You Didn’t Say When

     See, this guy walks out of a bar….

     The joke must be as old as the tavern: as long as there have been establishments outside the home where alcohol was served, stories have told of the epic journey to return home with diminished skills of judgement and navigation.  When we finally decipher the unknown languages of bygone millennia, we will no doubt find new versions of the same story.  And postcard artists could hardly resist the lure of the set-up.  Getting home to one’s wife after an enthusiastic evening of inebriation was fraught with possibilities.

     Realizing when you were home was the first challenge.  The gentleman above has declared :Mission Accomplished” way too soon.  He’s lucky at that: other postcard artists show their heroes tearfully embracing a policeman, glad to have made it home at last.

     Some lads were at least still sober enough to wonder whether they were at the right address, and, lacking GPS, have to check with their life partner about the address.

     The next challenge would be getting in to the house.  Exhausted, and trembling from the long hard walk home (it couldn’t be anything else), you might have trouble getting that key in the lock.  (Sherlock Holmes, somewhat before this postcard was printed, deduced a man’s addiction to alcohol from the number of scratches around the keyhole of a pocket watch, showing how many attempts it sometimes took to get the key into place.)

     Then we have the classic gag of trying to sneak into the house without waking the waiting wife.  Shoes (here worn with spats) must of course be removed, and naturally there are stairs, which will squeak at the most inopportune times.  (For many years, it was considered inelegant and even improper to have your bedroom on the first floor of your home.  Going upstairs to bed was taken for granted.)

     And of course the Waiting Wife could be relied upon to be a Waking Wife as well.  If that genius grant from the Macarthur Foundation ever comes through, perhaps I will study the choice of weapon by wives of different eras and regions.  This lady waits in her humble abode with a broom.

     While this one favors the fire irons.

     The rolling pin was favored by cartoonists of a later generation.  Inquiring minds will, once I have completed my monumental study, finally get an answer to the question of whether these ladies had a spare rolling pin for the kitchen, so the main pin would always be available upstairs in the bedroom.

     Of course, waiting in bed might be more comfortable for the Waking Wife.

     And there were always handy missiles to be thrown from there.  This husband is obviously a veteran.

     In any case, the Waiting Wife was so standard a theme in domestic comedy that some cartoonists advised young ladies engaged to be married to go into proper training for married life.

     It was ripe for parody as well.  Turnabout, after all, is fair play.

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