Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Did the Aliens Come Up From the Basement?
Since I began this blog I’ve been including a brief weekly item called “Everyday Foibles.” The stories there chronicle various quirks, mishaps, and idiosyncrasies that have caught my eye, whether at home, out in public, at my office, etc. Needless to say, because we spend lots of time together, a number of these anecdotes are focused on transactions between my wife Katja and myself. I decided to reproduce a few here. They are some mix of amusing, foolish, embarrassing, and/or revealing. Occasionally I wonder if alien seed pods have hatched in our basement and taken over the people who used to live upstairs. See what you think.
Just how old is “old”? Katja and I were listening to the discussion on NPR about swine flu. I asked Katja if she were going to get vaccinated this year. She said she didn’t plan to because they were only going to make the vaccine available to children and old people. I thought this over and finally suggested that we might belong to the category of “old people”. Katja screwed up her face, but she didn’t say anything. Then I added that I understood that old people were a low priority for getting vaccinations. So, even if it turned out that we were old, we might not be eligible. That ended the conversation. I never did get Katja’s final opinion about whether we were old people or not. I meant to ask her later, but it slipped my mind.
How I Failed the Retirement Test. During her last year at work Katja fell and broke her arm, and she was bedridden with severe pain for the first week. I stayed home most of the time, doing minor tasks and trying my best to keep Katja comfortable. Full-time care-taking wears on your nerves though. When I sat down to do something on the computer and Katja called from the bedroom, I walked in and complained, “Every time I sit down to work on something you call me.” Katja looked downcast. Then she said, “I don’t think I’ll be retiring any time soon.” I asked why that was. She said that being home together 24 hours a day had been pretty much a failure. Feeling defensive, I claimed that being home with a broken arm wasn’t a good test of what retirement would be like. However, Katja was pretty certain it was.
The First Day. Monday was the first day of Katja’s retirement. It looks like it will be a huge adjustment. I realized this when I said after lunch, “Do you mind if I go to the fitness center?” I’d been going off to the fitness center four times a week for two years without asking anybody’s permission, so my own sudden deference made me uneasy. Later at supper Katja said that she would like to go on a tour of the Grand Slam Tennis Tournaments, starting in Australia, then proceeding to Paris, London, and New York (plus the Italian Open in Rome, even though it’s not a Grand Slam). I said meekly that there are eight months between the Australian Open and the U.S. Open in New York. Katja said that we’d come back home for short stays in between. I simply munched on my celery sticks and decided the best policy was to keep quiet.
Retirement Transitions. There’s been a large container of Pretzel Rods sitting unopened on the kitchen counter for several days. Hungry at 10 p.m. the other night, I asked Katja if I could open it. She said no, that she was taking it to work in the morning. I reminded her that she had retired several months ago and no long goes to work. She laughed and said she was going to the agency to drop off money for the weekly lottery pool. She planned to bring in the Pretzel Rods for her colleagues when she stopped by. I observed that she’d already sent in a pound cake earlier in the week, but Katja said that she’s also responsible for bringing in the pretzels. How often, I asked, would she be bringing in the pretzels? Probably forever, she said. I thought about complaining, except that I still have an office at the university and go to work nearly every day. I guess we are both suffering transition difficulties.
Financial Creativity. On Saturday morning I asked Katja her plans. She said she was going down to Saks because she had $350 of credit to spend. I always get a little paranoid about these things, so I asked if she had had to spend $3500 to get $350 worth of credit. Katja said no, that she had the credit because she had mistakenly paid her Saks bill twice. I wondered if Saks wouldn’t just give her her money back if she paid the same bill twice. Katja said no, Saks would only give her $350 worth of credit. I thought that was outrageous, and I volunteered to go with her and talk to the manager. Katja clarified, though, that they would give her the $350 back, but they wouldn’t correct the mistake until the end of the month. I suggested she just wait till the end of the month, but she said she didn’t want to wait. I protested that she would be spending an extra $350 that she hadn’t even planned to. Katja replied that I probably wasn’t going to buy her an Xmas present, so she was going to buy her own gift. I found it hard to argue with her reasoning. I just asked her to please not buy me any presents. She promised she wouldn’t.
