Someone should write a book, a man preferably, about all the silly little things married couples quibble over. Toothpaste squeezing, smacking gum, rolling eyes, not listening, watching too much sports, cross-dipping tortilla chips and not turning off lights when you leave rooms would be just a short list of topics that could be covered in the book in great detail. If the book would be authored by the male of the species, I would be mostly if not entirely in agreement with its findings and conclusions.
There's one other discussion you could include in that book: toilet paper. Specifically, when and how to properly put toilet paper on the holder. I never saw this as a problem until about a week ago, when Karen, who I thought I knew after 25 years, came in and said, "I can't believe guys don't put the roll of toilet paper on the holder. Do you just not know how it's done? Are all men lacking the gene that relates to toilet paper holders?"
Well, I hadn't seen this one coming. But when she said it, it sounded like a challenge. I could engage and win the argument (likely), engage and lose (much more likely) or just egg her on for sport for a few minutes (preferable).
I strolled into the bathroom to view my offense. I had, as she had intimated, left the toilet paper on the back of the tank, easily reachable by anyone with any semblance of dexterity. Storing a new roll of TP on the back of the toilet tank until it has reached a point where it can successfully be pulled from the roll without interruption or breakage is simply a matter of male practicality, apparently a gene women don't possess. The way Karen views it is that my way messes up the general prettiness and lady-li-ness of the bathroom. Yet, how can you explain to a wife more bent on pretty than practical that now that we have changed brands and purchased the new "SuperMega Roll" of Charmin it doesn't fit on the roll right at first. If you put it on the roll right out of the bag, it only comes off one square at a time for a couple of days. It can be quite frustrating.
I have discussed this issue with several friends and a few women on my Facebook (facebook.com/jimmy.patterson2) and have received responses back that neatly and predictably follow gender lines. The men understand where I am coming from. The women have already gone from discussing how dumb and lazy men can be, and that's fine if they want to drop it to that level, to downright nasty, such as one woman who told my wife, "You CAN break old habits: Just secretly remove the toilet paper from the bathroom and don't respond to any pleas for help for at least five minutes."
(Five minutes? What's the rush, ladies?)
I was amused with some of the responses given by some of my guy friends when I asked them about the whole toilet paper controversy:
"There's a place that holds toilet paper?"
"Wait ... you mean the toilet paper roll doesn't go on the plunger stick next to the tank?"
"The solution is separate bathrooms."
"All guys know that you place the roll on the back of the toilet by the fake flowers the wife put there as decoration. Problem is when it's on the holder and you go to change it, the spring-loaded holder pops out rendering two pieces that fall on the floor behind the toilet. To crawl around on the floor trying to find the spring leaves us feeling, well, vulnerable."
My late grandma Gaga had a homemade TP holder. It was a round piece of wood with a round rod that stuck up out of it. She sat it on the floor next to the toilet. When Pawpaw was done, he leaned over and put the TP on the homemade holder. Gaga was a genius and she understood men.
But there aren't too many Gagas anymore, and it's frankly another unwinnable argument for men. We were put on this earth to submit to our wives desires for a tidy nest. If we do that, there are, well, rewards. At least, ladies, that's how we can justify this sort of submissive behavior to ourselves. So men, just do what your wife says and put the TP where it belongs. You can thank me later.
Besides, the where-to-put-the-toilet-paper argument is much preferable to the one about whether to load the toilet paper where it comes off over the roll or under the roll. If your wife starts in on you about that, she's just egging you on for sport.
BIG DAY FOR ME: Got my first edition of AARP Magazine. And just my luck: It's the swimsuit edition... ... THANK
YOU SIR MAY I HAVE ANOTHER: Went to a party last night. A guy, an older
guy maybe 60, standing next to me, strikes up a conversation about age.
He says, "All through your 40s, that's definitely middle age, but when you turn
50, boy that's different.
When you turn 50, intellectually you KNOW that no matter when you end
up dying, you are probably more than halfway to being to that day." ... Waiter?
Drink please? Make it a double. ... OLD YOU SAY? The Beatles' "Abbey Road" was released 40 years ago this month.
It happened somewhere near mile marker 192, on Interstate 20 between Big Spring and Coahoma. Karen and I were returning from a week away from home. We were tired. Perhaps not thinking clearly or knowing exactly what it was we were saying.
"That's a real nice rest stop," I said, pointing to the facilities east of the Spring City that serve westbound travelers.
"I like the one with the tornado shelter between Canyon and Lubbock," she said.
"I guess one of my favorites is the rest stop north of San Angelo.
"Yeah, that's a nice one, too," she said.
It's true. My wife an I were actually engaged in a conversation about our favorite highway rest stops. Excuse me ... I have been warned: Notable rest areas, not "favorites," Karen said.
However you choose to dress it up, we were still debating good and bad bathrooms. And it dawned on me right then: Oh Lord ... I am 50, aren't I?
A small chill in my backbone made me shake a little all over. I am not handling The Downhill Side well at all, and it's only been six days.
