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While there are many things I can’t do (math-especially word problems, logic puzzles, anything involving a car other than driving it, computer programming, and, oh, I’m also missing whatever gene it is that enables you to operate electric can openers), one area in which I truly excel is that of the hand-written thank you note.
I was trained exceptionally well in this art by my mother, who explained that a graceful and elegant thank you note included the following aspects:
1. It was written by hand.
2. It mentioned, by name, the gift you received, and
3. It specifically described the manner in which you were using and enjoying the gift.
I paid attention whenever my mom talked about the rules of etiquette while I was growing up, because etiquette was a subject her family took very seriously-to the point of having etiquette-related discussions and practice lessons during their dinner hour. It must have been quite a shock, then, for her to end up with a daughter like me. (See: “The Word Ass, My Deep And Abiding Love For”)
But I did take her thank-you note lessons with me when I moved out on my own, so that by the time my husband and I got engaged and began to receive wedding gifts, I had honed my gratitude expression skills to Olympian heights. I had all thank-you notes written and ready to send BEFORE THE CEREMONY for every gift received before the wedding (and yes, I am STILL extremely proud of that, even thirteen years later, SHUT UP!)
But the gold medal, the jewel in my gratitude crown came three weeks after the wedding, when sadly, my husband’s grandfather passed away. As the family were all standing in the receiving line after the wake, I was introduced to one of my husband’s parents’ friends who said excitedly, “Oh, you’re the one who wrote that charming thank you note!” And I was so, SO excited, as if I actually had just won a gold medal in a hotly contested Olympic event, and had just stepped onto the platform to watch the American flag rise to the tune of “The Star Spangled Banner”, because, OMG! My thank-you notes and I had a fan!
(Yes, I know, I’m a sad, scary woman. I can already hear my sister-in-law snorting at me from two states away.)
But now I’m facing a challenge that was never covered in my personal etiquette training, which is the fact that we were recently gifted with a…toilet. A slightly used toilet, at that. I’ve never been in this situation before, and so I’ve spent a very large amount of time and energy trying to figure out exactly what the hell the correct response is to such a gift.
Because first of all, if I tried to use The Three Rules Of Thank-You Notes, well, then, er, you can see exactly where THAT would go-all my hard work and the reputation I’ve built up would go right down the…um, never mind.
Also, it doesn’t help that I’m still a little hazy on just how, exactly, we became the recipients of such a gift. I seem to remember my husband arriving home from work one day with a boxed-up toilet in the back of the Explorer, and joyfully announcing, “Guess what? [A guy from work] gave us a toilet!” It was really hard for me to share in his excitement because, 1-that was really weird, and, 2-I didn’t know we needed a toilet, and 3-did this guy just happen to have an extra toilet just lying around the house, and then one day he was all, “Hm, I wonder what I should do with this?” And then thought something like, “Extra toilet? I know-this would be perfect for the Ryans!”, and 4-EEWW, MY HUSBAND JUST BROUGHT HOME SOMEONE’S USED TOILET IN OUR CAR, AND NOW MY OCD HAS BEEN TRIGGERED SO BADLY THAT I WILL PROBABLY JUST DIE, RIGHT HERE IN THE GARAGE! I HOPE THE TOILET WAS WORTH IT!
Also, I know how things can sometimes go around here, and I was really afraid that this toilet would turn out to be exactly like The Horse Poo Episode of a few years back. (Important Side Note: And while we’re on that subject, earlier in the week my husband turned to me and asked, “Do we have any plans for Saturday?” “No,” I answered, wondering what cool thing he might be planning. “Why?” “Because I think it’s time to put in another order for some poo,” he replied.)
But happily, my husband was just as eager to install the toilet as I was to not have it sit in our garage for months and months, and so it has happily taken up residence in our bathroom and begun to perform its duties. (We shall not speak of its predecessor, which as of this writing still does reside in the garage. But I’m sure it is actually just moments away from being dragged to the curb by The Person Who Wanted A New Toilet In The First Place, And Who Is Not Currently Suffering From A Chronic Pain Disorder And Chronic Fatigue Like Some Other People Who Live Here, If You Get My Drift.)
Meanwhile, I’m just gonna have to hope that my husband was adequately able to express our thanks and gratitude to the toilet’s former owner because, honestly, hell if I know how to do it. But, in a fitting and ironic conclusion to this story, I will most likely be spending this weekend up to my ankles in s*&%.