Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I hope Anita's got my back when the African rock pythons get here...

When I opened my eyes last Sunday morning, I found myself looking at a picture of a yard trimmer.

Anita was reading The Family Handyman in bed while she waited for me to get up.

Other women read Cosmo and Vogue and Glamour; Anita reads The Family Handyman and Consumer Reports and Forbes.

Other women read about how to make their men happy and where to buy three pair of shoes for the price of one and when to break out the bikini; Anita reads about how to change a circuit breaker and when’s the best time to fund a Roth IRA and why Jenn-Air appliances and granite countertops are the top choices of kitchen remodelers.

Other women jump out of bed and get their showers out of the way and head to the mall or the cafĂ© to meet their girlfriends; Anita waits for me to wake up so we can decide how to spend our day together. (This is on weekends when the kids aren’t with us; when they’re here she’s out of bed and making breakfast, noisily, by 6:30 a.m. at the latest.)

Other women feel threatened and insecure when they catch their men appreciating the beauty of other females; Anita bought me a copy of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition one time.

We took the kids over to Anita’s mom’s for dinner the other night – she lives just five miles away – and after we finished eating we gathered in the family room and turned on the TV. The kids and I started to get into a show on Animal Planet about African rock pythons threatening Miami. I couldn’t really hear, though, because Nani (Hindi for “grandmother”) kept saying things to Anita in Hindi as they occurred to her. They would only occur to her during the show, not during the commercials, and mostly at the exact same moment the narrator was imparting a significant fact such as, “The African rock python has been known to COULDN’T HEAR THE REST” or “If you actually run across an African rock python, you’re advised to COULDN’T HEAR THE REST.” Since Nani doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Hindi, for all I know she might have been telling us that we’re supposed to stop, drop and roll if attacked by an African rock python. It’s more likely she was asking Anita how to change a circuit breaker.

After several minutes of this, I excused myself, went out to the van and waited for Anita and the kids to appear. When they did, I expected Anita to be irritated that I had abandoned my family over a silly reason like not being able to understand the television or the mother-in-law, but she just smiled, shrugged her shoulders and said, “That’s my mom.”

I had a minor altercation at the customer service counter – and I use “service” loosely here – at Meijer the other day. I wanted to pick up a Mega Millions ticket or two since winning the lottery is my retirement plan. The number of employees behind the counter was insufficient, as usual, to promptly serve the number of customers on the other side and I could feel myself aging as I waited in line.
And waited. And waited.

After ten minutes or so, I forced a smile on my face and loudly asked Anita, who was waiting ten or fifteen feet away, if there wasn’t a time limit for customers monopolizing the employees (a woman who was trying to return an item clearly didn’t like what she was being told and was going back and forth trying to persuade the employee to see things her way). Instead of helping to end the negotiations, though, I incurred the wrath of the twenty-year-old punk behind the counter who said something about me being rude and needing to wait my turn. I responded that I’d be glad to show her what “rude” really is but then I left the line and headed for the door, assuming Anita was right behind me.

I stormed outside and waited for her...and waited…and waited…and was just starting to think I’d never escape from the Black Hole of Meijer that I had apparently fallen into when she appeared. I expected her to be irritated that I couldn’t just keep my mouth shut and grow a beard in line like every other guy but it turns out she spoke with one manager, then another, about the need for Meijer to teach its employees what “customer service” means and pointed out that our family of six spends a pretty penny at Meijer every week and that twenty-year-old punk behind the counter shouldn’t have spoken to me that way and we’re just going to buy our two Mega Millions tickets somewhere else. So there.

It’s a good feeling when your partner has your back.

Remember that Enjoli perfume commercial from 30 years ago with the beautiful woman who brings home the bacon, fries it up in a pan, and never, never lets her guy forget he’s a man? That’s Anita.

Maybe other women are with men who're too stupid to understand how fortunate they are but Anita isn’t. I thank my lucky stars every day.


  1. First things first - you weren't being rude, you were being passive-aggressive. The terms are not interchangeable.

    Women will adore you for this post. It's very "new-age-nineties-guy" sensitive. That's a good thing. I'm sure a lot of relationships would survive longer if men were more forthcoming about their feelings like this. And if more women permitted men to be who and what they are in an atmosphere of absolute safety. There's a lesson here for both genders.

    Guys, especially guys who are "partnered" as my New York Friend Suzi describes it, will despise you for it. Their partners will wonder why THEY never say tender and insightful things like this, let alone post them online for an entire world to see. Some of those partners will wonder this loudly and repetitively. These guys won't have a response because, in all candor, they don't understand what the problem is.

    Men, on the other hand, will understand fully and appreciate it. We're not threatened by things like this and we'll forgive you for the undertone of smug self-satisfaction that's fairly dripping off of every word.

    Finally, Anita's response to your unfortunate Meijer's incident was the correct one. It's called "escalating" in the customer service world. If you have problems with front-line staff, take it to someone with some decision-making authority. Let the 20-year-old get back to the mind-numbing boredom of his job. He hasn't time to worry about why the woman at the counter can't understand why he can't refund her money because she's already eaten the ice cream and just brought back the empty carton, or why the mean old man in the line had to be a smartass in his moment of maximum frustration.

    I like Anita a lot already, and I've never met her.