Sunday, July 24, 2016

vive le differance

Vive le difference. That's French for "we are totally incompatible.  How in the world did we last this long together?"

For some reason I spent most of my afternoon nap time today thinking about how different my wife and are from each other. There is an incredibly long list of contrary likes and dislikes that fills the chasm between us. Those differences are plentiful, filling that latent relationship killing chasm to the top, making it possible for us to cross over, sometimes only halfway, but often enough all the way across, where we can then work on overcoming those quirks and idiosyncrasies that might otherwise doom us.  That we have worked at overcoming those might-have-been deal breakers, is a testament to the strong love we have for each other.  After nearly 47 years of working on our relationship, we have finally reached a consensus.  We realize that we will never be compatible, we will never like all the same things, and that we really shouldn't be together at all.

No, don't worry, we are not going to separate. There is no divorce imminent. We have just decided not to try to change ourselves to please the other. And conversely, not to try to change the other to please ourselves.  Does that make sense? It took is all this time to come to the conclusion that we are each special in our own way, and that is why we got together in the first place. We have vowed to raise our level of tolerance for the things in our life together that drive us crazy, sometimes even murderous.

We have invested too much in each other over the years to let it all slip away over her inability to load the dishwasher properly.

I will not complain as loudly, or as often, when she interrupts my train of thought when I'm writing or deep into an art project.

I won't scold or berate her for changing the subject of conversation when she doesn't like the sports conversation I might be having with another Packers fan.

I will refrain from pulling my hair out when she reminds me to do something that I am already doing.

I promise to only mutter obscenities in her direction when she asks me a question and then, while I am trying to answer her, she talks over my answer while asking me the same thing again.

I will try to tolerate the silence when we are in the car and she won't let me turn the radio on to listen to some tunes. Since she does most of the driving, she gets to choose whether the radio stays on or off.  This is going to be really difficult for me. I gotta have some music when I am in the car, especially when she is driving.  Music calms me down when she refuses to drive the way I tell her to.

I have promised not to get all pissed off when she just assumes I will immediately do everything on the todo list she provides even though I may have my own agenda for the day. Her priorities take priority over anything I might want to do. It has always been so, and always will be no matter how much I moan and groan about it. Just because I let her be the boss one time, she thinks that means she can always be the boss.

I so enjoy (that's my first lie today) moving furniture around when she insists that I vacuum under the furniture instead of just going around it.  If you can't see the dust bunnies (of course there has never been a dust bunny in HER house) then there must not be one under there.  Why test fate? Life is difficult enough without getting all hot and bothered over a little bit of dirt.
I will not even try to defend myself when she again accuses me of being crude and insensitive when I make comments and jokes about people who are different than me.  Bigotry is ugly and she knows I'm kidding. Really.

I will try not to cringe noticeably when she asks me the same question three or four times. Sometimes I'm just not paying attention, and sometimes I don't understand the question. Especially questions about money.  She can ask me questions about our finances all she wants and I still won't get it.  The money handling is her job, always has been and always will be. Nobody told me there would be math involved when we got married.  As long as I get my weekly allowance to squander anyway I damn well please, I will try my best to fake it when money is the subject at hand.

And I will not let it irritate me when she wants to talk about insurance.  I know, everyone gets irritated when talking about insurance. It doesn't matter if it is health insurance, life insurance, car insurance, house insurance, or any other type of insurance. This will be a tough one, because she feels the need to talk about insurance all the time. I think it has something to do with all the medical bills that piled up last year when she got so sick and worried that our health insurance wouldn't cover everything. She still thinks they (the insurance companies) will find some way to make her pay.  She worries about that a lot. So I will keep my irritation to myself and let her know that I appreciate her worries and will do my best to reassure her that the big bad insurance moguls will not get to her. They will have to go through me first.

Instead of whining about the temperature in the house when the AC is on in the summer heat, I will simply, without a frozen word of complaint getting past my chattering teeth, put on an extra layer or two so I won't freeze to death.  Either I have a faulty inner thermostat, or none at all, or she really is the Ice Maiden incarnate.  I have always thought that a temperature in the low 70's was considered comfortable for most people.  I just can't understand why she insists on keeping the house temps in the meat locker range. I admit that I do get chilled easily, but I think any normal person would agree that keeping the thermostat on the wall set to keep the house in the low 60's is taking the old hot flash excuse too far. So despite the icicles hanging from my nose, my frozen breath creating clouds of frozen vapor, and my hands so numb from that cold that even an Eskimo would complain, I have vowed to never again sneak up behind her and place my frozen palms against her neck to shock her into believing that I REALLY AM COLD!  Actually that would be a waste of time since the one time I tried that gambit, she thanked me or being so considerate by helping her to cool off. I may just have to go back to whining like a little girl, which should at least sound like a little girl since my nuts will have frozen off and dropped somewhere never to be found again.

