Melodic doorbell of host creates a note of jealousy

ROGER SIMON

September 09, 1992|By ROGER SIMON

I am not a jealous person.

Or rather I have never found anyone to be jealous of.

When I see a person richer than me, I simply say: He's probably miserable and has ulcers and will end up in prison for tax fraud.

When I see a person better looking than me, I simply say: He's probably got three ex-wives and the alimony is killing him.

And when I see a person smarter than me . . . well, that has never happened.

Ego is a great defense against jealousy. If you feel you are better than everyone else, how can you possibly be jealous of anyone else?

And that thought has given me great comfort over the years. Until recently.

I went to a party at a house that was absolutely gorgeous. It was a painstakingly restored Victorian home, and the owner probably spent as much on the crown molding (that's the fancy stuff up where the walls meet the ceiling) than some countries spend on their national defense.

Luckily, I was not jealous.

Termites, I said to myself. One termite and this place is sawdust.

And I felt much better.

Until a guest came to the door and rang the doorbell.

And I got the shock of my life.

The doorbell was not an ordinary chime. It did not go Ding-DONG.

It did not even sound those quartets of notes like Big Ben does, which is what the doorbells sometimes sound like in fancy houses.

No, this particular doorbell played the opening bars of "La Cucaracha." Perfectly.

And for the first time in my life I was consumed by overwhelming, maddening, irresistible jealousy.

I confronted the host. Your front door, I said to him.

"Oh, yes, we're very proud of it," he said. "It originally came from an abbey in Belgium and . . ."

I don't care about the door! I said. I want to know where you got the doorbell!

He looked momentarily confused. "The doorbell?" he said. "I'm not sure I remember."

I grabbed him by both of his lapels and lifted him off the floor.

Don't dummy up on me! I screamed into his face. Where did you get a doorbell that plays "La Cucaracha?" Tell me or I'll rip your crown molding down from the ceiling and beat you to death with it!

OK, a bit of an overreaction, I'll admit. But remember this is the first time in my life I was ever jealous of another human being.

The host scurried off to check his files. He came back waving a piece of paper.

"Here, here," he said, thrusting an invoice into my hand. "It is called a Harmony Musical Chime. We bought it as a joke and were going to replace it. But I guess we never got around to it. And it not only plays 'La Cucaracha' but 23 other tunes."

I read through the other tunes. They included: "A Bicycle Built for Two," "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," "Greensleeves," "Hallelujah Chorus," "Hello! Ma Baby," "O Tannenbaum" and "How Dry I Am."

I gave the host a withering look.

Why would anyone play this junk, I said to him, when you could be playing "La Cucaracha"?

He backed away carefully and disappeared into another room. Maybe he wanted to check on his molding.

The next morning I went to an electrical supply store and told them what I wanted.

"We don't get a lot of demand for that model," the owner said, pulling a pencil stub from behind one ear. "So lemme see what kind of price I can quote you."

I don't care about the price! I shouted at him. I want that doorbell installed tomorrow!

And it was.

And when the UPS guy came with a package and rang the bell, it played "La Cucaracha."

Just like it did for the kid came to ask for cash register tapes so his school could get a free computer.

Just like it did for the mailman. And for the woman selling home-care products. And for the guy who wanted Cherry Tree Lane instead of Cherry Tree Court.

After three days of "La Cucaracha," I switched to "Greensleeves." And then to "Hello! Ma Baby."

But it didn't matter. After about five rings, they all drove me crazy.

And I figure when the trick-or-treaters come on Halloween, I will have to be institutionalized.

So here's the moral of the story:

Be very careful of what makes you jealous. Because you might just end up with it.

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