Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Off Season Post 22: Knick Knacks are Heavier than What Nots

Hello, Readers. Still mad at me? Yes, I realize that my inability to post last week probably sent some of you into a frothy frenzy; however, I've only got 10 fingers and most of those were busy typing various pleadings, letters, and emails to people much less accommodating than the majority of you. Plus, I traveled for work on Monday and Tuesday in addition to my myriad responsibilities here in Austin. For those of you familiar with the exciting world of civil litigation you’re aware that, like an A-list German porno star, things tend to come in spurts. For the past few weeks, I’ve been directly in the path of one of those spurts. Disgusting imagery aside, if you'll forgive me, I'll try and do better.

Despite the busy nature of my week, my weekend actually turned out to be a pleasant one. While I did make a trip to the office in order get organized for my upcoming Monday and Tuesday travel, I did manage to spend some time in the company of several of my closest friends. It's nice when life slows down for a few moments as if on cue and you're able to slow down with it. It's also nice of The Man to give me a break now and then. Until I find that subservient nymphomaniac with a trust fund that has heretofore eluded me, I suppose I'll have to settle for the brief indulgences that I was able to enjoy this weekend.

Before I move toward this week's subject, I wanted to announce the extension of the contest initiated in the last post concerning life's truisms. I've received about a dozen so far and I'd imagine that the sparse participation stems from my aforementioned tardiness in addition to the comment problems on the site. In light of that, please email me your truisms at if you can't post them in the comment section. I'll announce the winner in the next post. Incidentally, all of them have been funny. I'll post them all, but definitely decide on a winner. With that out of the way, let's get to it.

As I went merrily about my business last weekend, my phone rang and I recognized the number of my previously mentioned Special Lady Friend. I've mentioned before that I don't enjoy giving specific details about my personal life and I'm certainly not in the habit of giving out details of the people in my life--well, other than the ones who trespass and spontaneously defecate into public pools; however, I believe that if a person chooses to do that sort of thing, he's probably going to reasonably anticipate that his feat will be shared with other people into perpetuity.

Because she's graduated over time to my unwritten yet firmly hardwired "Always Answer List,” I answered. By the way, let's not pretend like the majority, if not all, of you don't also have an Always Answer List. That's the narrowly defined group of people whose calls always get answered and never screened. In fact, these are the people who inherently know that when they get your voice mail it was your choice to send them there. My list has no more than 5 people on it and my boss isn't one of those people. I tried that once. A word of advice: If your boss is on your Always Answer List then you work too much and there are other relationships in your life suffering because of it. Perhaps that’s another Truism.

Upon answering I was greeted by what all men know to be the universal--yet subtle--female demand for immediate help: "What are you doing?" She might as well have said, "bring your truck, a good attitude, a willingness to follow orders, and meet me at my place."

Her "place," by the way, was changing over the weekend. No, it's not the same as my place and I thought I'd avoided any chance at a stint doing manual labor by artfully suggesting that "she" would be much happier with the relocation if she hired movers to pack her stuff and move it for her.

"That way, all you have to do is leave your old place for a few hours while they pack, return and give them the thumbs up, and then drive over to your new place and watch them unload. You'll be done in a day and unpacked by the next day. Easy." That was the assumptive close at the end of my sales pitch. After she bought it, I frankly didn't think I had to fear recruitment; however, I might as well have been an 8 year old boy from Sierra Leone: I was going in whether I wanted to or not and I was destined to emerge a changed and bitter shell of the person I was before I joined. I didn't even have a chance of discovering a giant blood diamond with which to buy my freedom.

Rewind to about 10 days prior to the day of the big move and you'll see me sitting on my couch enjoying a cold bottle of water after a mid-afternoon run. I picked up the phone and dialed the SLF and she answered. I led with what all men believe is a reasonable inquiry when starting a conversation (nothing more. nothing less.), "What are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm packing," was the answer. Mystified, I asked why in the world a person who just hired movers would need to pack. Apparently, I'm an idiot for not understanding that there are just certain belongings a woman possesses that are forbidden from being handled by third parties; particularly sweaty male third parties. Granted, I can see heirlooms, jewelry, and the unmentionables drawer being off limits; however, I quickly realized that her list extended far beyond these common sense items to, well, everything in her possession, custody, or control.

Now far be it from me to question a woman in that situation. That's like leaning over to inquire what kind of raw meat a lion has in front of it. I took the path of least resistance by gently lobbing a "do you need any help" over the fence all the while knowing that my half-assed offer would be refused. Satisfied that I had dodged another bullet I threw on a little Mythbusters and went about the rest of my day.

Fast forward back to the big move and I'm on my way over to the new place prepared to endure some "does this look good here" and "what do you think about red curtains for this window in here" and "should I put my shoes on this side of the closet or this one" types of inquiries.

Of course, every man is taught early in life that the secret to appearing sensitive and concerned about things as inane as these--and thereby keeping any hope of obtaining the affections of the inquirer alive--is to nod his head while knowingly wrinkling his brow and saying something like, "I trust your taste but what about over there" while pointing vaguely in any direction. Realizing she'll make up her mind ten times before deciding upon the first option to cross her mind is an important thing to keep in mind when fielding these inquiries.

