The appliances in my house have obviously observed my recent concerns with making my house look presentable just in case I get serially killed, and have chosen the last few weeks to rise up against me. Being bullied by inanimate objects with tremendous electrical power has made me long for the days of childhood where the only thing I had to give up to appease my antagonizer was my milk money. Now the stakes are a bit higher.
Our kitchen sink backed up. The garbage disposal refuses to eat garbage. The washing machine stopped spinning the water out of the clothes. And the dishwasher’s top rack fell just enough to start whacking the dishes on the bottom rack with its spinner, taking nice chunks out of any plates we are dumb enough to put down there.
I drew the line at the shredder. I’ve always been a bit intimidated by this beast who is just waiting to chomp my hand off the next time I dangle a ream of unwanted credit card applications near its eager fangs. However, I started getting too comfortable with my daily brushes of danger this summer as I cleaned out a filing cabinet of paperwork from the Nixon era. I thought I was being clever by shredding things until the machine over-heated, and then waiting until the next day to continue with the stack. But it was only a matter of time before the shredder decided to stop playing this game and conk out on me altogether.
I’m no fool. I knew the shredder was just biding its time, hoping I would stick my fingers in its mouth to try to pry something loose. And I did. But I unplugged it first. Because even though it has a safety that is supposed to guarantee it won’t suddenly start grinding things up when you take it off the base, I learned a long time ago that things that should be safe for the majority of humankind are never safe enough for me.
But nothing was stuck in there. And, gosh-darn it, the stupid thing was working fine in reverse. It just refused to suck any paper in.
I thought about turning it upside down to see if I could reverse the reverse, but that seemed like it probably was just a recipe for disaster.
In our house, when something breaks, we have three choices: my husband fixes it, we call a repair person, or we buy a new one.
It seemed unlikely that it would be worth calling someone to the house to fix a $40 shredder. My husband was in the middle of trying to fix our toilet, and didn’t want to hear about the tragedy that would unfold if we could not get crosscut our paper waste so thieves would be unable to go through our garbage to steal our identity. And I did not want to buy a new shredder.
So, I decided to take matters into my own hands. The thing was already broken, so it’s not like I could make it any worse.
The first step was to unscrew the top. I grabbed a Phillips and went to town. Six screws later, I tried to pry it apart. Nothing doing.
I called in my husband. After he checked to make sure I had unplugged the appliance because he knows my history of ending up in the emergency room when I attempt DIY projects, my husband tried to pry the top off. He investigated the entire piece to make sure I had unscrewed everything. But it still wouldn’t come off. He shrugged and wandered back to his precious toilet.
I glared at the shredder. I went to the computer and typed in, “stupid top of shredder won’t come off even though I unscrewed all of the thingies.”
Yeah. So that’s a thing, I guess. Other people have experienced the same frustration, according to message boards.
“I got it off!” I yelled to my husband minutes later after reading one clever reader’s advice. He was suitably impressed. I think. It’s hard to tell when he just mumbled, “How?’ while he glared into the bowels of the toilet tank.
“The last screw was hidden under the warranty sticker!”
My pride did not last long. I realized when I popped the top off that I had absolutely no idea what to do next. Plus, it was kind of greasy and yucky in there. And those nasty sharp teeth were in the perfect position to take a chunk out of me.
Back to the internet.
“Now that I got the top of the shredder off, how do I make it start eating paper again?”
I found a lovely page where a man actually posted photographs of what the inside of my shredder should look like. He even added helpful arrows to the pictures. I love this man and maybe would consider divorcing my husband to marry him if I thought he would be as understanding as my husband about women who get in strange cars in the parking lot or dogs who can’t figure out if they want to come out of the closet or not.
An hour later (I’m spatially challenged so even pictures on the internet take me awhile to translate to real life) I ran victoriously into the living room where my daughter and husband (who had not fixed the toilet but actually made it worse) were watching t.v.
“I fixed the shredder!” I yelled, waving the screwdriver around happily.
I didn’t really get the reaction that a woman who just saved her family from wasting $40 on a new shredder should receive. I didn’t even get the reaction that a woman who avoided turning her hands into bloody stumps because she was super careful to unplug the shredder first should receive. It was pretty anti-climactic.
