Thursday, June 26, 2008

Don't Tell Your Wife Anything

I called my wife before I left work. I’m not sure why I did this. Maybe it was out of courtesy. Maybe it’s a habit my mom beat into my head when I was a kid. Or maybe I’m just not that bright.

I think it’s the last one.

“I’m going to the grocery store on my way home,” I told her.

That was simple enough, right? A guy saying ‘I’m going to the store’ usually means ‘I’m out of beer.’ Everyone knows that.

“Great,” she said. “Do you have a pen? We need a few things …”

There’s a guy rule, an important guy rule, designed to protect ourselves from our own stupidity – don’t tell your wife you’re going anywhere.

I haven’t learned that rule yet.

To a man, “I’m going to the store” is a declarative sentence – nothing else. There’s nothing to “I’m going to the store” that means anything other than “I’m going to the store.” To a wife it’s an invitation.

“We need M&Ms, raisins, pretzels and almond bark,” she said. “Got that?”

“Yeah, yeah, honey,” I bumbled. “I got it.”

I actually like going to the grocery store. It’s a big, friendly building with meat, cheese and smiling people who say things like “good day” and “may I help you?” It’s like a tiny Wisconsin. But I don’t like to grocery shop – it’s work.

The cart thumped as I wheeled it through the store. I had almost everything on the list – beer, pretzels, M&Ms and raisins. The words “almond bark” sat on the list all smug and confident in the knowledge that I didn’t know what it was. I think it even gave me the finger.

I pointed the cart down the aisle labeled “baking” and went in. Like most guys, I don’t bake; I cook. Baking is as alien to me as a triffid, that’s why almond bark must be for baking. As I went down the aisle, reading the strange names on strange packages, I might as well have been in the cantina scene in “Star Wars.”

Then I found it. Almond bark.

Wait a second. There’s white and there’s brown? Two types? There are TWO types of almond bark? She didn’t say anything about two types? What do I …

“You look lost,” a female voice said. I turned toward a grandmotherly woman who’d stopped beside me and frowned.

“Yes, I am,” I said. “If you sent your husband to the grocery store for almond bark, what would you want him to bring home?”

She lifted a big bar of white something off the shelf and plopped it into my hand.

“This one,” she said, smiling like I’d just done something really cute … and by “cute” I mean “stupid.”

I thanked her, paid for the groceries and went home. My wife wanted the brown kind.

Ladies, there’s a simple solution to this problem – don’t ask your husband to do anything. Oh, sure, an equally simple solution might be to give him a more detailed list, but that’s too much like nagging.

So, when you get the urge to ask your husband to pick up something from the store, stop, understand the fact that him bringing home the wrong thing is worse then him bringing home nothing, and go to the store yourself. That way everyone’s happy.

Copyright 2008 by Jason Offutt

Jason’s book of ghost stories, “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to the Show-Me State’s Most Spirited Spots,” is available at, or Visit Jason’s Web site,, for his other books.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

A Vacation's Nothing Without Work

Vacation. A word so sweet your triglycerides rose to the level of Jabba the Hutt’s just by reading it. So, please, go to the emergency room – now.

Yeah, vacation is sweet, and I had five days of it. Five no-shavin’, no-workin’, no-thinkin’ days of lethargy and naps. I sat on the couch that Monday morning, a cup of coffee in my hand, when my vacation turned into one of those vacations you see in movies where everyone’s ankles are chained together and they’re busting rocks in front of a guy holding a shotgun.

“Bye, honey,” my wife said as she did a strafing run through the living room on her way to work, pulling the front door shut behind her so quickly I barely heard the words that would doom my vacation much like ‘I’ll have to raise taxes’ doomed Walter Mondale’s 1984 presidential campaign … by the way, he lost. “Have a great day. There’s a list on the kitchen table. I love you.”

Slam. Tap, tap, tap. Click. Vroom. Slam. Zip. … And she was gone.

Sure, I’ll have a great day. A great day of reruns, frozen pizza and … a list? A list? I’m on vacation and I have a list?

There are very few lists that can bring fear into the soul of someone who was planning to have a couple of beers during “Gilligan’s Island” that afternoon. The Shopping List (not “a” shopping list, The Shopping List. The one where your wife asks you to buy Tampons), Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s list of communist sympathizers, and the Mob’s hit list are nothing compared to a list your wife makes and drops on your head the first day of vacation.

I looked at the table. A piece of paper was propped against the saltshaker. As I approached the list, I could tell the message wasn’t going to be good – she’d used red ink.

Jason’s To-Do List By FRIDAY.

Great, I love deadlines, especially those written with letters shaped like little daggers.

1. Power wash the house.

2. Patch the sidewalk.

3. Wash the carpets.

4. Move the heaviest thing we own to the basement.

5. Move the second heaviest thing we own from the basement.

6. Mow the lawn.

8. Write treatise on the eternal struggle between good and evil through the eyes of Hannah Montana.

9. Pave the driveway.

10. Pull the Earth’s orbit closer to the Sun. We’re having the Smiths over for a barbecue this weekend and I’d like the weather to be nice.

Wow, that’ll take my whole vacation.

Guys, we really need to take back our vacations and our own manliness. Our days of earned sloth should not be wasted repairing the house and performing preventative automotive maintenance. We’re men, and we’ll get to it right after the ballgame.

There. I feel better. I’m going to make my own list, starting with No. 1: Be a man. I’ll work on that next week, after I figure out how to pull the Earth out of orbit.

Copyright 2008 by Jason Offutt

Jason’s book of ghost stories, “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to the Show-Me State’s Most Spirited Spots,” is available at, or Visit Jason’s Web site,, for his other books.