My wife and I had a few errands to run the other afternoon. She cracked me up several times with the casual banter that goes on between two people who’ve been together so long, and I realized how little credit I give both her and my son for suggesting funny ideas for me to blog about.
I started scribbling notes for multiple topics when we got home, then realized perhaps a raw transcript would give a more accurate flavor of what happens on just an average day, doing and talking about average things.
We were allegedly ready to leave five minutes ago, but Beth is still rounding up stuff for the journey. I’m slightly annoyed, though we husbands rarely think this common annoyance through. We’ve got our keys, our wallet, maybe a cellphone, maybe some clothing, and we’re ready to go. Wives have to anticipate anything else that might be needed, and be sure to bring that along.
We complain about the delay, yet when we need a tissue, a lozenge, a piece of paper, a nail clipper, an egg crate or a copy of the Articles of Confederation, we turn to them and they’re prepared.
Where do we go first? Arby’s is farther away and open till late, Earth Fare is much closer but they sometimes close down the hot bar early.
Nearly 30 years of marriage yields a quick consensus: Arby’s first, then Earth Fare.
It’s easy to be on the same page with this one. Arby’s food might lose its heat faster, yet the taste and nutritional value will be the same as it would be a year from today. Earth Fare carries organic food, which everyone knows has to be consumed within 30 minutes of whenever the animal or vegetable involved has been killed and/or uprooted.
“Have you noticed how the squirrels seem to have taken over the neighborhood this year?” I observe as we pull out of the driveway, narrowly avoiding squishing one.
Beth postulates that it’s because we adopted Tom. We lured the hulking, scar-faced tabby in from his outdoor existence about a year ago and successfully converted him to the domestic faith. Perhaps it’s no coincidence then that the ecology of the subdivision has since been transformed. The red-tailed hawks have been unable to keep up sufficient air power without the ground support that Tom had provided, and now we’re overrun with squirrels.
“You’re probably right,” I say. “We removed an ‘apex predator’ from Brookshadow food chain.”
Now Tom has a new nickname (“A.P.”) and my son Daniel has a name for his rock band, should he ever choose to form one.
I get a chance to ruminate about the new effort I’ve been asked to take on at work. I’m heading up a project team that will look at our internal processes and suggest improvements that will both cut production time and improve quality. I’m supposed to solicit ideas from all 54 people in our office, synthesize them into coherent action plans, and then take responsibility when none of them work. I’m kind of like a walking suggestion box, except I prefer to be stuffed with Baked Lays sour cream and onion flavor chips than slips of paper containing illegible rants against management.
We’ve been told the “blue sky” is the limit for what we might propose, and after only two weeks I’m already trying to think how I can get my boss on the next space shuttle.
The problem is that we can only suggest process changes, not people changes, despite the fact that there is a core group of incompetents who are always screwing everything up.
“How do you come up with a step-by-step process that everyone can do the same, when not everybody has the same mental capacity?” I wonder aloud.
“Maybe you have two separate flowcharts with a decision point right at the beginning that asks ‘are you a moron?’” Beth suggests. “If you answer ‘yes,’ you take one path, and if you answer ‘no,’ you take another.”
“Nah, that won’t work,” I answer. “We just had mandatory sensitivity training a few weeks back, and we’re not allowed to think people are morons anymore.”
We drive past a Blockbuster store about halfway to Arby’s. They’re “open” — if by open, you mean they will theoretically still serve people willing to drive halfway across town rather than get their movies from Netflix, Redbox or the Internet. However, there’s not a single car in the parking lot.
We pull into the Arby’s drive-thru line. There’s only one car ordering in front of us, usually a good sign that we’ll be in and out quickly. However, there are four people in the car, and the person placing the order is doing so from the back seat.
“They can’t do that,” I protest to Beth. “It’s the driver that has to order. This is going to take forever.”
“You forget,” Beth notes, “that we live in the freedom-loving state of South Carolina. No helmet laws for motorcycle riders, legal fireworks sold on every other corner, and pay-day loan franchises everywhere. Our forefathers died at Fort Sumter so that people could order fast food from the back seat.”
