By the Numbers
John Norberg, humor columnist s

As males age we become repeaters.

This wouldn't be a problem if we repeated the things we were supposed to repeat like yard work, sweeping the garage, opening doors for our wives and putting dirty dishes in the dish washer.

But that's not what happens. As men age we become story repeaters. We keep telling the same old stories and jokes again and again and again.

This is not entirely our fault. Every man has a finite number of stories from his life and a finite number of jokes that he can remember.

So by the time he becomes 65 years old he's told all his stories and jokes and he has no option but to repeat the same ones.

The result of this is that by the time a man reaches 65 his wife no longer listens to him because she's already heard everything he has to say. In fact, she's heard it all hundreds of times.

It comes to head when the man and wife retire and are spending all their time together.

Me: "I was just thinking about when I was a boy and the man next, door, Mr. Peters, taught me how to build a go-kart."

Wife: "I know the story. You don't have to tell it."

Me: "It's a great story."

Wife: "It was a great story the first time you told it to me 30 years ago. It was even a great story the 50th time you told it. But there are only so many times I can listen to it."

Me: "Did I tell you the joke I heard about the man coming home from the golf course?"

Wife: "Hundreds of times. You are a story repeater and it's driving me crazy. So this is what I want you to do. Make a list of all your stories and jokes and give each one a number. We'll each keep a copy of the list. Then, as soon you feel in the mood to repeat a story or joke for the thousandth time, all you have to do is say the number. So you'll say, 'That reminds of story 35.' And I won't have to listen to the whole thing again."

Me: "Maybe we should just talk politics."

Wife: "No. You repeat the same things again and again about politics, too. I've heard all your gripes. Make a numbered list of all your complaints about politicians and the government. Then when you watch and read the news instead of giving me one of your political gripe speeches, you can just say '15!' I'll know what you mean."

Me: "You repeat things, too."

Wife: "Yes, I do repeat myself. I repeat myself because when I say something to you, you say 'what' because you can't hear. And then I have to repeat it until you do hear me. Or I have to repeat because I need to ask you again and again to do things. Let's use our number system for that, too. From now on instead of having to ask you again and again to take out the garbage, I'm just going to say '5.'

Me: "You have 5 things you want me to do around the house? That's too much. I can't remember numbers for all that."

Wife: "Actually I have 50 requests of things around the house for you to do. I've put all the numbers and the associated requests on a card for you. Carry it in your wallet. Every time I say '28' look it up."

Me: "What is 28?"

Wife: "Don't touch the takeout container from the restaurant last night. It's mine."

Me: "I've been meaning to talk with you about that."

Wife: "We can also do this for disagreements. We know what we disagree about. Since I know what you're going to say and you know what I'm going to say why don't we skip the whole thing and just say 'Disagreement Number 16.' It'll save us a lot of grief."

We gave the number system a try. It wasn't long before I heard a number.

Wife: "47, please."

I looked at the list on my card.

Me: "47 is when I complain about politicians wasting our money. Do you want to hear that speech? Or is this Disagreement 47?"

Wife: "No. You're looking at the wrong lists."

Me: "Okay. Then you must want to hear my story 47? Let's see. Oh, that's the joke about when we were young and I came home and had been with the kids all day and they had wrecked the house and you said . . ."

Wife: "No. It's not from the joke and story list either. I want you to do Number 47 on the household list."

Me: "What?"

Wife: "47. Can you hear me?"

Actually, I could hear her. The problem was I had lost the household chore list so I didn't know what she was asking me to do.

I could have told her that and asked me to help find my list.

But I didn't have a number for that request

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