I was doing while she talked. Suddenly she stamped her foot and shouted, “You’re not listening!” I assured her I was. “But,” she said, “you’re eyes aren’t.”

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             Quality of work is greatly affected by attitude. A young trucker, bored with his work, asked an older driver, who was always happy and contented, what his secret was. The old driver said, “You went to work this morning; I went for a drive in the country.”

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             Dave Bonham is the most open-minded person I know. He and I were disagreeing over something at a committee meeting. Dave said, “We’re not that far apart, Lyman.” I replied, “Dave, we are diametrically opposed!” “Well,” he suggested, “that’s not that far apart.”

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             I was filling in for host Ed Needham on his evening phone-in show on CFRB in Toronto. The call screener told me there was an elderly lady on the line who had a raccoon problem. I took the call. She told me that her son-in-law had trapped a raccoon and released it in a park, but a couple of days later it was back in the attic of her garage. She asked me if I knew anywhere the raccoon could be released from where it wouldn’t come back. “Sure,” I said, “just take it to the other side of the 401.” (The 401 is the multi-lane highway that runs through the northern part of Toronto). The rest of the callers that evening demanded, variously, my banishment from the airwaves, my arrest, my dismemberment, my being abandoned in the middle lane of the 401 and, according to the screener, many other suggestions that would be completely inappropriate to be aired. An executive of the company that owned the radio station called on a private line and asked me to apologize on air. I assured him that if I received even one call from an aggrieved raccoon I would do so.

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             Don Harron is the wittiest person I know. Don, in his Charlie Farquharson character, and I have done a number of radio and TV shows together. This incident took place on the Wally Crouter Show on CFRB in Toronto. There had been a federal budget the previous afternoon, and Charlie was asking me questions about income tax changes; he was the wit and I was supposed to be the straight man. However, one question Charlie asked gave me (I thought) an opportunity to one-up him. It went like this. “Tell me, Limey (which he always called me on air), was there anything in that there budget about bank ruptures?” “Ah, Charlie,” I smugly replied, “you mean bankruptcies. A bank rupture is when someone blows up a vault.” He didn’t miss a beat before coming back with, “That doesn’t bother me; I’ve got no-vault insurance.” That was the first and last time I tried to match wits with Don Harron.

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               I was in a cubicle in the men’s room at TransCanadaPipeLines when there was a knock on the wall. “Yes?” I responded. “Do you have any extra toilet paper over there?” a voice asked. Unfortunately, there wasn’t. “Sorry,” I said, “there isn’t.” All was quiet for a few seconds then the voice asked, “Do you have change for a twenty?” I just had to meet this guy so I hung around until he emerged. His name was Chester Wing and we remained good friends until his untimely death in mid-life waiting for a heart transplant.

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             It was in 1959, just a bit west of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. I entered the Trans-Canada highway from a gas station exit where there was a yield sign. There was a car coming, but I knew I had ample time to pull out without interfering with its progress. But as soon as I did, the oncoming car speeded up, a red light started flashing, and the unmarked RCMP vehicle pulled me over. A very young officer bent down to my open window and asked, “Didn’t you see the yield sign?” I assured him I had. “Then why didn’t you yield?” he asked. “Because,” I replied, “I chose not to.” “What do you mean you chose not to?” was his next question. “The sign means ‘yield right of way’ doesn’t it?” I asked. “Yes,” he acknowledged. “Well,” I said, “I can’t yield something I don’t have, so therefore I must have had the right of way and I chose not to yield it. If you had run into me I’d be in the wrong. But you didn’t, so my choice was correct.” Still bending down he asked, “Are you serious?” “Sir,” I told him, “I’m serious enough to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court.” He stood up, took off his hat, paused for about thirty seconds and said, “I’m not getting into this nonsense,” walked back to his car, got in and drove off.

 

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