Through the years I have written several columns about people getting stuck in chimneys. It’s almost as if some folks will keep trying this until someone makes it all the way through like Santa Claus.

Now many of these events involved burglars who had watched too many cartoons. They actually thought chimneys are that big and never considered things like flue liners and dampers. Maybe they had referenced “The Three Little Pigs.”

Well here’s a new twist, and as weirdness would have it, it comes to us from California in the town of Hayward. A man there spent five hours stuck in the chimney of his stepmother’ home. Here’s the clincher. He was buck naked.

Now it’s bad enough to be dumb enough to get stuck in a chimney and make the national news. Then one adds another dimension of embarrassment and stupidity by being stuck there without his britches on.

According to Associated Press, Michael Urban, 23, locked himself out of the house last Saturday morning. He decided to use a TV cable wire that runs through the chimney to lower himself back into the house. The wire broke. Go figure. He fell part of the way down the shaft and stuck. And he told firemen who rescued him that he had taken his clothes off to reduce friction.

Now there is no handbook that I know of that tells one what to do after locking one’s self out of the house. So the market is wide open on that count. Someone should go for it.

The first piece of advice in such a handbook would be to “think things through.” Let’s just suppose that the option of going down the chimney appears viable at 2 a.m. One must ponder worst case scenarios, especially if the venture involves getting naked.

Now obviously this person had at least one physics class in high school and understood the concept of friction. However, he may have been out the day when they talked about anatomy in biology class. He’ll never be able to go back into his favorite bar again because the guys are going to rag him about taking off his pants because being naked there would be nothing to slow him down going down the chimney — not one little thing to create friction.

Some simple options should be listed as first considerations, such as knocking on the door, finding an unlocked window or even breaking a window. It would make much more sense to try to explain to police — fully clothed — why you are breaking a window to get back into the house as opposed to being buck naked and screaming for help from inside a chimney.

Some people keep an extra key outside the house, often hidden in a ceramic replica of dog poop or a simulated rock with a “made in China” sticker still on it — things burglars in California would never think to look for. You might want to look for one of those in early re-entry considerations.

Back in my college days, I went out jogging one night and locked myself out. I found a kitchen window over the sink unlocked. I got on top of a trash can and was wiggling through when a policemen patrolling the alley stopped and asked what I was doing.

I told him I was trying to get into the house. He asked if I lived there. I said yes. He asked me if I was sure, and I told him I lived there right before I went jogging, and I planned on still living there once I got back in. He actually helped me get into the house through the window and then I showed him identification. And I kept my britches on.

According to the Associated Press story, the firemen did not know this man was naked until they hoisted him out. Otherwise they may have cracked a few jokes during the rescue process.

“Hey, hang in there! We’ll have you out about the time the camera crews show up!”

Dwain Walden is editor/publisher of The Moultrie Observer, 985-4545. E-mail:

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