Daily Scares in the Darby House

By Joe Darby

Mary and I go around scaring each other all the time.

No, I don’t wear a fright mask and jump out of a closet at her.

And no, she doesn’t put real-looking plastic roaches in my stamp albums.

What we do, just about every day, is walk up near the other person and just “startle” the heck out of each other.

A quick aside here: As a life-long writer, I’m interested in word origins. I’d love to know the origin of the word startle. Does it have anything to do with the common meaning of start? If so, what are we starting? I don’t know, except for making someone jump. And that could be the start of trouble. Anyway, back to my narrative.

So, it’s obvious, from what’s going on, that my spouse and I must both be very silent, stealthy walkers. Because, like I said, we come up behind each other and say something and the victim proceeds to jump and shout. I also use words that my pastor would not approve of.

Here’s a couple of typical scenarios. I’m working at my desk, perhaps writing bills or working on my stamp or coin collection or maybe just reading. Suddenly there’s a hand on my shoulder. If I had enough hair, it would be standing up, my fight or flight reflexes are triggered and I instinctively use my vocal chords to make primitive sounds. It’s just Mary, of course, seeing if I’m hungry. But SHE’S SCARED THE HECK OUT OF ME!

Or. Mary’s working at the computer, intently concentrating on something she’s writing. Suddenly a voice looms from the middle of the room behind her. “Hey.” She clutches her heart, gives me a look as if I’d just knocked her upside the head and says “YOU SCARED ME!”

To be honest, the startled reactions just usually bring a chuckle rather than an apology from the startler. That’s because, like I said, this happens all the time. We should be used to it. But we’re not.

We’ve attempted remedies, but they seldom work. I tried stomping with my feet when I approach the computer room, to let her know I’m nearby. Would you believe she says the stomping scares her too? Or I even knocked on the door frame once, but that made her jump also.

So, what’s a skittish old couple to do? I guess we’ll just go on getting startled. Or wait. Just as I’m about to finish this column, I have an idea. Next time, before I go into the computer room when Mary’s working, I’ll call ahead on her cell phone.

“Hey, it’s me. In a few seconds I’ll be coming into the computer room to see if you want to go out to lunch. Will that be okay?”

But this might be her response: “Well, I suppose so, but I was concentrating so hard that the telephone startled me.”

So if that fails, I know what, I’ll go outside and rap on the window of the computer room. No? Well, all right. I give up. Maybe the startling is good for us. Yeah, let’s look at it like that. It keeps our heart pumping at a healthy pace.