The Last Time I Saw Harris

I almost deleted the e-mail, thinking it was spam, but lately I have nothing else to do, so I read everything. I didn’t recognize the sender’s address but I clicked on it, anyway. Maybe it was some rich guy in Uganda who wanted to send me a million dollars—after I send him $5,000 for shipping and handling, of course.  I didn’t want to miss out on an offer like that.

I stared at the correspondence in disbelief. It wasn’t from a chief financial officer in Africa. Or any kind of chief. It was from Harris, my freshman year roommate at college. The e-mail went something like this:

“Hi there! Remember me? Harris? Your long-lost roommate? I think the last time we saw each other was l967. How have you been? I’ve been fine. I Googled you and found your phone number. I’ll give you a call tonight and we can catch up.

Signed, Harris, class of ’69

My mouth dropped open. I hadn’t talked to this guy in 55 years—including the year we shared a dorm room. We didn’t have a lot in common. He was a night person and I was a morning person, which made for lousy roommates, although 14 years later that combination made for the start of a very successful marriage for me.

What would Harris and I talk about? How do you “catch up” with someone you never “caught” anything with in the first place? I was panic stricken. When my wife came home, I shared my concern.

“Mary Ellen, who is the last person in the world you’d think would email me?”

“Your cousin, Leo. He doesn’t have a computer.”

“No, it was an email from Harris. And he’s calling me tonight.”

“Harris? Your freshman roommate from college? That’s wonderful. You two can talk about old times.”

“I don’t think so. We didn’t have any old times.”

About 8:30 the phone rang. “Hi, it’s Harris. I hope I caught you at a good time.  How have you been?”

“Let’s pick a decade, Harris. I’ve really had some ups and downs.”

“You were always a comedian. So, what’s been going on with you?”

“Well, I got married after college, we had a kid and I’ve been working for the last 40 years until I recently retired. What have you been up to?”

“Wow!  That is an amazing coincidence. That’s pretty much exactly what has been happening with me, also.”

(Loooooooooooong pause.) Finally, Harris picked the conversation back up. “My wife’s name is Sherrie.”

“My wife’s name is Mary Ellen. I guess that ends those amazing coincidences right there.”

“Let’s see…you don’t have a dog named Hector, do you?”

“No, every dog we ever had is dead. I forgot to mention that, when you asked me what’s been happening.”

“How’s the weather there?”

“Uh…since we last saw each other, there’s been some global warming. Have you heard about it, Harris?”

“No, I live in Michigan now.”

(Another long pause.) Harris spoke again: “Hey, I gotta go. We could probably talk forever. We should do this again.”

“Harris, I’m afraid if we talk every half century, this was probably our last conversation.”

“Well, it was fun to catch up with you, Eric.”

“Eric?  Wait, Harris, my name is Dick. Wasn’t Eric your roommate sophomore year?”

“Oh!  I’m sorry. Eric is my 8:45 call. It was fun talking to you, anyway. Just like old times.” “Yup, exactly like old times.”

Dick Wolfsie spent his career sharing his humor, stories and video essays on television, radio and in newspapers. His columns appear weekly in The Paper of Montgomery County. E-mail Dick at [email protected]