Saturday, May 21, 2005

Objects at Rest

Deftly opening the car door with my toes, I dumped a full armload of errands-to-be onto the passenger seat. There were library books, dry-cleaning, shoes for re-heeling, a whisk, gym clothes, a bag of magazines for my mother -- all familiar Saturday morning cargo. I went around to the driver’s side, got in and started the car. Only then did I glance over and notice I had brought in a whisk. I had no errands which involved a whisk. I couldn’t even imagine an errand which would involve a whisk. Why had it been in my hands? I solved this mystery in about a second: it had been in the bathroom, and I had picked it up a few minutes earlier meaning to put it in the kitchen, but had forgotten and walked out with it insinuated in the pile of car stuff.

I puzzled while I drove. Why had the whisk been in the bathroom? It took a couple of minutes but I suddenly remembered: two nights before, I had been in the kitchen making dinner while Daughter took her bath when I was urgently summoned to witness the conceptual art installation Naked Barbie Riding My Little Pony around the Edge of the Bathtub. I must have taken it in with me then.

But why on earth was I holding it in the kitchen? My dinner preparation doesn’t involve a whisk, unless a whisk could be used to open a cardboard box of veggie burgers. The mystery of the whisk deepened. I drove onward. Finally, a dim memory from the past worked its way up: while making dinner, I had gone in to the laundry room to check the clothes in the dryer. I had found the whisk sitting on the top of the cat food container. I had picked it up, with every intention of taking it to live in the room Nature intended for it, when I was called to the bathroom.

I hear your next question. Was I preparing a meringue for the cat? I don’t believe so but, sadly, we may never know. My brain refused to give me any more information. I looked down at the whisk, resting innocently in the passenger seat, and said sadly “Oh, if only you could talk”.

Of course, what it would probably say is, “Knowing these people, I’ll be here at least a week”.

We have a terribly malady in our house. I call it Horizontals. Anything with a flat, bare horizontal surface gives the members of my family respiratory problems until we stack something on it. The thing should then remain on that surface long enough for a guest to think it’s a design statement.

For example, there is a bench in our bedroom. It’s in the bedroom because I couldn’t think of anywhere else to put it when we moved in, and no one I knew wanted it. The bench looks like it may have come from a railway station in Cambodia. It has ornately carved arms and a delicate curve to its back. I have no idea what the seat looks like because it has been shrouded in folded laundry for five years.

Since laundry is an ongoing story in our house (a soap opera, if you will), it doesn’t matter if I were to hiss at Consort, “please put away your clothes or I am going to set them on fire.” This wouldn’t help because while he is finally putting away the last of his t-shirts, I am bringing in a new load of clean laundry to re-supply the bench. Some of you might ask, so why don’t I just put all the clothing right away, having gotten it from the laundry room to the bedroom? Why? Because I, too, suffer from Horizontals, and I have grown accustomed to dressing myself from the bench. What this lacks in designer aesthetic, it makes up for in practical inventory management.

Ideally, we like to stack a lot of something, but we also appreciate the random still-life of completely unrelated items. The tweezers and masonry bit currently sitting next to the whisk in my passenger seat will attest to that.

In my case, my habit of leaving things to be moved later stems from having grown up in an unusually-shaped house. It was not a big house but, having been constructed up a steep Hollywood hillside, it was tall. Five stories tall, in fact. So if I collected all the coffee cups on my bedroom floor, but didn’t feel motivated for the two flights down/two flights back up round-trip, it was perfectly acceptable to leave them neatly stacked at the top of the stairs to be taken down in shifts. Today, when I leave something on a horizontal surface, it’s supposed to be regarded as a mental Post-It — Hi! Put me with my friends! Of course, what happens is that I see the object and think “Huh. A three-hole punch on the stove top. I should really take that in the office”. But since my brain works like a perpetually inverted Etch-a-Sketch, all I have to do is take one step and the idea leaves my head, slamming the screen door behind it.

Consort stacks things on horizontal surfaces because he seems to draw comfort from knowing that if the wall between the laundry room and the rest of the house were to collapse, and he was trapped in the rubble, he could still paper-clip 750 items and floss while waiting for help.

Daughter stacks things because, poor misguided soul, she thinks that’s what makes her a member of this family.

The only thing saving the cat and dog from Horizontals is lack of opposable thumbs. It’s hard to move winter sweaters to the coffee table with only your teeth.

As with many family eccentricities, Horizontals harms no one; well no one but visitors to our home who are soothed by order. Speaking of visitors, I might suggest you never try Downward-facing Dog or tying your shoes while in our house. Before you can stand up, your back will be home to a peanut-butter sandwich, February’s credit card receipts, and a radiator cap.

4 Comments:

Blogger Jan said...

Too funny. I'm laughing out loud.

The official name for this "malady" is "domestic drift." Our household suffers, too. Of course, I think I am the only person entitled to the illness. In all others who reside with me it is highly annoying.

7:18 PM  
Blogger Quinn Cummings said...

Dear Jan,
I love the phrase "Domestic Drift", but I am concerned that if I use it in public, people will think Consort and I have agreed to start dating other people.

7:25 PM  
Blogger Meredith said...

This would explain the cordless phone casually tossed in my car's back seat.
Thanks for this! It's eleven o'clock and I can't stop giggling.

8:38 PM  
Anonymous Gina said...

Confess: you've been to my house, haven't you?

In our bedroom, the Cambodian bench is a (supposedly) 19th-century (supposedly) Russian wedding chest, which looks lovely at the end of the bed. Or did, until my husband's gym clothes took up residence there.

I've given up trying to figure out how the toenail clippers wound up on the kitchen counter.

12:57 PM  

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