“But you were born in Massachusetts,” I remind Beth.
“Oh,” she answers. “Right.”
We finally get up to the speakerbox to place our order: a three-piece chicken strips combo and two junior roast beefs (just for once, I’d love to use the proper plural and ask for “junior roast beeves,” but I’m afraid what they would give me).
“Mmmph rmphh phmmph arumm,” comes the distorted reply. Beth and I look at each other, not quite knowing how to respond.
“I think he said ‘will there be anything else?’” Beth guesses.
“I’m thinking it was ‘would you like a drink with that,’” I tell her.
So I try to phrase my reply in a way that would answer both questions.
“Just the chicken and the sandwiches, that’ll be all,” I say.
“Mmmph rmphh,” he answers, which in this context we think means pull ahead to the pickup window.
The guy takes our money and hands us a receipt, but there’ll be a brief delay in delivering the food. I once drove away in a similar situation without getting my order. This was at a Taco Bell, so I was out only $2.17. When I realized my error, I was not about to go back and make the case to a manager that, while I might be stupid enough to order a beef soft taco, I am not yet not so mentally challenged that I would pay them money to keep it.
We get the bag of food and drive away. Though the combo is for my son, I’m quick to exact our family’s “baggler tax.” This is our policy that allows the person picking up the food to eat any french fries that have fallen from their cardboard sleeve and into the bag (hence, the name “baggler”), delivering a slightly diminished collection of potato tubes to whoever is waiting at home.
Might this practice be adopted as a government tax policy? Any income you earn that is fried or greasy and drops out of your pocket on the way home from work goes toward federal revenues, and you get to keep the rest.
Now we’re headed off toward Earth Fare, and Beth tells me about her visit earlier that afternoon to Books-A-Million.
“They have a whole aisle and end-cap devoted to nothing but Bible covers,” Beth marvels. “Some are psychedelic, for the teens; some are camouflaged for hunters; some are all lacey, for elderly women, I guess.”
“Why would a hunter want to camouflage his Bible?” I wonder. “Wouldn’t he want the deer and wild turkey to know how the Living Word of God could save them? Not from the hunter, maybe, but at least from the fires of Hell.”
“You should write about that in your blog,” Beth suggests, and so I have.
We pull into the Earth Fare parking lot. It’s hot, so we’re on the prowl for the spot closest to the door. We see one that’s empty, then realize it’s being reserved for the employee of the month.
“That space is always empty,” notes Beth, a frequent patron of this store. “I think their employee of the month quit.”
Inside the store, there’s a well-dressed young woman just standing in the deli. Just standing there. She’s obviously not shopping, she’s just shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot while a group of young children wait for their free “Family Night” meal.
A new family walks into the area, a little confused at how this free meal promotion works, and the woman steps forward to offer assistance. She’s been employed to be standing by in case anyone needs help filling out a cartoon order form using a variety of crayons made available for that purpose.
“I saw her here earlier and wondered if she was a living mannequin or something,” I told Beth. “I’m glad to see she’s a professional loiterer. That seems so much more respectable.”
Regular readers of this column might remember the debate Beth and I had recently on the subject of bringing your own re-usable bag to the grocery store. She asserted I was “anti-bag” and therefore “pro-environmental degradation,” while I countered that I simply forgot half the time and, besides, it kept me from buying more than I could carry in two hands.
Now, on this particular visit, as we’re checking out, I notice that Beth has forgotten her bag. Aha! Just the chance husbands watch for — exposing inconsistency or even hypocrisy in their wives’ arguments.
“But all I bought was a container of soup and a sandwich, and I’m taking it with me directly to work from here,” she said. “I didn’t need a bag.”
“So you will admit, then, that there are scenarios where it is acceptable, even appropriate, to not bring your own bag?” I countered.
I thought I had her on the ropes of logic when she reached deep into the voluminous body of case law that exists to address minor domestic disputes such as these.
“Just shut up,” she suggested good-naturedly.
I couldn’t argue with that.
Apparently, I need to remember to change the cat litter when we get home. Or so I’m told.
I should never have brought up the whole bag thing.