Jack Mayberry, a Lubbock-based comedian who was in town earlier this year to open for Bill Engvall at the Children's Rehab Center fundraiser put 50 as funny as I've heard it put:
"Fifty," Jack said, "is when you go from mildly interesting to creepy old guy."
That, my friends, will make you shake a little all over.
I have received massive doses of sympathy from people much younger than I, and gnarly smirks from all my really old geezer friends who tell me I have nothing to complain about so I should just give it a rest and grow up.
Perhaps being 50 is why I had my sudden urge to attend the Bob Dylan-Willie Nelson-John Mellencamp concert in Lubbock this weekend. Three guys whose combined age is 201, yet they are all somehow still able to saunter around stage. Or maybe just stand still on stage when their vertigo kicks in.
I have noticed that, oddly enough, multitasking is easier at 50, simply for the reason that you are often no longer capable of doing multiple things at the same time. You do one. And then you do something else. And when you are finished with that, you do something else. Easy. Like in the olden days. Before there was such a thing as multitasking.
Fifty also means you have more friends than your 15-year-old son on Facebook, which is actually one of the benefits of getting old. It's true: We old dudes are taking over the whole social media thing. It's easy, it makes us feel good about ourselves, and it's only on places like Facebook that we can click a button and become a fan of fiber.
Just six days after I hit 50, I went to my mailbox and found what I had been dreading: my application to join AARP. I was really hoping that when I reached this age I would receive a medal or a trophy or something. Not a piece of laminated plastic I shove in my wallet and pull out when I don't have quite enough pennies left over at the end of the paycheck to pay for a bran muffin.
So, hey, AARP? Bring it. I'm ready. Any magazine that has Opie on the cover is good enough for me. There'll be a lot of interesting articles, and plenty of cents off coupons for my first jumbo bag of Depends.
Fifty also means a change in dietary habits. My personal daily dietary chart is this: 5:30 p.m. -- Deadline for eating Mexican or Italian. 6:00 p.m. -- Deadline for BBQ. 6:30 p.m. -- Deadline for IHOP (unless dinner is the South of the Border Omelette, then it's back to 4:30 p.m.) 7:00 p.m. -- Sweets high in fat content. 8:00 p.m. -- Bowl of porridge in recliner watching Larry King.
Hearing all this, my wife snidely sits in a corner, laughing and generally being pompously in her late 40s.
"You live with a 50 year old," I reminded her. "That makes you an honorary geezer. If you're not nice to me, I'll slip a laxative into your energy drink and drop you off at the Dairy Queen in Roscoe, missy."
When I was a kid growing up in Dallas-Fort Worth, it was not an
uncommon occasion for me to get in the car every morning and flip to
KVIL, one of the most memorable radio juggernauts of the 1970s and
1980s in DFW. They ran a tight ship during those years when they were
the highest billing station in the country. They were led by the
inimitable Ron Chapman, a radio talent for whom there was no equal.
Every morning, Ron would welcome onto the program his traffic
reporter, who started out in a helicopter and finished her days out at
the station in the KVIL van (the KVIYellow Van as it was known). Suzie
opened her reports with a healthy dose of great morning-drive humor
before she talked traffic. Ron, now retired from radio, and Suzie
worked so well together that 20 years later, I still remember the
laughter, the eye-rolling and the head shaking comedy, and marvel at
what was perfect broadcast harmony; I've never heard its equal.
Ron and Suzie
excelled at comedic timing, their humor was never off-putting or
off-color and they simply dominated the market. So much so that, I hope
I remember this story correctly, one time just to see what would
happen, Chapman placed an ad in the Dallas Morning News that said
simply, "Last chance to send in $20," just to see how many people would
be lured by the power of suggestion and of course the power of the
press. As I recall, KVIL raised something like $20,000, all of which
was given to charitable organizations in Dallas. It was a great stunt,
one in which I think Chapman said only one or two people had demanded
their money back.
I never met Ron Chapman, but he would remain
high on any list of people I would want to sit and talk to. I had that
chance with Suzie last week, and she was frankly just as I had
imagined. As down-home and as friendly as she was on the radio 30 years ago.
She took several minutes away from a lunch that was growing colder by
the minute just to say hello and remember those days in Dallas. And then Suzie got up on stage at the Midland Center and
knocked 'em dead. For more than a half hour, she conveyed stories and
the type of humor that made her who she was -- and is: a fine person
and a great storyteller ... sort of Texas' own Erma Bombeck, a comment that is I'm sure not an original.
If you have five
or six minutes, click on the video up top and listen to Suzie talk about
her first day in the KVIL traffic helicopter, one of the funniest
stories I've ever heard.
it was a pleasure to meet you Suzie, thanks for visiting Midland and making our day.
