It was late on a Thursday night. I had just gotten home after giving a speech in Covington, Ind. I pulled into the garage about 11, tired and thirsty. The garage door closed behind me and I exited the car, entering the house through the kitchen door. Mary Ellen was asleep upstairs.
I quietly went into the bedroom. I undressed, but before putting on my sleeping shorts, I decided to run downstairs, let the dog out the back door for a few minutes and grab a small bottle of fruit juice from the garage fridge.
I retrieved the drink and turned the knob to re-enter the house. The knob refused to budge. “That can’t be,” I said to myself. “That door is always left unlocked. No way.” And no clothes, either.
I panicked, banging on the door with both fists, bellowing Mary Ellen’s name. There was no response. Mark Twain must have been buck naked in his barn when he said: “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”
Our bedroom door was closed; the ceiling fan was whirring. On a scale from one to 10, in order to be heard I would need to make a disturbance that was a four. On the Richter scale.
My cell phone was in the car! If I called the home phone, that would surely get Mary Ellen’s attention. It rang and rang but there was no answer. It went to voicemail. Out of habit, I left a message: “Hello, Mary Ellen. If you get this, I’m in the garage with no clothes on. When you have a moment, could you come downstairs and let me in?”
I hate to be a pessimist, but I didn’t imagine she was going to check for messages at 11:30. Now what was I going to do?
The back door of the house was unlocked because I had let the dog out. All I had to do was sneak around and go through the entrance on the deck.
At that moment, I began to fully appreciate what my wife goes through when we plan an evening out. I needed to give some serious consideration to my wardrobe. But what was appropriate for this occasion? I had two choices: A lovely 40-gallon black garbage bag or the 34-gallon clear plastic bags. I look terrible in black, but the other option seemed, well, redundant.
Instead, I just opened the garage door and made my way along the side of the house; then as I neared the backyard, I bolted toward the deck, up the steps and into the living room.
The next morning I decided not to tell Mary Ellen what happened. I wasn’t in the mood to be made fun of. But I had forgotten about that voicemail. She called me from work later that day…
“Dick, I just listened to the oddest message. Apparently, last night, about the time you were supposed to get home, there was a naked man in our garage. Now, who in heaven’s name could that have possibly been?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea, Mary Ellen.”
I don’t think she’ll ever find out. I didn’t leave my name in the voicemail.