Thursday, June 9, 2022

So, now you want my car?


 

Carolyn J. Rose

 

There were many times when I viewed relationships with car dealers as falling somewhere between feigned friendship, tepidly adversarial, and locked in a duel to the death. Even if I was only accompanying a friend who was just looking around a lot, I had to psych myself up for the ordeal. I dreaded encounters with salespeople hungry to make a quota. I felt like an overfed guppy tossed into a tank swirling with sharks.

 

These days it seems car dealers are the guppies. And, while I don’t feel like a shark, I do feel like I’m holding a fresh container of fish food above the tank.

 

My car is a 2016 Toyota Rav4 with less than 35,000 miles on it. Due to pandemic workforce disruption, shortages, and supply chain issues, it’s become popular. It’s so popular it could run for political office. And win. It could be president. Or at least prom queen.

 

I get regular offers for amazing trade-in allowances, bonuses, and incredible deals on my next vehicle. But I’m not in the market for another vehicle.

 

If such offers had come in for that green Volkswagen Rabbit I owned in the 70s, I wouldn’t have dickered for a second. If dealers had wanted the Datsun F-10 or the Ford Escort this badly, I would have lunged at the deal without a moment’s hesitation. But it was a different market then. The offers, especially by today’s standards, were laughable. Still, I accepted them.

 

I haggled some over the aging Jeep Cherokee I inherited from my father 20 years ago and the Corolla I owned after that. They were solid vehicles in good shape and I knew their value. The deals I settled for were sound, but not as stratospheric as the one I might make these days.

 

Now, because my car is so popular, I can be picky. In fact, I can be as picky as a cat served cheap store-brand food. I can be as picky as a toddler selecting a story to delay bedtime, as picky as a bride seeking dresses that guarantee bridesmaids won’t upstage her. I can set a whole new level of picky. And I can enjoy the heck out of it.

 

And, despite my pickiness, car dealers will probably still get in line to “be my friend” and wrap their hands around the steering wheel of my car.

 

In the past, I’ve never put a price on friendship. But these are weird times. If the offers keep coming and the numbers keep rising . . . Well, who knows?

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Soupy Sez



 

SOUPY SEZ

 

         Marco Conway climbed the stairs to his floor, muscles screaming with the effort. It wasn’t fair. He was only seventy-two. Even ordinary tasks exhausted him these days. Walking to the convenience store for the paper. Bending over to tie his shoes. Getting old sucked donkey dongs.

As he huffed and puffed to the third-floor landing, something caught his eye. A rectangle of cardboard about the size of a playing card fluttered in the corner, kited by the air conditioner wind. There was a picture on one side and lettering on the other. He stooped, picked it up, and slid it into his shirt pocket. Some people, he thought. Can’t even be bothered to pick up their litter. He’d ash can it when he got to his place.

         There was an elevator but he refused to use it. That was giving up—giving in. He’d never been that kind of guy. Never allowed himself to admit weakness. Marco had always gone about his business, day in and day out, and shoved aside anything or anyone who got in his way. Get ’er done as that fat redneck comedian used to say.

         Marco made it to his floor, and groaned with the effort as he pulled on the handle to the compression-braked door. It made a hissing sound as he yanked and he felt a needlepoint of pain in his lower back. Aging. It wasn’t for sissies. On the other hand, it beat the alternative.

         He slid through the narrow opening he’d created and began the trek toward his apartment. “Fourth floor,” he announced. “Cosmetics, home appliances, women’s underwear, assisted living.” He snickered at the department store elevator joke. Just as well nobody heard me, he thought. I doubt anyone else would have gotten it. Or thought it was particularly funny.

         Shuffling down the hallway, he peeked into an open doorway. An elderly lady sat on a love seat, transfixed by something on television.

         “Mrs. Federico. How are you doing?” He stopped, stuck his head in and waited for her response.

         She looked at him blankly, as if struggling to remember who he was. But then her eyes lit up and she trilled. “Come in, handsome. Have a cup of tea. Or something stronger maybe?” She patted the seat beside her. “Come. Sit.”