Maybe they would be more impressed the next day when I rescued our 300 c.d.’s from the disc changer that stubbornly refused to change or even open…
(No, they weren’t. Repairing things is really a thankless business, I’ve decided.)
It’s Like Someone Took Desperate Housewives and Silence of the Lambs and Shoved Them Into My Autobiograpy
With all of the crime shows that I watch and the homicide novels I read and the fact that I’ve twice been the victim of aggravated assaults, it’s pretty amazing that I do not obsess all of the time about serial killers. The only time I am somewhat concerned about them is when I am in my car alone and I am singing with the radio at the top of my lungs. Even then, I am torn between worrying about the guy laying in wait in the trunk of my car who may have just discovered that he has a bigger motivation to slit my throat than he thought and the guy in the car next to me at the stop light who never pondered serial killing until he heard me belting out, “Hey Soul Sister.”
But those moments are rare – maybe once a week.
No, I spend far more time worried about the aftermath of being serially killed. This puzzles me because I will be dead and presumably will have less anxiety at that point. Nevertheless, I am increasingly fearful of what people will think of me when I am dead. Specifically, I am tormented by thoughts of what they will judge to be my less-than-stellar housekeeping skills.
I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this before – which only goes to show how much it bothers me.
For some reason, this affliction seems to have worsened during the summer – maybe because I have a bit too much time on my hands. I look in a closet, and am suddenly acutely aware that there are too many clothes in it, that if anyone else should happen to see that I still own 3 bridesmaid dresses that I wore twenty years ago they will be incredibly astonished at the levels that my hoarding reached and how could they have never suspected that I was so deeply disturbed?
Yesterday, I noticed the light switch in my bathroom had accumulated about 5 years of dust on the top rim and nearly had a panic attack while I tried to finish up my business so I could get to some cleaning supplies and rectify the situation before I die.
The funny thing is that you would walk into my house and never think to yourself, “This is someone who is obsessed with cleaning her house.” That is because I am very self-aware, and I realize that if I give in to this craziness I will lose my mind completely and become like that lady on Desperate Housewives who may or may not have become a serial killer herself (I’m not sure because I stopped watching it after the 2nd season). So, I allow myself to freak out for about 20 minutes a day and then I collapse in exhaustion on the couch and force myself to read.
Another serial killer book.
That describes the abode of the victim in great detail.
Detail that I hope no one will ever feel the need to go into when I am serially killed.
Last month, I was a bit frenzied as I prepared for an upcoming trip out of state during which I would be chaperoning 8 teenage girls. A couple of days before the trip, I ran an errand to Michaels, the craft store. I honestly can’t remember why I went there because, what, did I need a ream of scrapbook paper to add to my already over-stuffed luggage? Anyway, I did whatever I meant to do, and left the store. It was probably the 3rd place on a list of 10 that I needed to visit before picking up my daughter from swim practice in 20 minutes, so to say that I was in a hurry would be understating things.
I hit the button on my key fob and got in my car. I was about to stick the key in the ignition when I stopped.
I looked around suspiciously.
Why wasn’t there bulldog hair generously decorating my dashboard?
I looked at the doors.
What idiot stuck a bunch of bills in my driver door? (After having my car broken into twice, I never keep anything that identifies me in the car.)
Oh. My. God.
I was in someone else’s car.
I looked out the window. Directly across from me, a woman was sitting inside a truck, watching me curiously from her passenger seat.
Oh. My. God.
That woman was going to see me get out of this car, and report me to the real owner of the car.
But if I stayed in the car, the owner of the car was going to find me in the car. I was pretty sure that would be worse.
Oh. Crap. I needed to get out of that car.
I got out as calmly as possible, turned to the row behind me, and saw my car. I made a beeline for it.
I got in my real car with the bulldog hair on the dashboard and snotty tissues in the door pocket and left that parking lot as fast as I could.
I silently prayed that the woman in the truck would not see anything 911 worthy about someone getting into a car, looking wildly around, then hopping out of the car and running to a different car precisely 1 row away in the exact same spot.
So, that’s the story.
I recently told that story at a party, thinking that others would commiserate with me and share their own stories of mis-identified cars.