Mystery Unloader. When Katja got up the other morning, she said, “Thank you so much for unloading the dishwasher.” Still half asleep, I said, “What? I didn’t unload the dishwasher.” “You certainly did,” Katja said. “I put a load in at bedtime, and now it’s all been put back on the shelves.” I asked her if she’d taken an Ambien before going to bed, and she said she had. “I think what we have here,” I said, “is a case of Ambien Night-Time Dishwasher Unloading.” Katja was absolutely certain that that wasn’t the case. I claimed that when men take Ambien they put their tools or their guns away, but they definitely don’t unload dishwashers. Katja shook her head in disagreement. I said the only other possibility was that a cat burglar had come in and done it. Katja didn’t think that was likely. Now I guess we’ll never know.
How Wives Lose Their Glasses. We were going to the opera recently. When it came time to leave, Katja said that she couldn’t find her glasses. Grumpy and frustrated, I started searching along with her. I tried her purse, then scoured the bedroom, including under the bed, behind the bedside table, etc. No luck. I gave Katja a haughty, even arrogant lecture about how to be better organized (have a place for everything, keep everything in…blah-biddy blah blah, etc.). Then we checked the bathrooms, the kitchen, the foyer, the sunroom, the whole house. I even looked in the glove compartment of the car. We were running way too late, and, very irritated, I suggested to Katja that she wear her prescription sunglasses instead. Just as she was getting them, I stuck my hand in my sports jacket pocket. I was surprised to find a pair of glasses there. I pulled them out -- they were Katja’s glasses! Having mistaken them for my own, I’d put them in my jacket pocket as I was getting dressed. I sheepishly handed them to Katja. She was remarkably calm and pleasant about it, especially after suffering through my self-righteous harangues. I drove fast -- we made it to the opera just in time.
Bargain Shopping. When the cable guy came last week, he discovered that our downstairs TV was no longer working. Somebody had told me recently that Wal-Mart was selling good TVs for a hundred dollars, so I asked the cable guy if that was a good place to go. He said sure, or maybe H.H. Gregg. At breakfast on Sunday I asked Katja if she’d like to go to Walmart to get a new TV. Katja replied that she doesn’t shop at Walmart. So I looked in the paper. H.H. Gregg was having a sale that included a 32-inch TV for $279. I showed the picture to Katja, but she didn’t like the looks of it. “What’s the most you would spend?” I asked. She said seven hundred dollars. I complained that we almost never watch TV downstairs, so we didn’t need a fancy set. Then I asked if she’d like to go together to H.H. Gregg. She said no; she preferred to go alone. “Would you promise to get a 32-inch screen and spend no more than $400?” I asked. Katja said yes. I volunteered to go to H.H. Gregg myself, but Katja said she would take care of it. I came back from a hike with the dogs several hours later, and there was a brand new, very large and fancy flat-screen TV. I didn’t ask Katja the price, but, even though the screen was a lot larger than 32 inches, I doubt if she would have paid more than $400.
Air Conditioner Skirmishes. Katja and I have never been in synch about air conditioners. I personally think they are Satan’s handiwork, while Katja regards them as a basic human necessity. We have a silent daily conflict in our house. Katja constantly sets the A/C thermostat at 69 and I constantly reset it to 73. Neither one of us ever says anything about this. We just keep changing it back and forth. The same thing happens with our car. I don’t like to use the car air conditioner unless the temperature is above 95, whereas Katja automatically turns it on when driving, even if it’s cold out. When the air conditioner stopped functioning on our relatively new Honda, I asked the mechanic if the problem was that it had been set too low too many times. He said no, the unit is constructed run at any temperature. The fluid level had simply dropped too low. Then our home air conditioner unit stopped putting out cold air. I again asked the repairman if that was due to the thermostat being set too low. He had obviously heard this question from many husbands. His advice was to just leave it set at whatever temperature one’s wife liked. So that’s what we do now.
Helpless Husbands Department. Home alone, I thought I would have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but all I could find was the bread. Finally I found a jar of cherry preserves in the cabinet, but no peanut butter. I called Katja on her cell phone and asked where the peanut butter might be. She said she wasn’t sure but suggested I look in the cabinet. When I said I already had, she suggested the counter near the Panini grill or the refrigerator. I’d looked in those places too. She said she was sorry, but she didn’t know. I said I thought she might have a visual image of where it was. Disappointingly, she said she didn’t. I gave up and had two peach yogurts instead. When Katja came home, she looked in the cabinet and immediately found the peanut butter on the top shelf. It was turned around backwards so the label wasn’t showing. No wonder I couldn’t find it.
-Vicki L (4-8): Wow David, That was a great blog - it made me feel like I had a week long stay at your house… Love, sis