One Ringy-DingyJan 29, 2021 01:56PM ● By Maggie Barnes
How does he always know? I stared at my phone in disbelief. Once again, Bobby was calling at the exact moment I didn’t want him to.
“Do you have your phone?” I’ve had to get in the habit of asking my husband this when he is leaving the house, as he has gotten in the habit of forgetting. No big deal, really, but the whole idea of mobile phones is to allow people to get ahold of you if they need you.
Bob thinks the purpose is to annoy him. “I hate this thing,” he grumbles as he walks out again, stuffing the cursed object in his jacket pocket. His distrust of technology in general has fostered an adversarial relationship with that rectangle of metal, glass, and circuitry.
“Maggie wants to know if you need milk,” my stepdaughter, Angie, said to her father one weekend.
“Why doesn’t she text me?” Bob asked.
“Because she wants a reply?” Angie countered.
His lack of cellular response is a tiny flaw and one I have learned to work around. Angie knows that if a tree falls on me in our woods, I will text her to call 911 and trust that Bob will notice the ambulance when it rolls up and come looking for me. Which is why his ability to reach out to me, at the exact moment I have screwed something up, is so maddening.
We had worked hard on a home renovation in our last town and, on the day of a party to celebrate, I was putting away the wood stain we had used on some trim. I still don’t know how I did it, but the silly can popped out of my hand, the lid launched to points unknown, and several ounces of the stain danced down the freshly painted walls of the entranceway. As I stood there, the can’s momentum rolling it back and forth around my feet, watching the dark stain stream down the beige wall, my phone rang.
“How’s it going? We ready for company?”
It seems to happen all the time. I swear the barometric pressure around his head shifts, he sniffs the air like a basset hound, and nods, “Yep, my wife just did something stupid.” He calls and I am left with the uncomfortable choice of either dancing around the facts or fessing up to being a complete doofus.
On Valentine’s weekend we decided on a last-minute getaway, which required boarding Rex, our shepherd-and-six-other-breeds mix. The kennel is atop a hill with lots of room to roam and wrestle, the perfect setting for pups. The driveway to the place can give a human pause though, and I always navigate the narrow span carefully. Especially on days it snows, which it had on this particular day.
I got Rex dropped off and was heading back out when another car rounded the bend coming toward me. We both stopped. My heart sank with the realization that I was much closer to the parking lot than the other car was to the main road, and the onus would be on me to back up and get out of the way.
I hate backing up.
It’s not that I think of reversing in some deep emotional sense—like I’m retreating or compromising and I’m worried my id will suffer. (It’s a psych term, children—look it up.) I just have no aptitude for working in the opposite realm, mirrors notwithstanding. Bob, of course, could K-turn a Mississippi riverboat and not spill a drop of the Colonel’s bourbon.
I had no choice but to try, and I reminded myself that there was a pull-off several feet behind me. All I had to do was bend the car back around the curve just a teeny bit and pull off on the right side of the road. I went agonizingly slowly, trying to calculate information from the side and rearview mirrors and over my shoulder.
When I got to where the pull-off should have been, I gently cranked the wheel to the right—or is it left?—and nudged my way off the road.
The Jeep immediately dropped off the pavement, sank to its rear axle in snow, and lurched to a stop that expelled an involuntary yelp from my lungs. Figuring it was pointless, I put it in drive and tried to go forward. All that bought forth was that grinding sound that confirms you are stuck—possibly until April. Getting out of the car was labor-intensive, as it was at a severe angle, and I had to shove the driver’s door open with my foot and push myself uphill. As I gazed upon my cockeyed ride, two things happened. First, the person who was driving into the parking lot sailed by me without so much as a glance of token sympathy. Second, my phone rang.
I didn’t even have to look. I knew.
When there is one pot roast left at Ted’s (Ted Clark’s Busy Market in Waverly) and I need to know if he wants that much meat, he doesn’t answer my text. When I bust my glasses and need him to run my back-up pair to me, there’s no response. When he’s been out in the ice storm for four hours and I’d like to know if he’s still in one piece, I get nothing.
But just let me have an Olympic-class brain cramp, and his nose is in the air.
I stared at the winter blue sky, gulped the spicy air, and debated. I could just ignore it. I could answer and tell him everything is fine. Or I could fish around the universe and find that last sliver of self-respect I had and grind it under 4,856 pounds of SUV.
I leaned in the car, punched the answer button on the dash and chirped, “Hi, babe!”
“How did it go dropping the dog off?”
It took nearly an hour of moving snow and a pull from the kennel owner’s truck to return the Jeep to pavement. At one point, I looked into the yard and Rex was sitting at the fence with his back to me. “My owner? That idiot? No, my owner knows how to drive.”
One male who doesn’t pay attention when I screw up, and one male who never misses when I screw up. Is this what they mean by life balance?