Conversely, when winter settles in and the furnace kicks on to warm our humble abode, that damn thermostat always seems to find its place in the lower level of tolerable.  So I then have to cope with the cold again while she complains about being overheated. But this time I have it all figured out.  I will simply leave all the same clothes on that I wore when it was supposed to be summer both inside and out.  My clothing will consist of the same two sweatshirts, the same pair of longjohns, the same jeans, the same hoodies, the same thermal socks, the same caps and knit hats, and the same gloves I wear inside and out. A great side effect of my shivering despite the season is the cheap wardrobe I will need to combat the hot and cold conditions without sneaking over to the thermostat, surreptitiously lowering or raising the setting to my comfort level. But she always senses when I do that, or she has hidden cameras that monitor my every move, and quickly restores the status quo before I can get any relief.

She is admittedly not an avid sports fan.  But she tries to be interested when I am watching a ballgame of one sort or another.  However, her interest becomes highly annoying when she asks what the score is when it is posted on the TV screen, whether the Packers have scored a run yet, or if the Brewers got a touchdown, and why doesn't the kicker score a point when at the kickoff, he kicks the ball into the other team's end zone.  And why oh why must baseball players spit so much. That is just disgusting and what are their mothers thinking. Why is a field goal worth only three points when it seems much more difficult than just throwing the ball into the end zone or having some big fat guy run it in for a touchdown, which, by the way is worth 6 points, not 7. The team scoring the touchdown then gets  to kick the extra point or maybe try for a two point conversion if the game strategy warrants the risk. By this time my attempts to educate her on the basics of whatever game I am watching has fallen on deaf uninterested ears. She gets bored with sports easily and doesn't really listen or learn. You would think that having been a high school English teacher for 38 years she would understand the students being bored with the lesson at hand and try to learn the nuances of the sports that dominate the TV and consequently me.

My promise from here on out is to ignore her when she asks her dopey questions, pretending not to hear her.  But it is going to be very difficult to ignore questions like "when he hits the ball, does he score one point, and if he goes all the way to that middle base why doesn't he get two points? " If I acknowledge such a ridiculous question, it will only encourage her to ask more dopey questions, like "what position does Aaron Rogers play?" Or this little bit of stupidity, "when the guy carries the ball all the way to the goal, does he score a field goal or a home run?" (Actually, there is some logic applied there.)  Her questions about sports have been a huge irritant to me.  I have, on some occasions, threatened her with dismemberment starting at the top and working my way downward until the questions stop or she runs out of body parts. Such threats mean nothing to her, so my only recourse is to ignore her. I'm good at that, having had lots of practice over the last 47 seasons. If I don't acknowledge them I won't get irritated by them  and I won't snap and snarl at her for being so ignorant and annoying, we won't then have a fight and our marriage will survive another day.

Have you noticed that all the changing, or at least all the trying to change, comes from my side of the chasm?  She is perfect so there is no need for her to change. At least that's what she says. That must be right.  How would we have made it together for the last 47 years if one of us wasn't perfect to begin with?  Think we can make it for another 47?  As long as I keep trying to improve my behavior we should be ok.  At least that's what she says.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Shady Shades

I am usually a reliable handyman.  I can fix most of the typical household booboos that we all have to deal with.  When all is said and done, I'm the guy you want around the house when something needs to be fixed. Trust me. When I take on a job, you are going to get a job well done, not the second coming of Tim Allen.

Also, I am quick.  I hate procrastination.  When something is broken, I want to fix it NOW.  I am  not a patient man. And as a bonus, I will have a good chance of having just the right repair part on hand in my workshop.  I never throw anything out.  I always save bits and pieces of everything that crosses my workbench. You never know when that little funny shaped piece of metal or plastic will come in handy.  But there are occasions when even I find it necessary to order a part from the manufacturer, because the part needed is so specialized that even I, with  all my skills and expertise, with all my design ability and inventiveness, must bite the bullet and not let having to order a part test my manhood and jeopardize my place in the Mr. Fixit Association.

The previous two paragraphs are actually an introduction to the last home repair fix up job that the boss added to my list of chores (a list that, by some voodoo magic, never gets shorter). At least I wasn't the cause of the problem.  Honestly, I was all the way in the kitchen sneaking a cookie when she pulled the shade down, breaking the hanging bracket that was holding the  shade in place.  By the sound of it, you would have thought that Armageddon was nigh. The general racket that overlaid the distinct thud of gravity putting an end to the shade falling on the table below and knocking over the lamp which then crashed on the floor, was nearly drowned out by the surprising shriek that spewed from her surprised mouth accompanied by some wonderfully colorful language that would make a longshoreman blush. (You never really know your spouse until she gets the chance to show how inventive her cursing can be.)

You would think that just replacing a hanging bracket so you can rehang the shade is one of the simpler tasks that any Mr. Fixit would have to do.  Most of us who claim to have the skills to claim the Mr. Fixit title, could probably perform the installation one handed with our eyes closed.
But don't ever assume that any job is going to go smoothly by default.  There are too many ways that the imps of mayhem can screw you when you least expect it.  This new bracket replacement proved to be the repair job that nearly took me down, replacing my arrogance with  a good dose of humility.

