Three’s Company (1977-84) was a ridiculous TV show. But I enjoyed watching it in daytime reruns as part of my daily routine while waiting for my first transplant in 1997-8. In almost every episode, one or two people in Jack, Janet and Chrissy’s living room would overhear two or three people talking in the kitchen and a misunderstanding would ensue. By the end of each episode, after many laughs and hijinks, the misunderstanding would be cleared up.
Let’s say neighbor Larry stops by the apartment to tell Jack about the hot date he has lined up for Friday night and as he steps into the living room he overhears Jack and Janet talking in the kitchen. Larry hears Janet say, “You’re so good with your hands.” Cut to Larry’s eyes bulging. In the kitchen, we see Jack preparing hamburger for a meatloaf as Janet looks on. Then she samples soup on the stove and says, “Mmmm.” Larry runs out of the apartment and we see him arrive breathless at the Regal Beagle, where he tells Chrissy (or one of her replacements) that Jack and Janet are “getting it on” in the kitchen. Mr. Furley, sitting at the bar, overhears this and does a spit take. This is grounds to throw them out of the apartment! (Mr. Furley and the Ropers before him had no tolerance for a couple living in sin.) Later, a version of Larry’s story reaches Jack, who hears it as Janet wanting him. He proceeds to make a fool out of himself. At episode’s end, the whole gang gathers and talks it all out. Okay, I don’t know why I enjoyed this show but I did. Let’s just say TV back then was more deadwood than Deadwood.
I used to think it was preposterous to assert such misunderstandings could occur. As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to believe that silly misunderstandings occur all the time. Now I believe the preposterous part of the show (and most sitcoms) was the idea that such misunderstandings ever get cleared up. Life overflows with misunderstandings and bad assumptions that are never clarified or corrected. People’s lives intersect in moments of miscommunication far more often than in moments of clarity.
I had a funny Three’s Company moment the other day (minus one of the show’s patented sexual double entendres). I was in my kitchen cooking dinner. My window was open and right outside my kitchen window is an alley often used by people to cut across the neighborhood. It is almost a street, a narrow one with no sidewalks. As I was cooking dinner, I dropped an apple on the floor. I yelled, “Shit!”, then picked up the apple, put it on the counter and walked out of my kitchen.
I was going to return in a second to clean the apple. But as I moved away and out of the kitchen I caught a glimpse of a man leaning over in the alley five feet from my kitchen window. By the time I put everything together it was too late to say something.
What had happened: one of my neighbors was walking his dog past my house as I made my dinner. His dog took a dump next to my flower bed. And — from my neighbor’s perspective — just as he leaned down to pick up the poop, I yelled “Shit!” at him out my window.
Maybe one of these days I’ll get a chance to clear this up.