         He thought about stopping. She’d made it clear she might welcome his spending some time in her bed. And she wasn’t a bad-looking old broad.

He needed to watch what he called people. Broad, apparently was politically incorrect.

“We could talk,” she crooned.

Bad idea, he thought. One thing would lead to another and that would make things really complicated and uncomfortable. Plus, despite the fact Lilian had been dead four years, he would feel disloyal.

         “Another time, Sal,” he called out and turned back to the hall. “I’ve got company coming. Gotta get ready.”

         “Whenever you want, Howard. Whenever you want.” She turned back to her program.

         Howard? Howard? Really? Did he look like a Howard? But he forgave her. He probably reminded her of someone from her past. Names in general tended to confound her. Along with muscles and eyesight, memory was the other thing that disintegrated. Luckily his was still razor sharp. He had no problem recalling his past and the people who had passed through it.

         Three doors further down, he put the key in the lock of number 417, opened it, walked in and closed it behind him. The room was warm, so he unbuttoned and peeled off his cardigan and hung it in the closet. Marco felt his bladder twinge and realized he needed to make for the bathroom. How many times was it today? Eight? Maybe nine? Sleeping through the night these days was out of the question. Maybe he should just give in and let them hook up a catheter.

He smiled a little at the picture that formed in his head. Lying on the bed hooked up to a device to let him water the weasel without getting up. No way. He’d jump out the window before he let that happen. Or maybe someone else would agree to put him out of his misery. Who knew? It could happen. 

         When he’d finished his task in front of the toilet bowl, Marco zipped up and turned to look at himself in the full-length mirror on the back of the bathroom door. Not too bad, really. He’d gained a few pounds but carried them fairly well. His face, while lined, didn’t scream “old fart.” His snow-white hair still flourished, neatly combed from the trim he’d gotten earlier.

“Thank you, gene pool.” His father Martin had passed away at 96 with a full head of hair.

Bobby did a good job with the scissors, he conceded. This place, while not his idea of a good time, had a competent barber. And the chow was okay, if a bit bland. He craved something spicy, Enchilada’s Suiza or a meatball grinder. Maybe Deidre would bring him one. Or, better yet, take him out to lunch. She was due before long.

“Don’t ever die you handsome devil,” he told the image in the mirror, then returned to the apartment’s small living room. Remembering the faded card he’d picked up, he pulled it out to examine it as he sat on the couch.

The black and white picture, crinkly and yellowed with age, was of a grinning man in a sweater with a white collar and a saggy polka dot bowtie. There was a name for that kind of neckwear, but Marco struggled to remember what it was.

He had no idea who the man was. Some manner of celebrity, obviously, but who . . . ? And who had dropped it? Someone who collected this kind of thing? Someone with warm recollections of a simpler time?

         He flipped the card over. In large white letters in a black box, the caption read. “IF YOU GET TIED UP ON THE PHONE”— Further down the punch line read: GET SOMEONE TO CUT YOU LOOSE!  Above the joke (even less funny than Marco’s department store announcement) was the attribution. SOUPY SEZ.

         He still couldn’t place it. Soupy? Soupy who? His eye scanned the card for a clue. Who names himself after chicken noodle? In tiny letters on the bottom was a copyright posting. Soupy Sales WMC.

         Soupy Sales. Of course. The kid’s show host. Dumb jokes and even dumber skits. The grinning jackal host talking to the paw of a furry white dog-like puppet he called “White Fang.” The cloth mongrel answered Soupy’s questions with a series of unintelligible grunts, growls, and snorts which the host translated for the audience. Christ. It had to have been fifty years since Soupy Sales was on TV. Someone in the assisted living complex must have been a big fan to hang on to this all this time. He flipped the card over.

         “IF YOU GET TIED UP ON THE PHONE—GET SOMEONE TO CUT YOU LOOSE!” Tied up. Phone. The image popped into his mind, as real as if it was happening right in front of him. “Laddy Rattigan,” Marco croaked. “You shoulda paid your gambling debts.” 

