“You know, if there’s anything I’ve learned from serial killers…”
Wherein the only Ph.D. I will ever hold is in The Art Of Being Lost.
Originally published 1/3/2007
If I had to identify one of the most outstanding characteristics of my personality, it would unfortunately have to be my Stunning Inability To Locate Myself In Time And Space. I get lost all the time, so often in fact that there now exists a Greatest Hits Collection of my best “getting lost” stories:
-the time I got lost leading a group of friends who were helping us move into our new house
-the time in grad school when I got lost on The Loop in Athens, GA-it was a LOOP for crying out loud, with a FIXED NUMBER of places you could go. Eventually I HAD to find something that looked familiar-and called my husband (then boyfriend) who was in grad school in Atlanta to announce that, “It’s pitch black and I have no idea where I am. Oh and by the way, I’m completely out of gas and am running on fumes. And even if you wanted to come and rescue me you couldn’t, because there’s no way to tell you how to find me. Tell my parents I love them.”
-the time I was driving down Interstate 85, headed to the same place I’d gone every single Monday night for an entire year, missed my exit, got off the highway, turned around, and headed back in the opposite direction (because, HELLO, that’s supposed to work!), somehow ended up on an entirely different Interstate and had to call my husband to guide me home so I didn’t accidentally end up in Alabama.
-the time I was in Phoenix and had to physically drive to the airport in order to change my ticket so I could fly home early. But I didn’t actually know how to get to the airport from my hotel, even though I had driven that route only 4 days earlier, so I called my husband and asked him to guide me there. (I don’t think he minded that much, because it did give him an excuse to fire up Google Earth). Then I had to drive back to my hotel, the exact same way that I had just come only minutes earlier. But I got lost again and had to have him reverse all the directions for me verbally in order to make it back safely.
I truly am one of those people who needs to wear an ID bracelet at all times. But instead of having a medical alert mine would need to say, “While extremely proficient in exploring the realms of the mind, wearer is completely incapable of navigating herself around the physical world.”
My husband, of course, does not have this problem at all. As a matter of fact, he is so good at orienting himself in the physical realm of time and space that he would routinely call me up when we were in grad school to tell me about the trips he was taking with the outdoors club where they would drop everyone off in the North Georgia wilderness armed only with a topographical map of the area, a compass, and a knife, and tell them, “OK, meet back here tomorrow at this big, completely unidentifiable pile of rocks at the time when the sun causes the shadows to kind of look like the shape of a bird, or maybe more like a boat, over here on this equally unidentifiable patch of grass.” And he would.
It’s fortunate for him that he had this early training, because he actually got to put it to use a few months ago when he was on a business trip to El Paso, attending a meeting in Mexico.
He hadn’t brought much information with him, because he just planned to buy a map of Juarez in El Paso and then find his way around from there. Unfortunately there was not a single map of Juarez to be had anywhere in El Paso.
But at the moment when many others would’ve given up (“Hi, boss. You know that business you sent me down here to conduct for you? Well, unfortunately I’m not gonna be able to do it. Yeah, um, Mexico’s closed.”) he remained undaunted.
“Yeah, I couldn’t find a map,” he said. “But I had already been tracking the location of the plant on Google Earth (Um, WHAT?!) so I knew where it was. So I just went back to my hotel, downloaded the satellite images, used them to draw myself a paper map, counted the number of streets and landmarks like large buildings, and then traced my way back from the plant to the border.”
Oh, sure. That was gonna be my next suggestion.
Wherein I really wish someone had given me a map beforehand with a giant red “X” and the message, “This is a REALLY bad idea.”
Originally published 7/31/2005
I think one of my favorite things about being in my thirties is the fact that I no longer feel like I have to pretend about who I really am (or am not) in order to get people to like me. This was not always the case.
Back during our first year of marriage my husband, who is himself an Eagle Scout, worked as a volunteer with a Boy Scout troop and I, caught up in the flush of wanting to impress my new husband, agreed to go along on one of his troop’s camping trips.
Important Side Note: If you have never been camping before, I would HIGHLY recommend that your first trip not be with a troop of scouts, because any points you feel you have gained by being “a really cool wife” will quickly fade when you realize that, compared to everyone else on the trip including elementary school students, trail dogs, etc., you feel like a giant, incompetent wuss.
I really should have known that I was in over my head when my husband and I went to the outdoor store to buy me some gear. We did not go there to buy a cool backpack, or a kicky bandanna, or a nifty trail tool. No,we went so that I could buy my very own, neon orange, plastic poo shovel.
Things kind of took a turn for the worse once we had hiked up the trail to the spot where we were going to camp that night. We had foolishly drunk all the water we’d packed, so my husband went down to the river, filled our two plastic bottles with water, ran some iodine through the bottles, and handed one to me. I looked at the bottle, looked at him, and said, “It’s brown, And. There. Are. Bugs. In. It!” He looked at me and said, (and please bear in mind that he had only been a husband for a little under a year and hadn’t yet developed the sensitivity that he has now after nine years of marriage), “Well, the bugs are dead. And we have this lemonade mix to add to it!”
Even now, eight years later, I can’t think of this story without experiencing total incredulity at his response. And even now, eight years later, my husband insists that we would not have even had this problem, if only he had packed a darker colored drink mix.
Happily I did recover enough from this trip to start going out on day hikes with my husband and our friends. As a matter of fact I was pretty impressed with myself on our last trip, because not only was I wearing my very own pair of official hiking boots, but they were so well used that we had to patch them together with duct tape.