That didn’t happen.
“Wait, you got into someone else’s car?!!!” Yes.
“Was it the same kind of car as yours?!!!!” No. But it was the same color.
“Was it even an SUV?!!!!” You mean like my Rav4? No. I’m not even sure it had 4 doors. Or 4 tires.
But it was The. Same. Color. And, it was open. And I was worried about keeping 8 girls alive and out of the hospital for 5 days during a trip that promised to put my sanity to the test. Don’t those factors mean that I’m less stupid?
I think this whole situation has been the hardest on my husband. It’s not that he isn’t open-minded about such things. It’s just hard to have certain expectations and suddenly be faced with the fact that a member of your family has unusual interests that don’t line up with societal norms.
I remember vividly the day that Wonderbutt first came out of the closet. In the middle of the night, I heard something stirring outside the bedroom door. I opened it to find Wonderbutt, who usually sleeps in the living room. He immediately rushed into the bedroom, looking fearfully behind him. Either he’d had a nightmare that a giant Spot Bot was about to consume him, or his rear end was bothering him. Either way, I was too tired to shoo him back out of the room. So, I closed the door, whispered for him to go lay down on the floor, and went back to sleep.
My husband didn’t witness any of this. When he got up the next morning to go to work, I just folded a pillow over my head as usual and resumed sleeping.
Suddenly, “What the f—?!!!!”
I leapt up, just in time to see Wonderbutt making a beeline out of the closet as my husband tried to regain his balance after being rammed by the dog who had, unbeknownst to him, decided to nap behind the hanging clothes.
It appears that Wonderbutt enjoyed this unexpected reaction to his closet exodus – as he continues to repeat the performance on a regular basis. It’s gotten to the point where my husband and I both enter the closet with extreme caution, never certain if we will be able to complete the mundane task of grabbing a shirt off a hanger or forced to leap into the air to avoid a missile hurtling out from its hiding place under one of my lacy negligees.
I suppose we shouldn’t find Wonderbutt’s affinity for the closet to be all that startling, considering his nightly routine of draping himself with the dining room curtains every time we eat dinner. We also often find him half-buried underneath the dust ruffles of our beds – the less attractive end that earned him his nickname always sticking out.
We’ll always love Wonderbutt – no matter what unconventional activities he pursues.
It would be nice, though, to not have to worry about being confronted by a capricious canine every time we change our clothes.
While I was at swim practice with my daughter (I like the way that sounds – as though I was actually doing laps with her…) my husband was doing yard work. For some reason, he does not find it very beneficial to have Wonderbutt in the yard with him at the same time. Apparently, Wonderbutt likes to poop in leaf piles. I wish I had known that a long time ago, because that knowledge could be useful for the times when I want to take the Dog Who Poops as He Walks for a little saunter around the neighborhood.
Anyway, Cap’n Firepants texted me this photo, and said, “He’s barking at me.”
To which I replied, “Poor guy.”
To which he replied, “Me or the dog;)”
To which I did not reply.
And that, my friends, is one of the many reason why we’re still married.
No disasters have struck. I have not broken anything. My medication seems to be working. Wonderbutt is still annoying but adorable.
I am not posting here regularly right now for two reasons:
1.) because my teaching blog has suddenly taken off, and that has led to some other writing opportunities – some of which I am actually being paid for
b.) because Wonderbutt’s antics have been unblogworthy lately.
I know all of my readers have been on the edge of your seats, wondering if you need to call 911 or check the obituaries. Don’t worry. It’s not time to plan my flash-mob funeral, yet.
I am sure that it is not just chance that the only toy that has ever stood up to the jaws of our bulldog, Wonderbutt, also happens to be the most annoying toy on the face of this planet.
My daughter and husband have plotted to make Squeaky Toy disappear. Permanently. So far, I’ve held them back. Wonderbutt is just so darn happy when he plays with it, and it’s not very often we get to see the pudgy little guy actually smile. (I told my husband the other day that we should have named him Bob Newhart.) See, look how gleeful he is when he plays with it?
Oh, right. I forgot. I have no pictures of him playing with it. As soon as I pull the camera out, Wonderbutt, races to me so he can shove Squeaky Toy in my face. There is nothing quite as enjoyable as having a stinky plush toy smashed into your nose.
