In my younger days, I had occasion to hang out with a fellow named Oswald, who was an entertaining companion in many ways.
If he had one shortcoming, it was a certain lack of commitment, vis-a-vis the truth.
I am not suggesting he engaged in duplicity for the sake of it. I suspect he even believed some of the things he said. When it came to telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, however, my pal Ozzie would have been found deficient by any jury in the land.
Some might wonder why I would choose to spend time with such a person.
Although I could only rely on a small percentage of what he said being factual, he was good company when it came to sharing a libation or two, and he knew an awful lot of people, many of whom were female and single.
These are qualities I admire in a colleague, so I generally overlooked Ozzie’s mendaciousness, and we had many lively adventures together.
One thing they had in common was that they all started with a 10-minute job.
For those unfamiliar with the term, I should explain. There is no such thing as a 10-minute job. It is one of those fictional expressions, like “governmental efficiency” and “tax reduction.” It might sound real, but it isn’t.
I was first introduced to the term shortly after Ozzie and I started hanging out together. It was a Saturday morning, and we were going to pick up some beer and go fishing. At least that was how he pitched it to me.
He picked me up, and we stopped at his place, ostensibly to collect some gear he had forgotten. While we were there, he laid out the proposed agenda for his fiancee, Kira.
She objected to the program, and said so. She wasn’t the type of woman to keep her observations to herself. If she had something on her mind, she said it.
On the morning in question, she reminded Ozzie he had promised to pick up a bar and some chairs for his little brother’s graduation party. This was new information to me. Apparently, it had slipped Ozzie’s mind when he suggested the fishing expedition.
“Don’t worry,” he said reassuringly, “it will only take 10 minutes. Then we’ll be on our way to the lake.”
That seemed a trifle optimistic to me, but I was committed by then, so I didn’t have much choice.
The portable bar we were supposed to pick up was at Ozzie’s uncle’s place, but before we could do that, we had to stop at the home of one of Ozzie’s friends to borrow a pickup truck.
This process involved a certain amount of negotiation regarding gas money. It also involved, to my dismay, unloading and stacking about a cord and a half of firewood that happened to be piled in the truck we were trying to borrow.
When the wood was stacked and the gas money had changed hands, we were on our way to the uncle’s place, which proved to be halfway across town.
The bar, although described as portable, was only portable because it wasn’t actually screwed to the floor. It was huge, and it weighed about a ton. And, naturally, it was in the basement, which meant we had to lug the beast up the stairs, a process that involved a fair amount of perspiration and an abundance of bad language.
We wrestled the bar into the truck, and unloaded it at Ozzie’s parents’ place. About that time, I felt like I had put in a full day’s work, but we were far from finished.
The next ordeal involved picking up what Ozzie described as “a few chairs.” This turned out to be about three dozen folding chairs, which they were borrowing from his parents’ church. It came as no surprise to me that these were located in the church basement, which meant many more trips up and down stairs.
Long about then, Ozzie remembered we were supposed to collect a few banquet tables, as well, so we added those to the load in the truck.
We got the chairs and tables to Ozzie’s parents’ house and got them unloaded. I started to think we were out of the woods.
While we were still at his parents’ house, however, Ozzie called Kira to tell her we had finished the assignment. This news evidently inspired her, and she said, “as long as you’ve got the truck, you can pick up that dresser my aunt offered to give us.”
“Don’t worry,” Ozzie said as he hung up the phone. “This will only take 10 minutes.”
We picked up Kira, and headed to the aunt’s house, which was naturally halfway across town in the opposite direction.
It came as no surprise to me that the dresser in question was located in an upstairs bedroom. It was big and ugly, and it was no fun at all lugging the thing down a narrow flight of stairs.
By that point I had given up hope of getting anywhere near a lake, and I was becoming convinced that the fishing had just been a ruse to lure me into this nightmare world of hauling giant furniture up and down stairs.
We delivered the dresser and Kira, and returned the truck and got back into Ozzie’s car.
“It’s probably too late to go fishing now,” he observed as he started the engine.
We did finally make it to the liquor store, hours after we had initially set out to do a 10-minute job.
We bought a case of beer, which was the lightest thing I had lifted all day, and sat on Ozzie’s back porch drinking it, watching the sun set on what was left of my Saturday.