Now that I’m married, one of the questions I fear the most is “Can you look in the X and see if you can find the Y?” Oh, I try. But my wife refuses to learn that I will never succeed.
X and Y might represent, for example, the special cheese hiding in the fridge, or the “good pillow” hiding in the bedroom, or the yellow folder hiding in the kitchen. There are a variety of reasons I will not succeed in finding the desired item. About 25% of the time the item is not in the room, or pile, or container where it should be. Another 25% of the time the item is inadequately described, as in “the light brown socks in the drawer with the other brown socks, but not camel colored or reddish brown, and not the old ones.”
But the biggest reason for my seek-and-find failures can be attributed to Transdimensional Materialization Phenomena (TMP). This involves items not being where they belong when I look for them, but tunneling through a wormhole and materializing right where they belong when my wife looks in the same place two minutes later. Apparently this phenomenon is triggered by just the right coupling of exasperation and sarcasm.
As a stepdad, I often get the find-and-drive request. This one is worse than most because the penalty for getting the wrong item involves driving across town a second time. And this brings me to my story. It began with a request for a specific bathing suit that was allegedly in a particular drawer, and needed to be across town within an hour for a 12-year old girl’s birthday party.
Allow me to digress and explain that getting the wrong bathing suit for a 12-year old girl’s pool party might be the very worst mistake one can make.
I had a full day planned, and I decided I wasn’t going to make the trip twice. This time, damn it, I was going to get it right, no matter what it took.
The task was made harder by not really listening to the description of the bathing suit in the first place. I recalled that it had more than one color, and there was something about brown, pink, and blue. And it was in the bottom drawer of the dresser. Allegedly.
I soon found the only candidate that fit the description, or so I thought.
But my spider sense told me something was wrong. Maybe there was an accessory that I would later learn was something I should “obviously” bring along. Or maybe, as is often the case, what looks brown to me is actually blue or even green, and I have the wrong item entirely.
But this time I was determined. I weighed my options. I decided to take the entire drawer out of the dresser and load it into the back of the minivan.
Later, when it became clear that I had the wrong item, I could push the button to open the back hatch of the minivan and say, “Maybe the item you want is in the drawer.” I planned to be all smug about it.
But would one drawer be enough? The other drawers had ancillary and peripheral items that might have been in the “obvious” category for use with a swimming suit. Does a swim suit imply that one also needs a particular t-shirt to wear over it? I was in way over my head.
I figured I could fit the contents of the entire dresser in the minivan. All I had to do was take out one drawer at a time, walk each one down three flights of stairs to the garage, load the minivan, then reverse the process after my triumphant delivery.
The only catch is that I couldn’t get the drawers out of the dresser. They have a latch thingy, but apparently it was only designed for people who have both fingers and screwdrivers as parts of their hands. I pushed and pulled and jiggled and cursed. Nothing.
So I called the 12-year old and asked for a complete verification of the item I was about to bring. This wouldn’t indemnify me from the inevitable error I was about to make, but at least it would look like a good effort. So I described the item I had selected, and was informed that although it matched all the colors of the target item, flowers are not the same things as stripes, so it was not the right one. I was sent to look harder.
I unloaded the drawer on the bed, spread out all of the items and spoke aloud as I eliminated all the not-the-right-bathing-suit items. As I neared completion of this task, and it was clear I would not be finding the desired item, I was overwhelmed with a sense of dread. History was consistent.
Failure was inevitable.
Then my phone rang. The 12-year old voice said, “Maybe it’s in the closet in the purple thing.” And.it.was. I verified the target item by bead straps, color, size, pattern, and location. I did it!
Like a champion, I drove across town with my successfully found item tucked in a used Safeway bag. As I pulled up to the house, the 12-year-old’s future potential stepmom was outside. I handed her the bag and she asked, “Do you want to wait until I make sure this is the right item?”
I rolled up my window and gunned the minivan toward freedom. I turned off my cell phone and hid for the rest of the day. That’s a little thing I like to call success.