I am not a good traveler. You should know that about me up front. I love to travel, I’m just not very good at it. Every time I go somewhere, anywhere -- around the block or across the state or country -- I forget something. It’s normally my toothbrush. On those occasions when I do remember my toothbrush, nine times out of 10 it’s as I am walking out the door and so I will just shove it in my back pocket where it will stay for the duration of the journey. But I remembered my toothbrush earlier this week when I went to Houston on business. I just forgot toothpaste. I figured, no big deal, I’m staying in a ritzy hotel, they’ll have complimentary toothpaste for people like me. No worries. Actually, no. No toothpaste at the ritzy hotel. Neither the complimentary kind, or the $10 emergency tube you normally find in hotel gift shops. The hotel where I stayed was undergoing renovations and apparently you can’t sell toothpaste and tidy the place up at the same time. This place actually had no gift shop. So in order to compensate for no gift shop and the fix ups everywhere, they offer all their guests free booze every night from 5:30-8 as a way of saying “We’re sorry, pardon our mess.’ That’s great and all, but if you forgot your toothbrush, well, y’know how you’ll smell the next day if you’ve had free drinks. Not good. But the lack of toothpaste was just the beginning of my worries. It started with my little dance through airport security Tuesday morning. I packed myself this trip. Bad thing. I was forced to surrender my deodorant, my hair spray (hey, it’s windy in West Texas, something’s gotta hold it down) and my eyeglass cleaner, because those items weren’t in a plastic bag. The security guy asked me if I wanted to throw them away or go check my bag. I looked downstairs at the line to check bags. “Just toss ‘em,” I said. No way was I standing in that line. One question I have before we move on: how come I have to keep my deodorant locked in plastic, but it’s OK for my razor to roam freely about my suitcase? Not gettin’ that. Not gettin’ that at all. When the plane landed in Houston, my phone goes nuts with text messages. One is from my wife. “Lks like u 4got ur hairbrush,” she wrote, trying to feel 20 again by texting like other 20 year olds. I texted her back. “4got hairspray 2. Not a good strt.” So my trip began with no means of simple personal hygienic maintenance items on several fronts. By the end of the trip, I would be sweaty, my breath would stink, I’d have fly-away hair and I’d be essentially blind. And I was expected to learn a few pointers and be inspired at the meeting I was going to? Not happenin'. After an afternoon and evening of somehow making it without the basic essentials in life and no gift shop or nearby drug store, I studied my alternatives. I figured Wednesday morning I could just get up, chew a bunch of gum and wear my “Life is Good” cap to cover my nasty unruly hair. (And what a professional image that would leave with my peers and coworkers, none of whom I had ever actually met until this little soiree.) Like I really cared. With dirty glasses, I couldn’t see the looks they'd be giving me anyway. Don’t feel bad for me. As I say, this is all very routine. My reason for coming clean about it is because the next time I go out in public, far away from the comforts of my own home, you’ll understand if you see me walking around with a toothbrush in my back pocket. Now, you wont have to ask and it’ll save us both a lot of embarrassment if we don’t have to actually discuss it.
Earlier this week, my wife called me. She asked me if I'd received a call from our middle child. I had not had the pleasure.
That was all Karen said and that was all the hint I needed to know that there was something goin' on that nobody wanted Dad to know about.
"Nothing. It's nothing." She said.
That was hint No. 2.
"No, what is it?"
"What's going on, really?"
She repeatedly sidestepped my questions as I continued to try to find out what it was that was wrong with our daughter. Had she had a wreck? Told her mother she was going to run off and get married? Had she lost her job? Become a dancer? An actress? Taken a job in the oilfield???
Bunches of scenarios ran through my mind, obviously the worst kinda stuff a dad can imagine.
I finally wore Karen down to a nub and she was forced to spill all she knew.
"SHE CALLED AND HER CAR WON'T START AND WE DON'T KNOW WHAT'S WRONG WITH IT, ALL RIGHT!!!"
I paused for a moment.
"Oh, Is THAT all?"
There is a case to be made for always thinking the worst first. It can often soften the blow when the real news is dished out. "Oh, well it's probably a dead battery, maybe an alternator. It's fine. We'll get it fixed."
Karen looked at me with a touch of incredulity in her eyes. Incredulity is not something you normally want to GET in your eyes necessarily but sometimes the winds kick up and there's no stopping it.
"What is WRONG with you?"
"It's just a little deal. No big deal. We'll get it fixed. We'll just get 'er done, y'know?"
But in fact Karen did not know because I had never reacted like this to news of a dying automobile. I have over the years tended to, shall we say, freak totally out over news that costs pretty much any amount of money. And when you pick up the phone and you're the dad and the handler of money -- the operations director, the CFO of the family -- any news that will cost money that you don't wanna spend is not usually met with a Woo-Hoo! And I have, let's just say, made that fairly well known during my years as a dad. To the point, I guess, that finally the children really began to dread calling me and telling me anything unless it was good. And so they have finally discovered there's a way around the agony of dealing with dad.
Nowadays (and here's the payoff for all those years of yelling and whining), anything less than pay raises or A's on a report cards or being pulled over because they're a courteous driver, now goes through a buffer: Karen, my sweet, special other half, has become my human filter.
I have apparently over-reacted to bad news and news that was gonna cost me money for so many years that no longer do my grown children choose to come to me first. And it is now safer for me -- and them -- to pick up the phone and call their mama.
Just as I had planned all along. I'm just sorry it took so long for them to figure it all out.