It all began to go sideways when, after a close inspection, I determined that the best way to  proceed was to give up the idea of making my own replacement part and order the bracket from Hunter Douglas, the maker of the injured shade. One of my few shortcomings is the inability to understand the Internet and how everyone else in the world but me has no problem with it.  So I turned the online research and probable purchase over to my personal assistant/secretary/office manager/purchasing agent/financial manager/editor/critic/boss/ wife and lover.  She did her thing with that electronic box that sits on the desk gathering dust, and found almost instantly,the requisite replacement bracket for the Hunter Douglas Silhouette shade that we were dealing with. So far so good, right?  Now it gets going faster sideways.  We would have to wait approximately two, ( count 'em, two) weeks for them to arrive. Apparently the good folks at Hunter Douglas don't have the infrastructure to handle such a demanding order (maybe they don't understand the Internet either). I have difficult time understanding how it can take so long for something as little, simple, and on hand in the warehouse to get from there to here. When Mary buys anything online, the package is on the back stoop almost before she is done ordering. But we were at the mercy of Mr. Hunter and Mr. Douglas ( the company name would be Douglas Hunter if he had won the coin toss), and had no choice but to order their brackets for their shade which I wanted to hang again in my window. What do you think two little plastic pieces of molded plastic cost?  Or maybe I should ask, "what are you willing to pay for two little pieces of molded plastic?"  Would you pay a couple bucks?  How about a fiver?  Would you spring for that much? Under the circumstances I was willing to go five or six bucks.  The shysters who had all the power in this debate decided that $9.99 a pair would suit them nicely. Plus shipping. Don't you just love it when someone blind sides you with an outrages price and you have no way to retaliate? I felt used.  I mentioned earlier that I am not a patient man.  So waiting two weeks to receive those parts was a real test of my ability to wait to get something done.  I wanted it all to be fixed and back to normal NOW. Everyday I would have to walk past that unshaded window and feel another stab in my psyche. The fact that it was costing me most of my weekly allowance was just rubbing it in.

Well, the hangers finally arrived.  In a petulant state at being so abused by the whole transaction, I refused to open the box until after dinner that evening. Ok, so it wasn't much of a statement since the box arrived at 5:00 PM and we eat our evening meal at 5:30 PM. But at least I made my point. Once the box was opened and the contents examined, I realized that I knew how the Hunter Douglas company made a profit in their business.  They say that the one bracket package costs $9.99.  What they don't tell you is that each pack holds a pair of brackets.  As in two brackets in each pack. Mary assumed we would need two packs, each with one bracket inside, so we would be able to hang the shade with matching hangers. So now we had 4 brackets at a cost of $19.98.  Plus shipping. Plus tax. Those clever shade makers were shady in their dealings. Now I not only felt abused by doing business with those two named Hunter and Douglas, but I could feel a stiff breeze blowing out of the newly reamed hole they provided for me that should take care of the constipation that chronically plagues me.

But back to the simple job of replacing a shade hanging bracket.  Finally with bracket in hand, I was able to study the part up close to determine my next step.  The only problem with having the bracket in hand to study it, was that I had to hold it in hand to study it, because  those wacky guys who made the bracket assumed that the part was so simple and so easy to understand and install that they felt no instruction sheet was necessary, nor was one provided. I hate to admit that I was flummoxed by that little plastic piece.  For the life of me, I could not understand how the hanger was supposed to relate to the shade and how the bracket needed to be placed so that the result would be a shade hung from the top window frame, ready to be released by the cords that hung alongside it, thus fulfilling its stated purpose. I turned it upside down. No that wouldn't work.  I even tried to get it to do its job sideways, but that was just stupid. I tried to get it to cooperate by whispering sweet endearments to it while caressing it as a lover would, but that just embarrassed me when Mary caught me licking it behind the flange that seemed to play an important role in the successful application of the bracket. When all that TLC failed to provide the desired effect, I switched to the opposite approach and began my bad cop routine, hoping to scare the shit out of my little plastic adversary.  I cursed at it, called it nasty names, impugned its history, questioned its ancestry, threatened to melt all its siblings over a candle flame, got right up in its face, spewing my spittle at what I imagined was its eye.  I slowly turned away from it, then snapped back suddenly hoping to catch it making funny faces at me, ridiculing my inept attempts at unlocking its secret. Then just as I was about to fling it across the room, hoping to shatter it against the wall into a million useless pieces (remember, I had extras on hand), I had an epiphany.  The proverbial light bulb above my head flashed brightly, while a sigh of relief calmed my soul. I figured it out just before my standing in the Mr. Fixit hierarchy was threatening to slide into oblivion.

I set about placing the brackets in position only to find Mother Nature interfering with my efforts.  You see, I had waited too long to get the job started. The west facing window I was working on was directly in the glare off the setting sun.  I was blinded by the light. Now that I had finally gotten ready to finish the now two week old project that had tested my patience, I was stymied by the sunshine. But I felt so relieved that I had solved the puzzle and validated my creds as a
handyman, that I didn't mind waiting a little bit longer. Patience is indeed a virtue.