In any given day, you don't know what life will ask of you.
Maybe life will require that you fry pork chops while fending off Mr Bunches, who has suddenly developed a desire to stick his hand into the hot oil where the pork chops are sizzling.
Maybe life will ask that you try to get over a gate in your hallway and then, when you fail miserably at that and bang your knee into the wall so hard it makes your head spin, life will ask that you not get too crabby while you limp out to move your car out of the way. And life will ask that you take Mr Bunches with you to move the car, because he likes to do that. (And you'll probably be too crabby about it, after all.)
Or life might ask that you drive home through the city of Madison past drunken college kids at bartime while holding together the gear shift of the car that broke just before you saw the movie that you almost didn't see on Saturday night because life seemed like it was conspiring to keep you out of the movie.
All of those things have have happened to me, and all of them will happen again. But this time, they happened to me this past weekend, when Sweetie and I went on a hastily-planned, and poorly-executed, date on Saturday night.
We went to see a midnight showing of Paranormal Activity, a movie that I'd been dying to see since I read about it in Entertainment Weekly. I only read about the movie two, or maybe three, weeks ago, but it's been driving me crazy since I read about it, making it another of those those not-so-rare occasions on which I could, like Ford Prefect, easily go from Not knowing something exists to wanting that thing with my entire being. That happens to me all the time, with songs and books and movies and anything that I learn can be deep fried, and, especially, with leftover pizza. If I find out there might be leftover pizza, I need that more than anything, which is hard, because sometimes, I find out that there might be leftover pizza and then immediately I find out that there is no leftover pizza left over, which causes me to suffer a crushing disappointment that's hard to get over.
You wouldn't think that not having something which, until a few seconds before, you didn't think you had, would be so terrible, but it is. People who say it's better to have loved than lost never came home from work one day to find The Boy eating some pizza, causing them to ask The Boy "Where'd you get that pizza?", to which The Boy responds "I cooked it for lunch," which then causes the salivary glands to kick in and causes them to rush to the kitchen and check the refrigerator to see if they, too, might have a slice of leftover pizza, only to realize that The Boy is eating the last of the leftover pizza, which realization is followed, quickly, by a sinking sense of despairing about the meaninglessness of life, which sinking sense is then replaced by optimism because there were a couple of Junior Mints in a box on the counter.
So everything worked out well, but, still, it'd be better if The Boy hadn't taunted me with the prospect of leftover pizza.
Our hastily arranged date was caused by my overwhelming need to see the movie Paranormal Activity, a need that boiled over when Sweetie said that her friend Chris had gotten tickets to a midnight showing of the movie that night.
Sweetie said that in all innocence: "Chris got tickets to a midnight showing of Paranormal Activity tonight," she told me on Saturday as we sat amidst the jumble of crayons, trucks, activity pads, and tiny plastic animals that used to be our living room. Sweetie didn't realize what reactions that would set off in me, or she'd have never told me about the fact that there was a possibility we could go see the movie that night.
My immediate first reaction was, of course, "Who's Chris?" While Sweetie and I have friends, we don't interact with them often enough for me to remember who they are automatically. I have trouble remembering who anyone is if I don't see them daily and the less frequently I see someone, the less likely I am to know who she's talking about. We have easily as many conversations about celebrities, movie characters, and "people I can't stand," (a large category) as we do about our friends, so when Sweetie says "Chris" did something, like get tickets to my movie, I have to think: Who's Chris? Mentally I sort through all the Chrises I know:
Chris the lawyer who used to have an office next to mine? Not likely, since we haven't seen him in 10 years.
Chris, the guy from the school district who was going to come and talk with the Babies! about learning to talk more and destroy things less? Not likely, since his name is Brent, not Chris.
Chris Gaines, Garth Brooks' alter ego? Not likely, but it would be cool to have an alter ego. I wish I had an alter ego. Maybe I should have an alter ego. But what would I use it for? Holding my place in line, possibly. Or would I need a clone for that? If I had a clone, I could have it be my alter ego, too. But that's kind of creepy, like that Ray Bradbury short story about the guy who had a robot that looked just like him and he'd have the robot spend time with his wife while the guy went out and did other stuff, but then one day the robot decided that he didn't want to go back in the box, and that the robot and the wife were in love, and so the robot took the guy and put him in the box. That was spooky. I'd better not.
So then my second reaction to Sweetie is: "What were we talking about again?" at which point I remember both what we were talking about and who "Chris" is, which leads to my third reaction, that of...
Paranoia, which isn't as crazy as it sounds, because I so badly wanted to see the movie that I registered on a website to be notified if it came to my city, and I hadn't gotten a notification that the movie was coming, which obviously proves that the movie makers are out to get me, or Hollywood is out to get me, or someone is out to get me, which leads me into my fourth reaction, which is...