The vision hovered and vibrated in front of him. A dingy hotel room. A rat-faced man with a phone cord wrapped around his neck, panting and gasping, his face getting redder and redder as he tried to dig his fingernails under the cord that was strangling him.

         “GET SOMEONE TO CUT YOU LOOSE!

Another set of hands, twisted the cord tighter and tighter as Laddy Rattigan’s eyes bulged and he slumped to the floor. His tongue dangled from his mouth and a rivulet of drool seeped out and splashed on the floor. Laddy’s legs twitched once, twice, and then he went limp.

The killer yanked the cord in one more violent twist, then dropped it and reached for a nearby pillow. He pulled it over Rattigan’s face and applied downward pressure for several minutes. Just to be sure. No loose ends. Get ’er done.

“SOUPY SEZ—IF YOU GET TIED UP ON THE PHONE—GET SOMEONE TO CUT YOU LOOSE!

“Sorry, Laddy,” Marco muttered. “Just another day at the office.” He glanced at the card once more, then walked over, stepped on the foot pedal, and deposited it in the metal kitchen trash receptacle.

         His phone buzzed. He walked back to the living room and picked up the receiver.

         “Yeah,” he said.

         “Marco, it’s Barbara down at the desk. Your daughter Deidre is here. She says for you to grab a jacket. She’s taking you to lunch and it’s nippy out there.”

         “Tell her I’ll be right down.”

Great, he thought. Lunch. Hope we go somewhere where they have something spicy. My taste buds have gone gunnysack, just like the rest of me. He grabbed a parka from the closet and headed for the lobby.

 

         Deidre Fallon brought her father, Marco Conway back to the complex. It had been a nice lunch, although, she thought, he seemed to be having more and more trouble connecting during conversation. His responses to her questions or comments sometimes verged on nonsensical. She’d caught him several times, a forkful of food halfway to his mouth, staring off into space.

She’d consented to take him for a Schezuan meal, even though she knew that the spicy chicken dish he always ordered wreaked havoc with his digestive system. What the hell, she thought. He doesn’t have that much longer on the planet. He should have what he wants.

         “Let me walk you to the elevator,” Deidre said as they entered the lobby. “I can even go up with you.”

         “I’ll take the stairs,” Marco said gruffly. “Elevators are for pussies.” She gave her father a mock slap on the face and he chortled at her. “I may be

old . . .”

         “But you can still do inappropriate with the best of them.” She finished his sentence, smiled, and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

         “I’ll be fine Dee, You go on.” X

          “You sure?” But he was already halfway to the stairs.

         “Drive carefully,” he said over his shoulder as he clambered up the first flight. “Give the grandkid’s a hug for me.”

         Deidre smiled and waved as she made her way toward the entrance. She loved seeing her dad. But his deterioration made her sad. She stopped at the reception desk window, just under the sign that said “Peterson Creek Memory Care Center.”

         “So did you have a nice visit?” Barbara asked.

         “We did,” Deidre confirmed. “He seemed okay today. Have you noticed anything I need to be concerned about?”

         Barbara scrunched up her face a little. “Well . . . He has a tendency to leave some things in odd places. Books, snacks, his wallet, items of clothing.”

         “Is that unusual?”

         “No, not really. Happens quite a bit with our population. But . . .” She hesitated for a few seconds. I overheard him telling a story in the game room. He was playing cribbage with Sam Goshen and—”

         “Let me guess. Marco started telling stories about having been a professional hit man. How he’d been a ‘made’ guy, worked for the mob, traveling all over the country taking out people the bosses wanted eliminated.” Deidre laughed. “I wondered if he’d start sharing that fantasy. Doesn’t surprise me. Guess the dementia brought it front and center.”   

Relief washed over Barbara’s face. “So, it’s not true? He never shot anyone in the face? Or strangled a man with a phone cord?”

         Barbara giggled. “Dad? C’mon. Marco wouldn’t hurt a fly. He cried at the end of a rerun of that sappy Disney movie Old Yeller. He didn’t even spank us when we were kids.”

