I prefer my life to have a routine. When I go to sleep at night I have a pretty good idea of what the next day will include, and though some unexpected things always arise, I manage them because the framework of my day generally goes as planned.
The holidays wreak havoc on my routine, and when my routine is lost I don’t function the way I am used to and I make more mistakes than I commonly expect. This holiday season was one of my worst in memory and included a guffaw that was one of the worst I have ever committed (which I will share with you next week, since pride and self-respect have little place when the idiocy reaches this magnitude – stay tuned).
One of the things I like to do when the holidays come around is to look back at columns I have written about my family and when I started to look back this year I immediately chanced upon the column that follows, which originally appeared during the holiday season of 1999 in the pages of the Door Reminder. You will see, given the paragraphs above, why I found it so aptly appropriate for my current state of mind.
The Time: Wednesday morning, approximately 7:30 am.
The Place: The bathroom of our house.
The Setting: Having just loosened my joints and washed the sleep from my brain in a scalding shower, I am sitting on the toilet operating on a particularly stubborn piece of cuticle located on the big toe of my right foot. Various implements for such a procedure are arrayed on the sink counter adjacent to where I sit. I am deep in concentration.
ENTER Andrew, approximately 44” tall, weighing almost 46 pounds, still in his pajamas despite my early urging to get dressed.
Andrew (in a tone that is a mix of mockery and scolding): Dad, you dink!
Me: What did I do now?
Andrew: Your column.
Me: You didn’t like what I wrote?
Andrew: You wrote it wrong.
Me (looking up for the first time, while still holding a probe in my right hand): Pardon me?
Andrew: It’s not “Barb and I”! You should have wrote “Barb and me.” You dink.
Me (slightly ashamed, while partly annoyed): Oh. I’m sorry. (Andrew turns to leave, but I continue). By the way, Andrew, it’s not “should have wrote,” it’s “should have written.”
Andrew (continuing out the door): Dink. Dink. Dink. Dink. Dink.
The Time: Wednesday evening, approximately 6:30 pm
The Place: The living room of our house.
The Setting: Andrew and I are on the floor having just completed a third game of Candyland. He is upset because I have just won three games in a row in slightly more than 10 minutes. I am trying to explain that Candyland involves nothing more than luck and that since he annihilated me earlier in Memory, a game that requires a great deal of skill and concentration, he should be proud rather than upset. Andrew is inconsolable. The phone rings and I welcome the interruption. It’s my daughter Molly.
Molly: Hi, Daddy.
Me (Rising from the floor to the couch.): Hi, Sweetheart. What a nice surprise. What’s up?
Molly: Guess what, Dad.
Me (Battling with Andrew who now, having realized that Molly is on the phone, is attempting to wrest the receiver from my hand): I don’t know, kiddo. Tell me.
Molly: I got extra credit in English class today.
Me (Holding Andrew at arm’s length which he delights in struggling against.): So how did that happen?
Molly: Well, I printed out your column that you emailed me. We’ve been talking about proper pronoun use in English class and I showed your column to my teacher and she said it was an excellent example of how not to write. So I got extra credit.
Me (feeling extraordinarily sheepish): Gee, Molly, that’s wonderful. Here’s Andrew.
The Time: Thursday, approximately 4:30 p.m.
The Place: The Bookstore
The Setting: I have just made a fresh pot of coffee and am sitting down behind the counter to try my hand at a game of FreeCell on the computer. The phone rings. It is my nephew, Taylor.
Taylor: Uncle Dave [Note: the short explanation for calling me Dave is that Taylor has two “Uncle Steves.”], when you don’t know whether to use me or I try putting the pronoun at the front of the sentence. That way you won’t goof up. You even wrote about that once in one of your columns.
Me: You’re right, of course, Tay. But what about Antonio’s line in The Merchant of Venice where Shakespeare writes, “All debts are clear’d between you and I, if I might but see you at my death.”
Taylor: You’re not Shakespeare, Uncle Dave.
Erin (my niece who, unbeknownst to me, is on the other line at my sister’s house and has been listening to the conversation): No, Unca Dave. You’re a dink, just like Andrew says.
The Time: Thursday evening, approximately 7:30 pm.
The Place: One end of the living room in our house.
The Setting: Feeling properly humbled by recent events, I am sitting at the computer doing bookkeeping work for the store when the phone rings. This time it is my nephew, Joshua, the eldest (11 years of age) of my sister Alison’s boys.
Joshua: Uncle Steve, I just read your newest column and I saw that you…
Me (interrupting): I already know, Josh. I wrote Barb and I when I should have written Barb and me.
Joshua (after a short pause): Do they [the Door Reminder] pay you for your columns?
Me: Yes, Josh, they do.
Joshua: Do they pay you even when you make stupid mistakes?
Me: I guess that depends on the mistake.
Joshua: Did they pay you for this column?
Me: Yes, they did.
Joshua (this time after a longer pause): Maybe you should give the money back.
Well, folks, despite the suggestion, I’m not going to give the money back. After this past week, however, I am seriously considering changing my internet alias to “Dink.”