What do I know, and when?

I was in the front yard this past Friday when a car pulled to a stop at the side of the road in front of my house. The driver, a fine-looking gentleman with a bright smile, rolled down the passenger window. The kind of fellow you want to be friends with.  

“Hello to the Outsidah!” he began, and introduced himself. 

He’s Larry, my neighbor, a few doors down, but we had never met before. 

He joked about his own “outsidah” status: “We’ve only been here 60 years!” he chuckled.

Then Larry had an important question, which set in motion a friendly and fruitful conversation:

“What time is the performance tonight?”

I was nonplussed. “What performance are you interested in?” I asked.

Mary Poppins.”

“Ah, the middle school show!” I replied.

But start time? I had no idea.

I could guess — 7 pm? 7:30? 8?

But it didn’t feel like a guess would really help my neighbor Larry.

“I don’t know,” I confessed.

I pulled out my iPhone and leaned my elbows into the window of his car. “Let me just look here and find out.”

Larry’s smile dimmed — only slightly, because he’s a gentleman, but I think I saw some dimming. I do believe the twinkle in his eye untwinkled a little.

“I thought the Outsidah knew everything,” he said.

I was devastated.

And that’s when it hit me.

I’ve done you wrong.

The Outsidah has been writing and posting for more than a decade, often featuring facts which were, uh, in fact, uh, not facts. Many of those facts were actually, to be honest, opinions. Or, shall we say, ideas. Maybe, actually, just fantasies.

Like back when Robin Crosbie was still Ipswich’s town manager, and I depicted her as Mother Nature, directing snowstorms. The truth is, Robin Crosbie never, ever, directed snowstorms. Not once. She was blamed for snowstorms, but she never generated, encouraged, or orchestrated a snowstorm.

It’s true, there are things the Outsidah knows, but there are also things the Outsidah doesn’t know.

For example….

1. Yes, the Outsidah knows when you’re speeding along outer Linebrook Road at 40+ mph. I live there. The posted limit is 25. And I have radar equipment, from a front window of my home, buzzing 24/7.

(But no, the Outsidah doesn’t know when the train is rolling through the Depot Square railroad crossing, and traffic is stalled in three directions, and you’re pushing your vehicle out into the intersection to cut off everybody else the moment the gate goes up, regardless of right-of-way.)

2. Yes, the Outsidah knows when you honk those wild turkeys off of Linebrook Road. You should be ashamed. The turkeys were here before we were.

However, the Outsidah doesn’t know it when you get away with it because nobody saw you do it.

(Also, yes, the Outsidah knows when you see other people’s swooning posts about the New England weather but you hate everyone else’s posts about New England weather. “I love it ‘crisp’ and ‘clear.’ Right. Plus, yes, the Outsidah knows you’re searching online for Florida winter vacation destinations.)

3. Yes, Christmas is coming. The Outsidah knows when you’ve been sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows when you’ve been good or bad so for goodness’ sake etc., etc., etc.

On the other hand, no, the Outsidah doesn’t know what you’re doing when you’re supposedly sleeping. As for when you’ve been good or bad — you’re on your own. It’s you and Santa. Face to face. Good luck.

Eventually, my neighbor Larry pulled away and headed home. But I kept looking on my phone for the answer to his question.

When I finally found the answer, I walked a couple doors down to find Larry.

“It’s next week,” I reported. “Mary Poppins. The middle school production. It doesn’t open tonight. It opens next week: Friday, November 12th. At 7 pm.”

He smiled. I knew he would.

“I would have only been a week early!” he exclaimed joyfully.


Doug Brendel lives in utter ignorance on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts. The Outsidah benefits the people of Belarus via the compassionate work of NewThing.net.

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