         “Whew!” Barbara glanced over at her computer screen. “I’d better get back to work.” She tapped the space bar. “What did he do for a living?”

         “Salesman. For a truck parts company in New Jersey. He did travel all over the country calling on clients and taking orders. Made a pretty good living at it.”

         “No gunplay involved?”

         “Nah. He said guns were for soldiers and policemen. Said most gun owners were fools who doubted their masculinity.”

         “Make’s sense.” Barbara frowned. “I’m sorry I made it a thing.” She shrugged, visibly embarrassed. “It’s just that . . .”

         “No, no, I totally get it. It’s hard for you to tell what might be a threat and what isn’t. Don’t worry about it. Dad’s harmless. Really. Thanks to you and everybody here at Peterson Creek for looking out for him.” She patted Barbara’s hand and, as she went out the door, exploded with laughter.

“Strangled someone with a phone cord. Damn. I hadn’t heard that one.” She sputtered—“Really Dad, C’mon now.”

 

Several days later, mid-afternoon, Barbara looked up to see a man standing in front of the reception window shifting from side to side. He was middle-aged and ordinary looking with a pronounced widow’s peak and a pot gut his expandable slacks couldn’t quite hide. He wore a white shirt and a suit jacket several sizes too large for him. He kept one hand in the jacket’s side pocket.

         “Can I help you?”

         “Uh, yeah, I’m here to visit Marco Conway. It’s visiting hours, right?”

         Barbara glanced at the clock. “Yes.” Until dinnertime at five.”

         “Can you tell me where I could find him?”

         “Of course. He’s . . .” She checked her computer screen. “In his apartment. Shall I let him know you’re here?”

         The man thought about it then smirked. “No, I’d rather surprise him. What’s his room number?”

         Barbara nodded and examined the man. Ordinary. Probably someone who’d worked with Marco. “He’s in 417. Are you sure I can’t call and . . .?”

“No, please don’t. He’ll be tickled when I pop in.”

         “All right. If you’re sure. Oh, I need to have you sign the guest book.”

         “No problem.” the man said and wrote his name carefully on a blank line in the open book.

         “The elevator’s right over . . .”

         The man turned to go. “I’ll take the stairs. I could use the exercise.”

         Barbara watched him go, thinking Marco would enjoy the company. Then she turned the guest book around and looked at his name.

         “Fred Rattigan.” She ran her finger over the signature. “Now why does that name sound familiar?”

                                   

Saturday, April 30, 2022

An Almost-lost Art

 

Carolyn J. Rose

 

Every month I gather the necessary materials and engage in what I suspect is an almost-lost art. No, I don’t use a handloom or a forge and anvil. I don’t make a fire by rubbing sticks together. I don’t practice map reading or dead reckoning. I don’t dry fruit, vegetables, and meat on a rack in the sun.

 I balance the checkbook.

I know plenty of people who don’t bother. Some round up purchase amounts believing that will provide them with a financial cushion fat enough to mitigate mistakes. Others eyeball their balance when they make a withdrawal and decide whether it’s safe to take a little more. And many contend that with credit and debit cards and all the other means of paying bills and transferring funds, balancing is just too confusing and too much trouble. They take it on trust and leave it to the bank.

 Although we write darn few checks every month, reconciling the account is not a simple task. Deposits come in from several sources, and money drains away to several more. Then there are ATM withdrawals and debit card purchases—some noted, some not, and others scribbled in a way that makes 3s look like 8s and 2s like 6s.

 That leads to the trust-the-bank-or-dig-through-the-file dilemma. I was never a trusting person and 25 years in the news business coupled with 20 years as a substitute teacher made me even less willing to take anyone’s word for . . . well, just about anything. Over the years, I’ve uncovered transfers made from my account by mistake and deposits not credited. And don’t get me started on computer glitches. But digging through the file could be an exercise in futility if the deposit or withdrawal slip or store tally never made it into my office to be filed. So, when I can’t verify or conjure a hazy memory, if the amount is reasonable, I grit my teeth and trust.

