There's a moment in time when a tragedy becomes a hilarious memory. One of those moments occurred on or about our 17th wedding anniversary. I was pastor of our church in Wilmington, DE, and it had to be a Monday night. That was the day I took away from the weighty thoughts of the church to enjoy my wife. We had made reservations for dinner at a nice restaurant, and were anticipating a special evening together.
Well, the evening was special, but the way God planned, and not the way we had planned.
Let me prepare the scene by telling you that our station wagon had taken our family to a camping vacation earlier in the year. At that time I backed into a rock that was just low enough to fit under the back bumper, and just high enough to hit the tail pipe. This makes for an interesting experience.
The tail pipe bent just enough to make a shorter route from the holding bracket at the bumper and the holding bracket at the muffler. This created a tension on the junction of the pipe with the muffler which shortly worked the muffler joint loose. Now when the tailpipe comes loose from the muffler, it can be jerryrigged with a wire coat hanger until a more permanent fix can be done. But if that tension happens to dislodge the muffler from the exhaust pipe coming from the engine, it is an entirely different experience. It is the sound of an airplane engine. It cannot be ignored or postponed.
We jerryrigged it nevertheless, and all was well. That is, all was well until we took the car for our anniversary outing.
I wore my tweed suit and gussied up for my special girl. We were on our way to the restaurant when we were rudely reminded that wire coat hanger jerryrigs don't last forever. We were making prop plane imitations that could turn heads for miles. And yet we happened to be on a portion of highway that was relatively uninhabited. Like it or not, this racket had to be abated and right now.
There was a light rain falling. The roadway was wet, but not flooded. My tweed suit was not my best suit, but until now, looked rather nice. I resigned myself to the fact that I had to crawl under the car, suit and all, to make the repair. While struggling with the wire and the hot tail pipe in the gritty puddle I began to see the humor in our situation. We usually tend to take ourselves too seriously anyway. It was during this struggle that I noticed the seam in the crotch of my trousers was ripping open. By the time I had concluded the second jerryrig, I had opened a slit several inches long, just at the crucially private section of my anatomy.
Now we had to make a decision. Undaunted, we chose to complete our special date night with the dinner reservation. After parking the car we engaged strategy for me to follow close behind Barbara so as to block the view of my embarrassing exposure. It seemed to work well, but we may have looked strange as I walked so closely behind her that we seemed to be playing the game of shadow. When we were shown to our table, I had another challenge. The table cloth was not long and did not fall much over the edge of the table. My exposure would be evident to the whole world if I didn't keep my legs crossed. Suddenly I realized how modest young ladies must be trained, and I needed to learn in just a few minutes.
So between the airplane noise of the exhaust pipe, the drippy environment and the ripped crotch of my suit, we began to giggle about the evening. I have no idea what we had to eat that night, but I will never forget the loud car and the torn pants. It was a special evening after, but it was providential humor that made it special.