Funny stories happen to me all of the time. The funniest question you’ve never been asked was asked of me by my neighbor (keep reading for the story). Nobody has ever asked this question in the history of neighbors. Funny stories are happening to you too. Are you open to seeing and experiencing the funny stories that happens all around you? Do you let the humor happen and then celebrate it whenever you can, or are you a “top of the tree hoarder”?
Allow Funny Stories to Happen or Die of Boredom
People often ask me how I have so many very funny stories and funny things happen to me. Perhaps because I’m open to it. But more than anything, I consciously don’t stop it before it occurs. I listen to my inner voice saying: “This might be turning into a funny story…” For example:
Last week, my neighbor appeared at my door at 8 am. I answered the door, without being fortified by my mandatory 2 coffees. He asked me a question I wasn’t expecting; “Do you have any special plans for the top of your backyard tree?”
What would you have done? Closed the door? Checked to see if he was drunk? Asked others in your house if they saw him too?
My humor antenna began to perk up. Having never been asked that before, my critical thinking skills went to work. I wondered if my tree was hanging over his fence, was blocking his view, or if maybe he just envied my tree. Tree envy is rampant in the suburbs I hear. I have several trees in my backyard and I worked hard not to favor any of them over others.
I replied, “I have no special plans for any of my trees tops, what do you have in mind?” To answer, he took off at a fast clip for my outside gate and I had no other option than to follow him. He stopped and pointed at a 10-year old Willow near the east corner of my yard and said, “Are you going to do anything with the top of that tree?” What would you have done? How would you have answered?
Again, having never been asked that question before in any context I said, “I hadn’t really thought about it. What are my options?” He explained, “I need the top 10 feet of your tree. If you let me cut it off, I’ll cut up the limbs and neatly stack them near the tree.” I liked the sound of that. I have always liked neatly stacked limbs.
As it was a month after Christmas, I knew he wasn’t looking for a joke-Willow Christmas tree. I asked, “What do you need it for?” He replied, “For my bird.” Intrigued I said, “I didn’t know you kept birds.” I don’t know the official term for keeping non-raptor birds. He said, “I don’t have one now, but I want to get one and I’ll need your tree top as a habitat for the bird when he is in the house.” My next statement was obvious, “I didn’t know Ostriches needed to roost in trees.” He continued, “Not an ostrich, it’s a big white Cockatiel”. I asked, “When will you be getting it?” He said, “As soon as I have a habitat. So will you be using the top of that tree?”
For the life of me, I couldn’t think of anything I needed the top of that tree for, let alone any “special” plans. I mean, I really thought and thought about it. I actually scratched my head as I thought about it. I had no plans to adopt an Ostrich or a Cockatiel and I never REALLY used or needed the top of that tree for anything special. It would save me from worrying that the top of the tree might get hit by lighting. I’m not going to be climbing it and I don’t have children who would want to climb it. Quite frankly, I had to admit that I didn’t have any plans for the top of the tree. What is the suburbia etiquette if one in your cul de sac neighbors needs the top of your tree? Who was I to stand in the way of a Cockatiel being adopted? Wouldn’t I want the best for an adopted Cockatiel? Yes—good question. Then I worried, if I don’t give him the top of my tree, will I be a tree hoarder and will that result in a homeless Cockatiel? Not on my watch. Not today!
What would you have done? At this point in the story, you must know what I did.
Now, every time I go into my backyard I smile or laugh when I see my tree. I never really did that before and now I enjoy it. I look forward to it. Just today, while I was standing out in my backyard, looking at my topless tree, my nextdoor neighbor asked me over the fence, “What happened to the top your tree?”
I answered, “It’s a funny story…”
-Tim Gard, CSP, CPAE
Humorist, non-tree hoarder and champion of Habitat for Cockatiel adoptions.