 When all the entries are checked off or circled to show they’re outstanding, I do the math. It wasn’t my strongest subject in school, so I’m grateful that algebra and geometry aren’t required. Simple addition and subtraction are all I need.

 But arriving at an answer that matches the last number in the checkbook is seldom simple. At least half the time the numbers differ. Sometimes the difference is due to a simple mistake and the numbers are off by 10 or 100. Other times the difference is an odd number, like $9.63 or $111.27. Experience tells those discrepancies are the sum or several other errors, mistakes I’ll have to find by going back to the date of the last reconciliation and checking the math on each entry.

 Usually, I track down the problem numbers, correct the math, and achieve that perfect balance.

 But sometimes—and I hate to admit this—I can’t find the error. Sometimes—and I really, really, hate to admit this because I have OCD tendencies—I have to put the checkbook and adding machine aside, suck it up, and trust the bank.

 But only if I’m off by less than $10. Otherwise, you’ll find me at my desk, eyes bleary, head throbbing, fingernails breaking on the number keys, sanity slipping away at an alarming rate.

 I’m starting to think my mental health depends on joining the others who no longer practice this almost-lost art. But then, so . . . 

Monday, April 11, 2022

That’s Zit

 

 

Carolyn J. Rose

 

How old do you need to be before you stop getting zits?

 






The answer, at least in my case, is: “Older than a post-retirement age I’d prefer not to mention.” To customize an old top-40 radio slogan, the zits just keep coming.

 

On the positive side, the zits erupting lately aren’t in the same league as those that made my teen years miserable. (Okay, for the record, my no-one-understands-me attitude and general teenage snarkiness also contributed to self-imposed misery, but zits didn’t help.) The zits I get at this age aren’t nearly as large or as bright. And they don’t bring along a crop of friends. But still, despite facial scrubs and special creams, fresh air and healthy foods, they come.

 

Back in those teen years I grew out my bangs to cover platoons of pimples on my forehead. I kept my hair shoulder-length and never shoved it behind my ears because that would reveal lurking zits. I tucked my chin into turtleneck sweaters or scarves.

 

But zits are like lies—they’re often difficult to cover up. Especially when they erupt in extremely visible places.

 

And zits are extroverts. They love to pop up at special events. They never miss the opportunity to show up for a hot date, an important job interview, a conference presentation, or a wedding.

 

A particularly pointy one, the color of a ripe tomato, appeared on the tip of my nose on the morning of a friend’s aisle walk in the 60s. My bridesmaid’s dress was bright green and included a wide hair ribbon to match. The contrast in colors made the blemish more obvious.

 

Now, trust me, there are places on your face where you can apply a thick layer of zit-hiding cream and it will stick because the skin is smooth and dry. And there are places where the facial terrain is pitted, creased, wrinkled, or oily, and those skin-toned creams crack, clump, or slide off.

 

There are instances where hot packs can speed up the progress of zit, or cold packs can slow it. And there are instances where taking a drastic step and popping a pimple can mitigate the problem. But, trust me once again, the zit has to cooperate. It has to be ready to give up. And that one wasn’t.

 

As the hour approached, the zit swelled until it felt like I’d taken possession of Pinocchio’s lie-activated wooden nose and spent the day claiming to like beets and Richard Nixon. When it was my turn to walk down the aisle, I felt like that little reindeer guiding Santa’s sleigh through the fog.

 

I destroyed my copies of the wedding photos the moment they arrived. But memories of that day, like zits, keep popping up.

 

 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The Dudette Abides

 The first thing I should make clear is this. The arrival of our adopted ladydog Nicolette Dudette, alias Nikki is not intended as a replacement for the gone but never forgotten Max. 

Max, the hyper-entitled Maltese is the only purebred dog we've ever owned. He hung out with us for more than a decade. Our vet, Dr. Ferguson commented, upon first examining him; "this dog's got attitude. He will bend you to his will." People would drive by us when we walked him doubtless saying to one another; "Hey, who's the girly-man with the little white dog?" Max rode all the way to New Mexico, via Southern California with us, quivering and slobbering all the way. Max insisted on designer dog food. I tought him how to howl on our front landing. Carolyn was not amused. When a horse appeared on TV. Max would skitter back and forth and warn them, low in his throat, against stampeding in our living room. He learned a handful of tricks, but soon lost the knack when we failed to make him demonstrate them. Max, it goes without saying, has earned his spot in the doggie hall-of-fame.