(Yes of course we had duct tape-I was hiking with three engineers! As a matter of fact, the only reason that I didn’t have to sleep suspended in between two trees in some kind of jury-rigged duct tape shelter was the fact that the other spouse who came on this trip was five months pregnant.)
However, there are still some hurdles to overcome before I can consider going on another camping trip, as is clearly illustrated by the following conversation I had with my husband the last time he went camping.
10:00 pm. The phone rings.
My husband: “Hey, Jenny. I need your help.”
Me: (panicking at all the possible emergencies that could befall campers, and wondering just exactly where I can rent an emergency extraction helicopter at 10 pm on a Saturday night) “Oh my gosh, are you all right?!”
My husband: “What? Oh, yeah, we’re fine. I just need you to get the Almanac so you can tell us the geographical size of Liechtenstein in square miles.”
Silly me-what was I thinking?! These were highly trained, highly capable, highly intelligent men. Clearly the only emergency situation in which they could possibly have found themselves would be to be without immediate access to the geographical data of tiny, landlocked, central European countries.
So anyway, the jury is still out on the whole camping thing, but between you and me I wouldn’t hold my breath.
A Normal Couple:
1. Brings home one piece of cheesecake to share.
2. One person gets out a knife, eyeballs the dessert, and cuts it into two roughly equal pieces.
3. Each person eats their half.
A First Born Couple:
1. Brings home one piece of cheesecake to share.
2. One partner pulls out the kitchen scale.
3. The other partner gets down a dessert plate, places it on the scale, and then zeroes it all out so that the weight of the plate will not factor into the total weight of the cheesecake to be sliced.
4. First partner carefully removes cheesecake from original container and places it on the zeroed-out scale.
5. Second partner surveys entire knife collection and then selects the best tool for the job based on handle, weight, and ratio of blade size to size of the item to be cut.
6. Brief pause while Google is consulted due to differing opinions on choice of knife.
7. With surgical precision the partner with the engineering degree makes the first cut, slowly drawing the two halves apart and placing them on separate plates.
8. Each partner weighs their piece to make sure they are as equal in weight as is humanly possible.
9. Then, and only then, can dessert be consumed.
Bonus Tip: If when addressing correspondence to you and your husband your mother is scrupulously careful to alternate the position of your names (e.g., your name first on the outside of the envelope, your husband’s name first in the letter’s salutation), you can be sure that both you, he, and she are all first borns.
So I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this here before or not, but I am a BookSmeller. The first thing I do when I pick up a book or a magazine is to lift it up, flip through it, and see how it smells. It’s such a conditioned response that I didn’t realize I did it until my husband pointed it out to me a few years ago.
My other major book-related habit is that I like to mark them up. There’s just something about underlining, drawing arrows to link different passages, and writing notes and “aha!” moments in the margins that makes the text come alive for me.
I tell my husband I do it because it was ingrained in me from all my years of studying literature, but it’s a habit that horrifies him. He reacts to it the same way I react when someone takes a brand new book and murders it by immediately opening to the middle and cracking the spine.
So the other night we were both in his office, he on the computer, and I happily writing away in my latest read. Without looking at me he said, “I can hear you scratching away over there. And don’t tell me it’s because you were trained to do it.”
Then, turning to face me, and in the voice of someone leveling a solemn curse he declared, “The next time you smell a book, I HOPE YOU SMELL TEARS.”
The other day my husband had lunch with a colleague of his that he hadn’t talked to in a while. This colleague and his wife had been trying for a very long time to start a family, and this summer they were blessed with the birth of a beautiful baby girl. At least I assume she’s beautiful. Here’s what happened when I tried to find out:
My husband: “So I had lunch with Colleague today.”
Me: “Oh, fun. How’s he doing?”
My husband: “He’s doing well.”
Me: “And how’s the baby?”
My husband: “I don’t know.”
Me: “Didn’t you guys talk about the baby?”
My husband: “Nope.”
Me: “Well, what did you talk about?”
My husband: “The possibility of downloading yourself into a machine analog, and if you did then would you still be human or would you be a cyborg, the heat death of the universe, and a little bit of politics.”
Of course, silly me. WHAT WAS I THINKING?
Like many people, I have been inspired of late to declutter the house after reading the book, The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up. I was a decluttering whirlwind for the first few months of the year, but eventually I reached the end of the things that only concern me; the rest of the house my husband and I have to work on together.
So I was very excited when, a few weekends ago, he declared that it was time to clean out the garage. I hopped right into some work clothes and went outside to help him start leveling the peaks of Mt. Garage.
There were lots of things that were easily sorted into Keep, Donate, and Trash piles, but there were also a lot of items that required more thought. After about 30 minutes of tricky decisions, the next time he held an item up for consideration I said, “Well the question is, ‘Does this spark joy’.”
At which point my engineer-husband snorted so hard that I still expect to trip over one of his eyeballs every time I go out to my car.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, he elected to finish the garage on his own.
The other day my dad received the following text message from my mom after he asked if she was still tied up by obligations or was free to meet up for lunch:
“We’re finished. On my way to the bank.”
My dad’s response: ” If we hadn’t been married for 49 years, we’d be having an entirely different conversation right now.”
Have you sent in your entry for Cranky Fibro Girl’s 10th Birthday Contest? Go here for all the details, and get your entries in by midnight (Eastern Time) on Friday, June 12th.
and it really sucks.
I miss being able to breathe.
Plus, it is WAY too stressful to try and figure out which bloody cold medicine I need at the store. Especially when I also have to choose a new deoderant.
Your Sniffly Wife
My Husband (upon discussion of this week’s grocery list): “The next time you put avocados on the list, I’m going to buy one and then light a dollar bill on fire. Because that’s the same as buying two.”