...Who can I sue for this? I didn't go to law school for my health, you know, but that reaction is quickly replaced by (a) getting Mr Bunches down off the counter where he's trying to play with the water faucet innocently only Sweetie doesn't want him to because he gets water all over himself and the kitchen and also that water faucet has the garbage disposal underneath it and she worries he'll get hurt, and (b) my deciding that I have to get tickets to the movie, so I am going to go online and get my own tickets for the movie, just as soon as I get Mr Bunches down from the counter, and then just as soon as I distract him from being upset by putting him on the other counter, where he can happily play with the telephone and answering machine instead of the garbage disposal.
While I did that, Sweetie went online to verify that yes, the movie was showing (verifying that yes, the movie makers had deliberately screwed me over by not telling me even though I'd registered to be told about this) and then I was able to go online and order the tickets, except that I only got as far as the ordering screen before I had to stop and have Sweetie add some money to my bank account so that I could use it to order the tickets. The tickets were $22, and I had, at the time I was going to order the tickets, a balance of approximately negative eleven dollars, a negative balance that wasn't in any way my fault unless you consider it "my" fault that I pay no attention to what my balance is on my debit card, and just assume that there will be enough money on there to do what I need to do when I need to do it.
In this case, though, it wasn't, actually, my fault that I was overdrawn, because when Sweetie investigated, she realized that she'd used my debit card to order a book for herself.
It doesn't bother me that Sweetie used my debit card, and I don't have a leg to stand on, anyway, given that I delegate all the financial issues to Sweetie. She's in charge of knowing what and when I get paid (I frequently ask her "Do I get paid this week?" and hope she'll tell me the truth) and she's in charge of knowing what bills we need to pay and when. In exchange, I'm in charge of:
1. Periodically telling Sweetie that I need money,
2. Periodically telling Sweetie that I need more money,
3. Periodically explaining to Sweetie how I got $120 overdrawn on my (obviously-misnamed) savings account, and
4. Periodically telling Sweetie that we're going to the "Friends Of The Library" book sale.
I'm also the person who gets to make the decisions about just how many times I'm going to put Mr F's pants back on before I just let him run around half-naked. He'd run around all-naked, but he has trouble getting his shirt off if the top button is buttoned and usually gives up in frustration. Half a loaf is better than none, and half-a-clothed three-year-old is what you'll usually see if you come over to our house.
Once Sweetie sorted out that she'd used my card, and did her Bank Wizardry to get it all fixed up and put $22 on my card, I was able to complete buying the ticket and print out the movie ticket, the latter of which I delegated to Middle, telling her to get the printer ready and put in paper even though I was sitting right next to the printer cabinet and could have easily gotten up and opened up the little doors and put the paper in myself.
I asked Middle to do that because in every endeavor, it's nice to have someone else help out just a little. That's a lesson The Boy instinctively understands; The Boy is a master at getting people to help out just a little, even though it's absolutely unnecessary to help him. If I ask The Boy to get the milk out, he'll ask Sweetie to open the refrigerator door for him. If The Boy is taking garbage out to the garage, he'll ask me to carry one of the bags.
He's a pro at the "just one little help" thing. Last night, we were getting ready to go to the health club to swim for our Septathlon challenge this week and he was standing in the kitchen with his towel in his hand -- in his right hand, needing only one hand to hold it. His left hand was empty. Keep that in mind.
We decided that we'd take his car instead of mine, and he had to go upstairs to get his keys. So he turned to me and said "I'll go get them. Here, hold my towel."
Why, I wondered, was it necessary for me to hold his towel while he went up five stairs, into his open room, to get keys? Answer: It wasn't, but it would make his life a little easier to not carry 14 ounces of towel upstairs.
(I put the towel on the front-hall cabinet, and when The Boy asked where it was, I said "On top of the cabinet -- you know, the thing that exists solely for the purpose of holding things up for you?")
I'm just as guilty, though, because I, like everyone else, want someone else to share my pain when I have to do something like buy movie tickets online, and so I got Middle to help print the tickets. I then carefully took the ticket and put it on the chalkboard, held up by a magnet, so that it wouldn't get wet or wrecked or torn up or eaten by three-year-olds or asked to help The Boy do something.
That's important, too: I hung the preprinted ticket up for safekeeping. Keep that in mind, and, in fact, since you know exactly what's going to happen, I'll just say it: 12 hours later, I would forget that ticket was on the bulletin board and leave for the movie, and a half-hour after that, I would remember that the ticket was on the bulletin board... as we pulled up in front of the movie theater which is a half-hour from our house.