The main problem with Squeaky Toy is that Wonderbutt refuses to allow me to schedule the playdates. Instead, Wonderbutt chooses the time and place that Squeaky Toy is invited to make an appearance – and those times are not what the rest of us would call ideal.
Yesterday, our elderly friend, MILlie, came for dinner. To keep Wonderbutt from leaping on her, I tried to distract him with Squeaky Toy. Wonderbutt sat next to MILlie, and stared at me like I was insane as I danced around squeezing Squeaky Toy enticingly. He finally sighed, and returned to the more pressing job of figuring out how to hump our guest.
An hour later, we sat down to dinner. Five minutes after we started to eat our spaghetti, Wonderbutt came racing into the room, merrily chomping down on Squeaky Toy. He pranced around the dining room table, and dashed through the curtains behind us, back and forth, now completely devoted to playing with Squeaky Toy, his long lost friend who had been annoyingly silent for entirely too long.
Short squeaky bursts, and long high-pitched wails emitted from the toy as Wonderbutt eyed us peripherally for our reactions. Then, he walked too close to my husband’s chair. Squeaky Toy hit a leg of the chair, and popped out of Wonderbutt’s mouth. With quick reflexes, Cap’n Firepants kicked Squeaky Toy under a low side table.
Wonderbutt realized that his attempts to remove Squeaky Toy from the table dungeon were only making things worse. So, Wonderbutt began to whine.
Which is worse – the joyous, ear-splitting shrieks of a Squeaky Toy being chomped on by a happy bulldog, or the less-deafening but amazingly depressing sound of a canine parted from his very best friend in the whole wide world?
We pulled out Squeaky Toy.
Yesterday was supposed to be a Whole Day of No Obligation according to the orthodox Firepants Family calendar. Friday night, I informed the entire family, since they never pay attention to the Firepants Family calendar. I generously offered that all members were welcome to participate, but to keep in mind that, no matter what, I was not obligated to do a thing.
(I was telling one of my girlfriends about this sacred day, and she asked what it meant, and I said that I don’t have to clean or cook for my family, and she said, “Since when do you ever cook for your family?” which was a very good question, and made me think that I probably need to redefine this whole unHoly day.)
Everyone seemed on board with the idea. Cap’n Firepants was going to be out all day anyway, and Dimples was more than happy to accept a 24-hour respite from me nagging her about chores. There was only one problem…
According to our bulldog, every day is one of complete obligation – to him. No holidays allowed.
A WDoNO begins with me sleeping as late as I possibly want. Cap’n Firepants very quietly got ready for his meeting and left the house around 7:00 a.m. I sunk back into luxurious sleep.
A persistent moan started to interfere with my dreams. I opened one eye, and looked at the clock. 7:45.
I didn’t have to look far for the moaner. Wonderbutt was right next to the bed, staring me down. (I would like to point out that Wonderbutt does not whine. He moans. Like Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter. And really not less annoying.)
I tried to explain that he should have gotten up with Cap’n Firepants to eat breakfast, but Wonderbutt does not like to eat with Cap’n Firepants. In fact, when invited to eat by my husband, Wonderbutt gives Cap’n Firepants the same look that I was probably giving Wonderbutt at that moment. A not very nice look that anyone trying to coax me from my bed is very stupid.
But the pillow I placed over my head did not cancel out the moaning.
I got up, and fed the dog.
Then I went back to bed.
Wonderbutt returned. With his squeaky toy. I took it away, and threw it in the sink.
Wonderbutt moaned. But he finally gave up and decided to fall asleep on the floor next to the bed. And snore.
Snoring is easy to block out with a pillow.
Then the doorbell rang.
Wonderbutt woke up.
I couldn’t tell him to stop barking because then the person at the door would know that I was home. And I didn’t want the person at the door to know that I was home because then he or she would know that I am a very rude person who refuses to answer doorbells. And that I am very lazy to still be in bed at 9:00 on a Saturday morning. I forgot to put the sign up on the door that I was observing a Whole Day of No Obligation, which included not being obliged to answer the door.