When I got there I saw the moving truck expertly parked as close to the sidewalk as possible and I walked over and greeted the two men now in her employ. I knew we'd be sweating together as subjects of her kingdom for the next couple of hours and I figured that until one of us developed Stockholm Syndrome it would be nice to begin the male bonding that occurs in these types of situations. I then greeted the SLF and awaited my orders.

Now, before this post costs me more than the sweat that went into creating it, let me clarify a few things about the SLF. First, she's unbelievably calm and level headed. She's easy to deal with all of the time and indeed her ability to remain calm in situations that would frankly warrant a freak out is one of her most endearing qualities.

Second, she's not a ball buster. I believe it's been well established that I'm about as happy to have my balls busted as the Romans were to see the Huns trudging over the western hills of their empire in the third century. Incidentally, I read an article about the Huns recently that said that their reign of terror ended somewhat abruptly when they inexplicably broke up. Perhaps one of them started dating Yoko Ono.

Annnyyyyhooo . . .

At any rate, my point about the SLF is that if indeed I was going to be subjected to the despotic reign of any one person, her reign would be on my sort list of despotic reigns to subject myself to. I'm certain the movers felt the same way. Now, back to the big move.

After agreeing to "help in any way I could" and suggesting that she not worry her pretty little head about the big, heavy man work outside, she went inside to begin the unpacking process while, like worker ants in search of food for the queen, the movers and I methodically approached the truck.

Being much older--and theoretically smarter--than the two beefy movers with me, I decided I'd let them handle the bulky furniture and I would stick to the boxes on the truck in the name of saving my knees and back while maintaining the appearance of helpfulness. After all, I was technically the only person of the three of us moving that wasn't getting paid for my efforts. However, if I failed to provide adequate assistance, it would cost me far more than it would cost either of them. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

It took me one box to realize that I'd made a horrible error in calculation. Below are some of the things I learned about helping a woman move all of her stuff.

1. Women pack with no regard for the combined weight of the material going into the box.

As I lifted the first box--innocuously labeled "Decor for Living Room"--it occurred to me that the SLF gave no thought whatsoever to the ability a person who "chose" to lift the box would need in order to get it from the floor, onto the truck, and to whatever location she deemed fit. After all, it was never contemplated that she would be the one to lift it. Besides, all men are "strong" and can lift heavy things. The concept of relativity--not in the Einstein sense but in the strength to weight ratio sense--was clearly lost on her. "Does she think I’m an ant?" I thought praying my intestines would not thrust themselves beyond my inguinal canals. I longed for the tiny underwear I donated to that six year old in Bastrop.

Now granted, it is possible that she envisioned that I would be the one lifting the box and it was therefore safe to assume that, like Hercules and Samson before me, I could handle the task. However, I'm almost certain that my superhuman status didn't cross her mind. I'm certain of that because my superhuman status is, of course, bullshit; but don't tell her. I'm almost certain she still believes that.

2. "Miscellaneous" is a vague term

There were many labels I encountered as I made repeated trips from the truck to the new cabana. However, one of the recurring labels was simply "Miscellaneous." I soon came to learn that the term is synonymous with "heavy shit." I looked it up. It comes from the Latin root words “Miscell,” meaning “heavy” and “aneuous,” meaning “shit.”

In fact, after lugging several boxes replete with various miscellanea up the stairs, I began to surreptitiously open them all the while expecting to find bricks or perhaps lead inside. "Maybe this is some sort of loyalty test," I reasoned. I can think of nothing within the entire universe of my possessions that weighs so much yet occupies such a small space.

To my surprise, upon opening a couple boxes I discovered candles. Candles? Who in the hell owns 200 pounds worth of candles? Apparently, a lot of women as the look I was shot from the kitchen to the living room after I asked that question demonstrated. There was enough wax in those boxes to supply Madame Tussauds’ next exhibit. There were fewer candles in Sting’s “Wrapped Around Your Finger” video. Those trapped Chilean miners used less candles during their month trapped below ground. Like those miners, I felt like chopping off my arm and eating it at this point in the move. Two. Hundred. Pounds. Of. Candles.

Now glistening with sweat like Secretariat after an early morning jaunt around the track, I returned to the truck in search of something heavy enough to avoid looking like a p*ssy but light enough to avoid having my tailbone rip through my lower back. That proved to be a difficult balance to strike even though that gray area seems immense.

After a subtle search I settled on a box labeled “Accent Pillows/Shams.” “Sham is right,” I thought. After being brought their under the guise of providing “a little help” I now realized that I’d been tricked into hard labor. I might as well have been asked to break rocks along an Alabama stretch of highway in August. I longed to be waist deep in the muddy waters of the Sierra Leone diamond mines.