Having bought our ticket, that left the rest of the day free for my usual activities of "not doing anything much," and also going jogging. I have a list of things that I could do on the weekends, a list of chores I've delegated to myself, chores ranging from "Frame and hang up remainder of post card collection" to "Get posters for Babies! room" to "Organize videos & photos/burn to DVD" to the cryptically-written entry that reads, only, "Toybox."
We don't have a toy box, and haven't since the Babies! broke their old one climbing in and out of it. I don't, anymore, recall if toybox means fix the toybox or get a new toybox or, maybe, think about toyboxes, but it doesn't matter because that list has been hanging on our kitchen cabinet for years and the only thing I've accomplished on the list is to half-finish this entry:
Oldest got me a birdfeeder a while back, one that hangs on windows via suction cups. I first put it up on our big front window on the theory that I could sit in the living room and see all the birds that came to eat at it, but no birds ever came. So I decided that I'd move it to the back window, where birds actually come to eat the scraps of cereal I sometimes throw out the back door for the purpose of attracting birds and squirrels. I decided that at the beginning of summer, 2008.
In the middle of summer, 2009, I moved the birdfeeder. On one of the rare days I had enough gumption to do yardwork, I was digging around in the mud that is our backyard, and getting very dirty and tired and sweaty, and I decided to go in and track some mud on the floor to get a soda. In doing that, I saw the bird feeder and decided I would at that point rehang it. So I tracked mud further through the house, went out the front door, got the birdfeeder and took it to the back porch, where I was going to hang it from the window, but I ran into a problem: The suction cups that held it to the window were dirty, and I wasn't about to lick a dirty, outside suction cup.
Ordinarily, I'd just lick my fingers, wet the suction cup and get on with my life, but, as I said, I was muddy, so that wasn't an option. I also didn't want to go back inside and wash up because Sweetie might see me and blame me for tracking mud all over the house.
Baffled, I set the birdfeeder on our patio table until I could come up with a solution for the problem, and there the birdfeeder sits to this day, lying on its back -- and not attracting any birds, either, I should note.
I didn't, on Saturday, kill the 12 hours before we had to leave for the movie by doing chores or anything stupid like that. Instead, I went jogging, and I read, and I read comics on the Internet, and I took the Babies! for a drive to the other side of town to get fried cheese curds from the A&W as a surprise for Sweetie, and I cooked dinner, and I watched more TV, and I drank four cups of coffee between 9 and 10 p.m. because the movie started at midnight, and we were going to leave for the movie at 11 p.m. The problem with that is that I never stay awake until 11 p.m. anymore. Most nights, I can't make it to 9 p.m., and 11 is out of the question, so I had to really fight and fight to stay awake.
Sweetie didn't even try; she took a nap from about 10:15 to 11. But, then, Sweetie wasn't as excited about this movie as I was. She wasn't excited at all; she hates horror movies and only agreed to go with me because it was a date and she's a nice person. All day long, though, she'd mentioned that she'd rather not go because this movie looked scary and she hates scary movies.
We made it to eleven, and handed the baby monitor over to Middle, who was tasked with listening to the Babies! while we were gone, and we emphasized that if she heard any noises that sounded like fighting, wrecking stuff in their room, or climbing out their windows, she was to go investigate. Other than that, let them sleep, is our rule, or, if they're not sleeping but not actively destroying things, leave them alone.
We set out for the theater, which was on the other side of town, a half-hour away, and drove along talking about how exciting it was to be going to see this movie (me), how exciting it was to simply be awake near midnight (me) and how important it was that one keeps one's eyes on the road while one is driving along dark country roads near midnight. (Sweetie). We arrived at the theater, where I realized I'd missed the entrance and had to do a u-turn to get back to it, which I did at the next intersection.
"I hope U-turns are legal here, because there's a cop right over there," said Sweetie.
"What? No way. He's not going to be a jerk about this, is he?" I asked, looking in the mirror to see if the cop would, in a jerk-ish way, enforce traffic laws, or if instead he would pick up on how excited I was to see Paranormal Activity at long last.
We made it into the movie theater parking lot, and pulled right up in front of the theater, which is the exact moment that I remembered I'd put the ticket on the chalk board for safekeeping. It had worked, too: the ticket was safe at home, not in any danger of being lost or actually used to get us entry to the movie.
I reviewed my options, mentally: we had 21 minutes before the show started. Could I get home and back in that time? I wondered. It seemed, at that moment, to me, possible, to do a 60-minute round trip in 20 minutes. If I hit all green lights, I thought, maybe.
I nixed that plan, because Sweetie probably would not like me trying to bend the laws of physics while driving. Instead, I opted to go inside and see if the manager could do something. Maybe we could verify online that I'd bought a ticket? Maybe I could threaten to sue? Something. So I hopped out of the car, instructing Sweetie to sit right there and wait for me.