The person at the door was very persistent, ringing the doorbell 4 times. I realized that he was a burglar trying to make certain that no one was home. I debated whether I would break my vow of a Whole Day of No Obligation to whack a burglar over the head with a baseball bat. Then I realized that was silly. We don’t even own a baseball bat.
I went back to bed.
My phone vibrated off the nightstand.
It was our neighbor.
“It’s National Margarita Day, and we are inviting you over tonight to celebrate!”
I panicked. Socializing with neighbors is an obligation. Drinking margaritas is not. Unless it’s actually a day that requires it. How could I have been so ignorant as to schedule a Whole Day of No Obligation on the same day as National Margarita Day?
Note to Self – Next year, schedule Whole Day of No Obligation for day after National Margarita Day.
And lock Wonderbutt in the pantry with his dog food.
The other day I got a lovely teaching award, and had some very nice things said about me. Which is even better than the Oscars when you think about it – because no one says nice things about you when you win the Oscar (they just read your name off a teleprompter), AND you’re expected to then get up and say nice things about other people. That’s kind of a raw deal and almost makes me feel sorry for Meryl Streep – even though the whole time I was watching August: Osage County, I was thinking, “I bet she gets an Oscar for this.”
Anyway, I missed half of the nice things that were said about me because I obsessed over the first one, which had been said by a student. “She is very patient.”
Even better than receiving an award is being proven right – especially when your husband and daughter, who both declare that you need to work on your patience, happen to be standing there and witnessing the right-proving of the woman they repeatedly malign with accusations of impatience.
“Did you hear that?” I asked my family after I received the award.
“To be honest, I didn’t hear very much,” my husband said.
I was somewhat prepared for that answer. Before joining my family, I asked the speech-writer if I could have a copy of the speech.
“Look!” I pointed to the line about patience. “See what they said about me? I’m patient!”
They both shrugged. “I guess they don’t know you very well,” one of them said. I’m not sure who. Because steam blowing out of your ears tends to interfere with your understanding of the directionality of voices.
I did a bit of self-reflection to try to figure out how this could happen. I thought about the time I kept my cool with my daughter when she stayed in the shower for 30 minutes even after I told her to take a quick one because it was time for bed. I thought about the incident(s) when I stifled by huffs of exasperation when my husband changed his mind thirty times about the restaurant we were going to grace with our company for a rare date.
I thought about this exact moment when my family came to witness my award presentation and they didn’t listen to a word that was said.
I thought about the many times that I closed my eyes and counted to infinity when I really wanted to scream at the top of my lungs.
And it all became clear.
I deserve an Oscar way more than Meryl Streep.
I’ve been having trouble sleeping. Ironically, I think the culprit is my anti-depressant. The medicine that is supposed to make me less depressed is keeping me from sleeping which is making me more depressed.
I decided that I needed to cut back on my caffeine. I like my Diet Coke, though. So, I started chugging Caffeine-Free Diet Coke. The problem is that most restaurants don’t carry that. So, I was thrilled to see that several of my favorite restaurants carry Coke Zero.
Now, I’m not sure what possessed me to think that Coke Zero would be helpful. For some reason, I got the insane idea that the “Zero” meant there would be zero calories, zero caffeine, and zero aspartame. Healthy, right?
I did not connect the fact that I was completely wired at 2:00 AM every night to the fact that I was ingesting Coke Zero like it was water.
One day, I was getting a can from the machine at school, and someone passing said, “Need a caffeine hit for the afternoon?”
“No. As a matter of fact, I’m trying to avoid caffeine,” I said.
“Oh, that doesn’t have caffeine?”
“Of course not. That’s why it’s called Coke Zero.”
That got me thinking…
So, I consulted my friend Google later that afternoon. Here is what I found regarding the comparative caffeine levels:
O.K. Then why the heck is it called “Coke ZERO”?!!!!!!
Because there is zero sugar in it.
Of course, there is zero sugar in Diet Coke as well. Apparently, the difference between the two is that the Coke Zero is supposed to taste more like Regular Coke due to a “different flavor base” from Diet Coke. Hence, the “Zero”. That makes sense, right?
From now on, just call me “Beyonce Zero”. We’re practically the same except for every part of us that’s not the same.
Works for me.