San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

A Reasonably Happy Ending

Bypass wasn’t getting along too well with his wife of 40 years. He wouldn’t tell me why, but I concluded it was a simple case of what in the trade we call OS, or Overfamiliarity Syndrome.

Two people living together that long know exactly what each is going to say in any given situation, but the one with OS, on hearing the same dumb joke for the thousandth time, is liable to rush out of the house screaming, “I can’t stand it any longer!”

Normal couples deal with the problem by preserving a companionable silence from breakfast to suppertime, but that option was not open to Bypass. While he himself was a man of few words, his wife was the original motormouth, whose maximum silent time was one minute.

So Bypass tried another option. Two doors down the street lived a comely divorcée by the name of Clara, who went on monthlong cruises twice a year, financed by a generous alimony. So at the

next street

party, Bypass, fortified by strong drink, drew her aside and said, “Clarer, will you take me on your next cruise?” Clara immediately responded, “Sure. Next week suit you?”

Bypass, who had come prepared for an argument, was taken aback by this glib response, and promptly assumed she was a loose woman, but managed to stammer out, “Ffine, I’ll give you a call.” Which, with some misgivings, he did, and after telling his wife he would be gone for a month on a business trip, he and Clara departed Miami in a firstclass cabin bound for the Azores.

Novelty is an important component of any social relationship, so the couple had little problem getting along for the first eight hours. But from then on the escapade

became, from one point of view, a total disaster.

At dinner that night, Clara pronounced the Dover sole uneatable and the Chardonnay undrinkable, and sent back the baked Alaska three times before even tasting it. On returning to their luxurious cabin, she complained bitterly about the facilities and, worst of all, positively rejected any form of intimacy before Bypass even brought up the subject. And, it must be admitted, conversationally Bypass is a crashing bore.

From another point of view, however, the trip was a roaring success. Thoroughly fed up with each other, the couple abandoned the cruise after only a week and flew home separately. Bypass reported to his wife that he had cut short his business trip because he missed her, even going so far as to kiss her passionately that night. She, of course, being by no means stupid just because she talked too much, had readily guessed the truth, but responded in kind. Thereafter, Bypass learned simply to withdraw his attention while his wife was speaking, and the two lived together reasonably happily ever after.

The moral of this story is “Try a little harder before you try another.” Or how about “The grass is not necessarily greener two doors down the street”?


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