My wife is smart, a great mother, she’s easy on the eyes, fun to hang out with, she makes me laugh, and we agree on most matters, be they political, personal, or domestic (other than interior design, where I have learned to just keep my mouth shut). Fourteen years into our relationship, I genuinely enjoy her company and look forward to our evenings together (to the extent that she can stay awake for them). I love her with all my heart and more all the time.
She does have this one habit that gets on my nerves, though. Actually it’s the absence of a habit, and I am taking the unusual step of airing this matter in public in case any of my vast audience suffers from the same problem, because it so happens that I have an easy solution.
It starts with this noise. She makes it a few times a week. It’s kind of like an “Uggggh!” of exasperation, but repetition has attuned me to a particular timbre that says without words or syntax exactly what’s going on: she can’t find her phone. Or, she can’t find her keys. Sometimes one, sometimes the other, sometimes both.
The noise is always heard at critical moments, when she’s about to head out the door somewhere, and thus needs her phone and keys. We’ve all been there, and it’s maddening to have your coat on and the backpack packed and realize you have to stoop around the house looking for something seemingly designed to be invisible among household flotsam. That disappointment is closely followed by a semi-frantic search through the house, though I must say that whatever may be going on inside of her emotionally at these moments, she keeps to herself — I assume because she doesn’t want me to know, or at least she doesn’t want to hear what I have to say, about her predicament.
But she doesn’t have to say anything — the noise says it all, and I can hear it from the other end of the house, even when she does it quietly. And it’s happened often enough that I have learned to make a mental note whenever I see her keys or her phone in a
strange unusual unconventional place like the top of the refrigerator, or the windowsill in our son’s room, or in the medicine cabinet, or on the toilet tank; when I hear the noise, I can gently ask if she’s looking for her keys, and then point her in the right direction.
I’m not suggesting that I am any more intelligent or together than my wife. I am my own very special kind of mess, just not this kind. I’m not suggesting that losing her keys so frequently is a symptom of any kind of mental deficiency on her part. I mean, it’s a symptom, but it doesn’t even make her top ten. (Kidding! I love you so much honey!) It is only because I have better habits, habits I developed when I got tired of losing my keys.
And my habits are these: my keys are on a keychain with a little squeezy hook that I put on the belt loop nearest my right hip. I then tuck the keys into the pocket nearest that belt loop to prevent jingling. When I come home, I pull the key out of the front door and put the ring in the exact same place, every single day. That way I know exactly where to look for them. I slightly adapted this method for my phone — when I put my phone down (to the extent that I ever put it down, embarrassingly rare) I hook it up to the charger, whether it needs charging or not. That way I can avoid resorting to my wife’s method of lost phone retrieval, which is to find another phone (mine) and call her own phone and then play Marco Polo with it while it rings until she finds it in the dog food bag.
My wallet, my sunglasses, my cocaine grinder — everything I carry every day has a place where it lives when it’s not in my pocket, and it saves me a lot of stress. I get stressed out watching my poor wife go through it, and though I have tried to help her adapt to my proven methods, she either can’t, doesn’t want to, or (most likely) would rather die than adapt to any method of my devising. I’ve gradually come to understand that she’s just not wired that way.
To make it easier on both of us, I drilled a couple of holes in the wall directly opposite our front door and hung up a couple of fancy old-looking antique hooks she found somewhere. The hooks were small, too small to put much of anything on them but a set of keys and a pair of sunglasses, and mine can be found anytime I’m at home on the hook on the left. The hook on the right holds my wife’s keys about 50% of the time — sometimes she hangs her purse on it, sometimes she hangs our son’s coat on it. Sometimes I come home and she’s got a purse on her hook and another purse on my hook, and after I take a deep breath and refrain from attacking her with the extra purse, I’ll go to the bathroom and notice her keys in the shower soap dish. She doesn’t have a system is what I’m saying.
My results speak for themselves, but I’d be lying if I said it was perfect. Every once in a while I’ll slip up and misplace my wallet or my keys — dragging my bike through the door, I’ve left my keys in the front door from time to time, and my wallet falls out of my pants pocket and under the bed when I’m undressing on occasion — and I’m so certain that I can’t possibly have put them anywhere but where they’re supposed to be, I’ll stalk around the house looking for them silently cursing my wife, who’s obviously LYING when she says she hasn’t seen them, and probably hid them just to MESS WITH ME because she’s JEALOUS of my system that she’s just too STUBBORN to adopt herself. I know better than to suggest any of these things to her directly, or to say them out loud, because I know these thoughts are wholly inappropriate and misguided at best, but they are there.
This kind of thing is the reason that I look back with such fondness on the brief period in my early 20’s when I lived alone in a studio apartment. I wouldn’t trade living with my wife and son for anything, but when you live alone, there’s nobody to get mad at when you come home and find unwashed dishes in the sink, or a mess in the living room, or can’t find the TV remote or your phone or your keys. When you live alone, you need only look in the mirror to know how things got the way they are in your domicile, and the total removal of even the potential for blaming someone else is more than a little liberating — even more liberating than the usually false hope that someone you live with is directly responsible for your not having your act together.
This may come off as one big knock on my wife, but as I said I am my own special kind of mess so in the interest of fair play, I admit that she is justifiably driven insane by how I park our car — more specifically, my failure to tell her where I parked it.
When I come home from my bar shifts, around 5am, I’m tired. After working all day at my day job, then coming home for a couple hours to kiss my family goodnight, then heading out to work on my feet all night, I’ve been up for about 21 hours, so I’m gibberish-talking, eyes-closing-involuntarily, hallucinatingly tired, so when I get home I park our car in whatever space I can find, with only perfunctory regard to whether it will have to be moved for street cleaning a few hours later. I get lucky a lot more often than you might think, but a lot of times I leave it in a bad spot.
So whether it needs to be moved, or whether my wife just needs it in the morning while I’m sleeping off the shift, it is up to me to let her know where it is, and I have not always been as diligent with that as I should. More times than either of us would probably care to remember, she has been forced to wake me up only a couple of hours after I went to sleep and ask me where the car is, and then stands there for a couple of minutes, with our boy in tow, both with their coats on, while I try to blinkingly remember where I parked it. I must say my wife deserves extra credit for not cutting my throat with her car keys during these moments.
I came up with an invention that I thought would solve this problem, and in theory it should have: a map of our neighborhood glued to a metal plate, with a magnet to indicate where the car is and another to indicate whether and when it needs to be moved in the morning. But even more maddeningly from my wife’s point of view, I have seldom remembered to use it in those bleary after-work moments when I first get home from the bar. I’ve fantasized about creating an iPhone app that would serve the same function, with the information shared between our two phones automatically, but what can I say, I don’t know how to create iPhone apps. Maybe you can help me with that, dear reader — any app geniuses reading this thing?
Speaking of iPhones and inventions, I did have another idea for an invention that I strongly felt would be a smash, and ties into the lost phone/lost wallet problem: an iPhone case with a little door on the back where you can store your ID and debit card. With this, you wouldn’t need a wallet, you’d dramatically lighten the load in your pockets, and you’d have a GPS attached to your ID and debit card. Or at least you’d be able to find them by grabbing your husband’s phone and playing Marco Polo.
Alas, a few weeks ago I went to a family reunion in Missouri and found that my sister-in-law has exactly such an iPhone case. Beaten to the punch! I guess I’ll have to go back to my other Million Dollar Idea: superhero wetsuits for surfers. (Patent pending.)