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Published May 08 2011

Swift: Shelving some old troubles

So it’s 10:30 p.m., and I’m trying to install closet shelves in our home office.

But first I am having a meltdown. When upset, my voice rises to levels that only dogs can hear. At this moment, it can only be heard by a certain pack of specially trained police dogs in Missouri.

And Irwin.

Maybe it’s the combined symphony of a power drill, punctuated by items being hurled across the room and swear words befitting a lumberjack convention.

But now Irwin is awake. He stands in the doorway, blinking in the light, and dares to ask: “What’s your problem?”

A smart wife would take a deep breath, count to 10 and say: “I guess this is what I get for undertaking a construction project in the middle of the night. Let’s worry about this tomorrow.”

But at the minute, I’m not very smart. I’m tired, frustrated and shrieking like an over-wound Richard Simmons.

I am doing that classic “girl thing,” where I blow up over one seemingly tiny incident, which actually represents an internal, steadily escalating series of real or imagined slights.

It’s not about the shelves. It’s about the fact that my husband hasn’t read my mind, done exactly what I wanted and installed the shelves the first (expletive) time I asked.

A little backstory: For months, I’ve stared at piles of CDs atop a cabinet in the office. I believe my husband should get rid of some of them (do we really need every Uriah Heep album made?). Still, the CDs mean a lot to him, so I hold my tongue.

The solution, I decide, is to find additional storage in the office closet. I finally nag Irwin into submission, and we pick up shelves at Menards.

Irwin unloads the shelves and leans them against the couch in the office. Now I am not only looking at CDs, but uninstalled shelves. I think of the missing knob on the office door that has never been replaced. The landscaping rock that we need to work on. The sunroom that never happened.

Never mind all of my own wifely shortcomings, which include impatience and a need to be Queen of the World. It’s so much easier to focus on what other people are doing wrong than to look at yourself.

So I try hinting (“Don’t you think the office would look nice if all the CDs were tucked away inside the closet?”). I try feminine wiles, doing everything but twirling an imaginary parasol as I gush: “Good gracious, I know you could do this in five minutes even though it would take lil’ ol’ me half a day.”

I try helplessness. (“If the drill bit doesn’t quite fit in the drill, is it OK if I cement it in there with Bazooka gum?”)

All efforts have failed. And so I decide to really show Irwin. I’ll do it myself.

But it’s a comedy of errors. I can’t find the drill. I can’t find the right bit for the drill. I realize the closest outlet is impossible to plug in because it’s behind a 400-pound armoire and I’ll need an extension cord to use it.

Finally, I somehow transform myself into an ectoplasmic mist and squeeze behind the armoire to plug in the drill. I begin drilling, only to embed the bit into the wall. I can’t pull it out. Which is why I’m up in the middle of the night, shrieking and using the cord to swing a power tool over my head like I’m Red Sonja.

And so, when poor Irwin makes the mistake of asking me what my problem is, he gets a response so long, so loud and so convoluted that even I can’t remember it.

I think the rant included something about a missing door knob, Yngwie Malmsteem CDs and my disillusionment over the fact my mother read “Sleeping Beauty” to me when I was a little girl.

Anyway, the next day, the shelves were magically installed.

And we lived happily ever after.

At least, until we replace that landscaping rock.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525 or tswift@forumcomm.com