We had not set out to adopt a new dog. But I made the mistake of mentioning to our friend Merlene that we might eventually think about another furry friend. Next thing I know there's a Facebook page devoted to finding us a new pooch. And Kathy, another friend sent links to a number of sites devoted to finding homes for canine orphans. They somehow knew that a steady diet of doleful doggy eyes would break us down. Sure enough, a female dog named Nova showed up and we (Carolyn says I need to correct that to I) were hooked. 

Nova, soon to become Nicolette Dudette thanks to the intervention of two grade-school aged neighborhood girls we call "The Minions." was very easy to love. And her story was fascinating. She started in Mexico, had pups, survived a flood, (although sadly one of the puppys didn't make it) had a prior home in California and ended up being fostered by a very nice lady named Becca in SE Portland. We met, noted how friendly and smart she was and decided to go for it. She's been with us for almost a week. She hasn't replaced Max in our hearts. She's just augmented our affection for him. 

Our first days with the Dudette have been slightly altered by a dog-sitting assignment for our friends Sky and Lori. Their doodle-dogs Huck and Daisy have made the Nettleton/Rose abode a flying, furry flurry of canine clamor. Walks with the three of them are the doggy equivalent of red rubber-nosed clowns piling out of an impossibly small automobile. Fun!!!! 

Bottom line. The doodle dogs will make their way home to Troutdale. Max's legacy remains unvarnished. And Nicolette Dudette, Nikki, the Nikster,  is here to stay. 













Nikki is a rescue dog from the doggie adoption agency Underdogs Rock. 

Saturday, March 12, 2022

The Sons of the Beaches

 


They say you can never go home again. Yet, here I am, staying in an inn (a motel, really) on the bluff overlooking downtown Bandon, Oregon. We're maybe half a mile from the house I grew up in. Later I'll drive over to that house to wallow in nostalgia for the old neighborhood.

It looks way smaller than my memories of it. But realistically it was just a two- bedroom, one bath home. My older brother Bob and I shared bunk beds in a back porch area. My sisters, Lana and Birdie had one bedroom, the folks occupied the other. I could hop the back fence to go to Junior High and High school. Ocean Crest elementary school was a grueling half mile walk away. Just for grins, we looked up the address to see what it would go for in today's inflated real estate market. $460,000!!! But it is a 2 bathroom house now. Somewhere back in time someone got tired of yelling "aren't you done in there yet???" and tacked on another one. I didn't snoop, but I'd also guess the chicken shed we had in back is probably gone. I can still hear them clucking in my minds ear. 

Bandon has exploded, population-wise since my childhood of the 50's and early sixties. From a dying timber town to the home of one of the world's ritziest golf resorts is a drastic change. Our only golf course used to be a raggedy 9-holer my father referred to as "that glorified cow pasture out on the beach loop." California retirees moved to Bandon enmasse creating luxury condos where once were sand and gorse. It's not all bad of course. The new library alongside the city park is impressive. What used to be the library (with a 3 book check out rule for kids) is now a nifty little historical museum. 

The town still has a ton of charm. Much of what I loved growing up is still there. People still pick up their mail at the post office; the docks, the funky downtown, the jetty jutting out into the sea. I'm told whales sometimes come in to rub against the rocks. Hey, if you've got an itch, scratch it. And, of course, the iconic lighthouse. 











Another memorable part of the coastline near Bandon is the monumental assortment of big rocks. We spent a ton of time scrambling up and down them as kids. A fan fave is Face Rock. 

Sadly, I kept seeing the profile of my least favorite American president. Shake it off Mike.


We enjoyed a lovely early dinner/happy hour nostalgia fest with Sharon Ward Moy and Bill Smith, two people I've known since elementary school. Our spousal units were kind enough to allow us to wallow, while occasionally interjecting something nonhistorical. The food and conversation were both top notch and memorable. 

