A couple of deadlines were closing in on me so, hoping to get some work done, I took my laptop to a new coffee shop on the other side of town.
I was deep in thought and down to the last paragraph of a “due today” article when from behind I heard a familiar voice say, “Howdy, Sucker.”
Twisting my neck I saw my ornery old buddy, Eb Griper, smiling at me.
“You’re in the wrong pasture,” I said. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”
Eb slid into the booth. “I thought I’d try out this new coffee shop,” he said. “At my old hangout they raised the price of a cup of coffee a nickel and told me that I was limited to 10 refills on any given day. If you ask me, they don’t appreciate my business.”
“Could be,” I said. “Of course, your nickel tips may have been part of the decision.”
Eb scowled at me. He knew how I felt about his chintzy tips.
“So what else brings you to town today?” I asked.
“Oh, I had to buy a graduation gift for my great-nephew. He’s graduating from high school next week.”
“Cool,” I said. “What kind of gift did you get him?”
“Frankly, that’s none of your business,” Eb snapped. “But if you must know I bought him a plane.”
“Holy cow! You bought your great-nephew an airplane for graduation?”
“Did I say ‘airplane,’ stupid? I said ‘plane.’ Man, are you dense or what?”
“Well, excuse me, Eb. Perhaps I am a little dense. What kind of plane are you talking about?”
Eb shot me a look of impatience. “I’m talking about a hand plane ̶ a wood plane like carpenters use.”
“Oh, now I understand. But isn’t a hand plane a rather stupi… I mean, unusual graduation gift.”
Eb sighed. “Think about it, dummy. Life ain’t easy. To succeed we need to shape circumstances to meet our needs.”
“You’ve lost me, Eb…”
Eb sighed again; this time a long, drawn out sigh. “Listen… planes reshape wood. Now in life, if you run short of money, what do you do? You either go out and earn more money or you cut expenses. You reshape your circumstances.”
“You and mama ain’t getting along? You better reshape something or you’re going to be eating your meals here at this café.”
“I see what you’re getting at, Eb, but that hand plane isn’t going to be of any help in shaping life…”
“It’s symbolic, you dodo.”
I hadn’t been called a dodo for at least 50 years; maybe longer.
Eb continued, “That hand plane will be a reminder to my great-nephew that to succeed in life you have to be willing to reshape your circumstances.”
“I guess that makes sense, but don’t you think he could use a gift certificate or a shirt or something a little more?”
Eb smiled proudly. “When I graduated from high school sixty-some years ago my great uncle gave me a hand plane for graduation. It was accompanied by a handwritten note from Uncle Wally explaining that the plane would be a lifetime reminder that to succeed I had to be willing to reshape my thinking and ways of doing things.”
“So how often have you used that philosophy in your own life, Eb?”
“Oh, not often myself but it’s been really handy when Hilda gets obstinate about something. I just take down that plane from the shelf and tell her she needs to reshape her thinking.”
“And how has that worked for you?”
The smiled disappeared from Eb’s face. “Well… nothing works every time but… but on occasion it has been effective.”
“What about the other occasions?
“Come to think of it, one time she told me where I could stick that plane and… uh… well, that would be impossible.”
“So do you still think a plane would be such a good graduation gift?”
“It’s going to have to be. It was on a “no-return” clearance rack…”