No bikes, no coffee in this post. Today, we turn to another favorite topic: puns. For me, the most delightful pun deliveries take some set-up. Following is the telling of a true story, one of my greatest pun deliveries of all time.
Set-ups are fun. If you can sound factual and keep from smiling, you might just pull it off. Like the time a group of us had somebody believing that the Department of Interior was in charge of interior decorating for the entire nation. And the smarter they are, the harder they fall. You just have to be patient with the set-up. Then, just hook ‘em and reel ‘em in.
If you don't enjoy a good pun, stop reading now.
Some years ago I was with a large group touring Europe. We were in the very quaint Bavarian village of Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany, a unique town because of its many buildings that have been preserved since medieval times. A large portion of the town has remained undisturbed for centuries, and now draws thousands of tourists each year because of its historic charm. As you walk the cobblestone streets within the city wall that has protected this town for so long, you are experiencing history in a way that’s difficult to put into words. You literally feel you’ve walked into a movie set.
One of the very oldest structures in the town is Zur Höll, a restaurant/tavern that dates back to about 900 A.D. Its name literally means “To Hell,” and it’s a popular place with the tourists for obvious reasons. I mean, who could resist telling a friend to meet up there later in the day, just so you could tell them, “I’ll see you in Höll!” The food there is pretty good and the decor is quite tasteful, but it’s the name that draws people there, I’m sure.
Also on this tour was a good friend and colleague, Gary the Saint. He had been to this town several times before, and told me all the places I should go see. Yes, he actually told me to “Go to Höll,” but of course he was meaning the restaurant, not the place of eternal suffering. At least, I think that’s what he meant...
Anyway, we decided we’d both meet up there later on that evening, but first, I wanted to catch the Night Watchman’s tour. It was fascinating and well worth the time. I learned so much about the town and its history and was glad just to walk the streets and imagine what village life was like so long ago.
Just as the tour ended I saw Gary and he asked me how the tour went. He would regret asking me that. This was the opportunity for the set-up.
“You wouldn’t believe everything I learned,” I said. I decided to tell him a few truths first, just to set the bait for the pun.
“The night watchman would sing from the walls every hour, just to assure the people that all was well. He’d be on the lookout all night for intruders and thieves, but the real danger to the town was fire.”
This went on for a little while, and I could tell he was eager to hear more. It was time to reel him in. Keep in mind, we were getting closer to “Höll” at this point.
“Even these cobblestones have a story,” I said as we walked on them. “Many have worn down over time, but if you look closely you can still find some that have inscriptions on them.”
“What? I’ve never heard that before.” He said.
Of course not...I’m making this part up.
“True story. The townspeople thought it brought them good luck. The village cobbler would inscribe things on the stones like, ‘Make peace,’ or ‘Help the poor.’ Always good things, though. They’d never say bad things. That might bring them harm. I saw a couple of these stones. I wish I’d had my camera along.”
I had him now. I could tell because his eyes got wider, and he pressed for more information. It was as if he’d thought maybe I could show him one of these inscribed cobblestones right on the spot. “Are you sure about this?”
“Absolutely. As a matter of fact, this is where the phrase originated, “The road to Höll is paved with good intentions!”
Stunned silence...never saw that coming.