Thankfully, I never learned any useful skills.
It's very handy. While useful people all around me are pestered constantly by dudes and damsels in distress, I rest peacefully in the serene confidence that I am of no use to anybody and therefore won't be disturbed.
My dad is 76 and deserves an easy chair. But he made the mistake of learning many useful skills. He constantly is driving an hour or so, often hauling a trailer laden with gobs of tools and equipment, to fix things, because he can.
My brother-in-law Mark makes his living as a handyman. He can't even visit anywhere without someone saying, ''Mark, while you're here, should that wobberknocky thingy in the basement be making that noise?'' It shouldn't, and he fixes it, because he can.
My brother Dan fixes cars and is remodeling his house. My brother Tim suffers for an overabundance of use - he's a race car driver who holds degrees in accounting and dairy farm management. His side job is preparing taxes, and as a medic, he can bandage you when you hit the floor afterward. And he bakes excellent pies. He hasn't had a full night's sleep since 1972.
Other friends and relatives have developed all sorts of useful skills, and they are badgered continuously to align backs, give legal advice, install electrical wires, put up green beans, sew on buttons and all sorts of other things.
But me - I kick back in my easy chair with a sandwich and a book, knowing that I shall get to finish them both because my phone never rings. I've never learned to do anything useful.
I almost developed a skill once. It was the most frightening time of my life.
There was a particularly irksome machine - I'd rather not specify what for my own protection - that pestered its owners relentlessly with breakdowns and blow-ups. One wanted to go at it with well-placed blows from a sledgehammer. Another suggested dropping it from a high window into an empty swimming pool.
But what they really wanted to do was inflict maximum damage as slowly and painfully as possible. ''Send it,'' they cackled, ''to Cole!''
Some say the machine actually shuddered. Others said no, but it did fall on the floor and beg for mercy. But it was too late. It was mine.
I still was young and excitable then, so I was grateful for an opportunity to prove myself.
I attacked that machine with WD-40 and duct tape, with vinegar and baking soda. I stripped wires, spliced tapes, replaced fuses and jiggled chips. Great tears began to roll from the mechanizations as it finally cried out, ''I'll work, I'll work! Just stop this torture!''
It purred like a well-behaved kitten who never, ever bats car keys under the stove.
I was elated that I had fixed something - until I realized the implications. It would be considered a useful skill. I'd never finish a book and a sandwich again.
I dropped off the machine at a donation center after making it promise never to tell. Then I reported back to its owners, quite honestly, that I'd worked on it with all my skill, and it was not coming back. They exchanged knowing looks - and, I thought, one or two satisfied, malevolent grins.
I just sighed with relief and collapsed into my easy chair. It had been a close one.
I have not been called upon to do anything since. As far as anyone knows, I have no useful skills. Works for me.
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