Ah, yes, I should probably explain the title of the blog "The Sons of the Beaches." My dad, Carroll was very active in the local Lion's club. And that was their nickname. They had the letters stenciled onto jackets and sweaters and wore them proudly around town. Here's my pop in action. 








And just so I can embarrass a living relative, here's my older sister Lana marching and spinning her baton as the high school band marches through town.

So Thomas Wolfe was wrong. You can go home again. And you can enjoy the memories and the places you hung out. To top off this wonderful trip, on the way home, my amazing wife wangled us a room with a jacuzzi at Sailor Jack's, right on the beach in Lincoln City. We ate take-out clam strips from Mo's, I luxuriated in a hot water massage and we watched an insanely beautiful sunset over the Pacific. 



Life is Good !!!!!



Tuesday, March 1, 2022

The Queen of Overkill Packs It In


 

Carolyn J. Rose

 


When it comes to packing for a long vacation or extended road trip, Mike and I aren’t on the same page. In fact, we’re not in the same book or even on the same shelf in the same bookcase.

 He often fondly recalls the simpler days of the late 60s when everything he owned fit in his car. He fails to recall that the car had bald tires and the inventory of his possessions ran to a few ratty T-shirts and jeans, some even rattier underwear and mismatched socks, a TV with foil on the antenna, and several hundred vinyl records. While he admits preparation can pay off, he still subscribes to the toss-a-few-things-in-the-suitcase-and-go philosophy. He clings to the belief that a forgotten item—no matter what it may be—can be done without or easily purchased along the way.

 I freely admit I deserve to be called the Queen of Overkill. Weeks before a trip to unexplored territory I research the geography of our intended travels, note projected temperatures and precipitation, and consider events we might attend. I consult the Internet for advice about auto maintenance, overnight accommodations, and recommended emergency supplies. Then I survey my wardrobe, check cabinets for personal care products, note vitamins and meds on hand, and make lists of what to take along and what I’ll need to purchase before we depart.

 As I packed my bag during the early years of our marriage, I also tossed the basic things he’d need into his suitcase—a hat, a fleece, a golf shirt, and spare glasses. I’d remind him to take along toothpaste, mouthwash, a hairbrush, and antacid tablets. In return for my efforts, I’d get eye rolls and hear mutterings about the strain of living with an annoying person prone to micromanaging others and thus strangling spontaneity and the spirit of adventure.

 In my defense, I believe being prepared and having adventures aren’t mutually exclusive. I don’t research every mile of our trip to the point where I feel we’ve been before we even depart. I don’t stress about whether to fold or roll clothing. And I don’t pack heavy. I don’t take a kitchen-sink approach. On a bus tour of Great Britain I won praise for a suitcase weighing only half of the 50 pounds allowed.

 In Mike’s defense, he packs light, but in a random and chaotic kind of way, and not with the same priorities I set. If he made a list of what he had to have, headphones, snacks, and crossword puzzles would be at the top. Pajamas and spare socks might not make it.

 Lately, to avoid his muttering, I assume the task of packing only the basic things we both may need—passports and tickets, credit and health cards, vitamins, flashlights, and roadside emergency supplies. Then I arrange my own bag and, often biting my tongue to prevent that dreaded micromanaging, leave him to fill his.

Our different approaches lead to some Titanic-iceberg moments along the way and/or when we arrive. Scenarios often unfold something like this:

Him (alternately plowing through his suitcase and glancing out the window at the pool): “Did we remember to pack my swimsuit?”

Me (rolling my eyes as I unpack my own swimsuit and goggles): “No. We didn’t. Your swimsuit wasn’t on our list.”

 You may note the use of the plural pronoun in the exchange above. I suspect Mike uses it because, after 30+ years, he thinks of us as a team, a unit. I, however, employ it as an imperial pronoun. If he’s going to disregard my suggestions and call me the Queen of Overkill, then I’ll act like entitled royalty and pack an attitude.