"I know you hate doing this," I told her, because she does hate that, "But this is important."
With that, I went in and found a teenager who worked at the theater, who found a manager, who assured me that he could check and verify my tickets, if I had my debit card on me, and I did. While he went into the office to do stuff, I congratulated myself on my ingenuity in taking advantage of a backup system that I hadn't known existed and shouldn't have had to use, and then, when he came back out with my tickets, I thanked him and ran outside to Sweetie.
I opened up the driver's side door and told her we had tickets and she should hop back over to the passenger's side.
"The car's broken," she said.
"What?!?" I responded, and I'm pretty sure there were more exclamation points than that coming through in my voice.
Sweetie explained that the gearshift no longer worked, and wobbled it around to emphasize her point. She was right: It just jiggled and fell and completely failed to shift the gears or even stand in one place.
"What happened?" I asked, and then added "I'm not mad at you, but I'm mad, so I'm going to sound mad."
I've learned to explain that in advance to Sweetie, who otherwise assumes I'm mad at her, even though I'm just mad at the situation. She told me how she'd tried to move the car a little to get out of someone's way and the gear shift had just broken off for no reason.
Then she added "So we can't see the movie now," which made me suspicious, for a second, that Sweetie had planned this, that she so badly didn't want to see the movie that when I'd left the car she'd ripped the gear shift out and then reinstalled it defectively.
While Sweetie is smart enough to do that, she's not anywhere near mean enough. That's more a trick I'd pull, but I'd save it to get out of going to church or something.
We managed to coast the car, in neutral, over to the parking spaces, where I did the only things I could do in that situation.
I turned the car off, and then back on. That didn't help.
I jiggled the gear shift, repeatedly. That, surprisingly, didn't help, either.
I asked Sweetie, roughly 53 times, "What did you do?" That, surprisingly, didn't help either, and not surprisingly got me into hot water with Sweetie, who insisted that she'd done nothing, and maybe she hadn't, but weird car breakdowns follow Sweetie around, going back to the time that she'd had her car stop running when she'd stopped to vacuum it out. When I and the towing guy got there, he announced that a wire had come loose behind the glove box. To this day, Sweetie swears she doesn't know how it got loose, and I can't explain that incident.
Having exhausted all reasonable options, I then took apart the gear shift and peered inside, as though I would be able to understand what I was looking at. My knowledge of car mechanics is so limited that, had there been two little birds in there whose job it was to switch the car into gear, a la "The Flintstones," I wouldn't have been surprised.
I was surprised, though, because I was able to see exactly what the problem was and where things had gotten broken, and how it could be fixed, and the fact that I could get us home. I explained it to Sweetie and finished up with "So we can go see the movie," to which Sweetie responded "Are you sure?", probably because Sweetie quite correctly assumed that even if the car had been on the verge of complete disintegration, I'd have gone to see the movie.
I was sure, though, and we went to see the movie, getting in and getting pretty good seats and getting popcorn and a soda (me) and cotton candy (Sweetie, although she didn't order it and didn't eat it, but I had a little the next day) and watching a great movie.
One of us watched a great movie, that is. I watched it. Sweetie did not; she watched mostly my shoulder, turning her head to my shoulder at any part that threatened to be scary, and then asking me "What's happening?". I tried to tell her, quietly, what was happening: "He's walking. He's standing. There's a light... HOLY CRAP!" at which she'd bury her head farther. I'm pretty sure Sweetie thinks most of the movie is just a guy walking and standing.
Then we had to get home, using a gear shift that I tried to hold together first with a rubber band (but I couldn't get that to work) then with masking tape that I keep in the car to help hold up the part of the car that the deer broke when it ran into us, and then, when that didn't work, either, holding up the gear shift with my right hand while Sweetie shifted and I said "Careful, don't break my hand."
We crept through the city, praying that we wouldn't hit red lights (and running two of them), nervously driving in third gear past drunken college students on campus, and trying to talk about the movie she hadn't seen while also trying to convince ourselves that the car was fine and wouldn't be that expensive to repair.
It wasn't, in the end; it didn't cost all that much to fix up the gear shift, which works fine now, and we did get to see a midnight movie on a not-romantic-at-all date. And there was leftover cotton candy to take home and sneak a little bit of the next day, making sure that it gets eaten before it goes bad.
That's a tough job, too, having to eat leftover cotton candy on a Sunday morning while you're waiting for your Ramen noodles to cook for lunch, but I managed to get that done, too, and I did it because whatever it is life asks of me, I just try to do it.
So long as it's not lick a dirty outside suction cup. No way I'm doing that.