I have an all-right singing voice; it can be quite good, but that’s kind of rare. I get shy and that turns it all around and I go way off-key. I don’t know what I was doing, but I took this job delivering a singing telegram to a group of old women who were playing cards by an outdoor pool. They had about fifty decks stacked up with rubber bands around them, some of them double- and triple-wrapped. There were about thirty cards at the bottom of the pool on account of the tremendous wind and their inattention.

I sang them the song. It was a really bad song. It didn’t even rhyme. I should have gone over it before I got there. I was so embarrassed I started laughing hysterically. I’ll do that — laugh so I don’t have to cry. This really got their attention. One of them wrote on a napkin, “Would you please sing it again,” and there was a lot of fierce nodding of approval. “But it’s horrible,” I said.

They just smiled, and the woman wrote on a score card that it felt good. “Not to me,” I said.

She just looked at me, then wrote, “That’s because you are listening and not feeling.”

I looked at her blankly. She smiled and wrote, “We are all deaf.”

“In that case I’ll sing it twice,” I roared. I had them almost falling out of their chairs. I had tears in my eyes from bellowing out this nonsense.

I was turning to leave when the woman who had been writing me the notes asked if I’d mind getting the cards from the bottom of the pool. The women were all quiet and giggly like schoolgirls. She had asked me, not written. I looked at her and pointed out that the cards were in the deep end. She smiled and said, “Does that mean no?”

“Shouldn’t you be writing this down?” I asked.

“Why would I do that?” Suddenly it was quiet.

“Because you’re deaf.”

“I lied.” The women really began to laugh like only grandmothers can at the expense of someone a quarter their age. They were having a grand old time, and they still wanted me to go diving for those cards. I was a little ticked off. I thought it was funny and all, but who wants a bunch of fake deaf ladies laughing at you? So I slipped off my sandals and took off my shirt. You could tell they thought the shorts should stay on, but you can’t let other people rule your whole life.