“Accent Pillows?” To me, a pillow is something you rest your head on when you nap or settle down at the end of a long day. In a perfect world, it’s something that t-shirt and panty-clad sorority girls hit each other with during slumber parties, but that’s neither here nor there---unfortunately. As I labored up the stairs, I wondered what type of accent her pillows would have. I suppose that would depend on what country they were from and how young they were when they first learned to speak English, I reasoned as I carried the bulky yet thankfully light box and rested it upon a couch that was apparently in much need of accentuation. I wondered if the candles had accents as well and I made a mental note to tell the SLF that she should be careful not to commingle the ones with the French accents with the ones with the German accents. After all, you can’t have your candles surrendering in the middle of a romantic evening.

Yea, I know. She didn’t enjoy that joke either.

After sipping some water out of a glass but picturing myself sipping it out of a ladle like Cool Hand Luke on the side of that aforementioned highway, I returned to the truck for another box. I turned a box around to read the label.  To my surprise it read, “Accent Pillow/Shams."  I felt like Neo in that strange train station between the Matrix and reality. “I just carried this f*cking box,” I thought to myself. This place has more accents than a Swiss bus station.

It was then that I began to think about Apollo 13. Humor me here.

I have at least one reader who works for NASA (or did) and she’s likely laughing about this comparison right now. For the benefit of the rest of you who fail to see the connection, allow me to explain.

Space exploration is—as you might imagine—a tricky thing. Anyone who followed the Space Shuttle, for instance, knows that a tiny, seemingly harmless detail, if overlooked, can lead to disaster. If a major system malfunctions there can be irreversible trouble. A lot of these lessons were learned when Apollo 13 had its trouble and the major systems now have several redundant back ups in case of a failure. The same is true in airplanes, which can run on only one of several engines, for instance. So, how does this relate to accent pillows?

Like a space ship floundering in orbit miles above the Earth, women have a bunch of redundant sh*t. However, women’s redundant stuff—to me anyway—has no discernible purpose. Even if we allow room for seasonal shams and accent pillows, for instance, it seems that women will accumulate several versions of something that they only really need one of in order to survive. Several sets of China, several iterations of the same shoe, multiple sets of flatware, blankets, comforters, potpourri dishes. I could go on . . . and on.

What baffles me is that—after carrying all of it up the stairs—I was simply asked to put most of it in the spare bedroom out of the way so it could be dealt with later. For any man, anything that can simply be placed in a box behind a closed door for an extended period of time is not worth loading up and carrying from place to place. Men call that trash. Serial killers call that a dead prostitute. Women call that stuff they “need.”

Again, let me clarify with respect to the SLF. What gets me is that she’s as minimalist as a woman gets. She’s practical, modest, and she won’t be seen arguing with her relatives on her front lawn on Hoarders any time soon. Yet, she still somehow has more inventory than the 21st Airborne in Iraq. Go figure.

When I strategically posed this question to her well after the big stuff was put away, the furniture was in place, and the accent walls (to talk to the pillows and shams, perhaps?) were painted and dried, the answer I got had something to do with a woman’s tendency to “nest.”

I suppose that’s as viable an explanation as any other. However, as I pointed out, that’s one big nest. Big Bird could get lost in that thing . . . along with Snuffaluffagus.

Well, there it is. I hope you enjoyed it. As always, your feedback is welcome in the comment section. Don’t forget to send me your Truisms and I’ll announce the winner next week. In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be tucking my intestines back up my inguinal canals. DP


  1. I'm actually impressed that you have 5 people on your Always Answer List. I have exactly one - my brother. No matter what, I'm picking up for him. But everyone else in my life gets screened. If it's not inconvenient for me to talk, or I'm just simply not in the mood, I'm not answering. I wonder if that makes me a terrible person?

    Your SLF and I are kindred spirits. As Hurricane Irene was approaching about a month ago, I pulled out all of my candles and was amazed/ashamed to find that I had no fewer than 15 jar candles (20 oz. or larger), all in different scents. As I arranged them around my living room, I had to pair scents together in the least offensive ways. It would have been tragic to have survived the hurricane only to have died from over-scenting due to a gumdrop candle sitting next to an evergreen one.

    As you've learned, girls just have more extraneous crap in general. When I went to college, we filled two cars with my clothes, photo albums, journals, decor, etc. When my brother went, we filled the trunk of one car with two duffle bags of everything he owned.

  2. I'm moving this week too, and this post really hit home for me! I have done more heavy lifting than the dude who was paired with kirstie alley on DWTS. I have some of those "misc. decor" boxes myself but luckily they werent as heavy as the ones labed "books"- I am beginning to understand the advantages of owning a kindle! I moved a candle from WY to KY once and it melted all over my stuff.

  3. Great post as usual...I too used to collect candles, until one time I lit a candle (that had not been lit in a few years) and because of the dust accumulation it almost started it's own little fire. Now, I have a tween boy who thinks it's funny to put a napkin or some other flammable object into the candle and see what happens.

    Just wanted to say that was very nice of you to offer your assistance and I hope you helped paint the accent wall as those are a MUST in any house. I hope you SLF is getting all settled into her new place. Kim in Nevada

  4. When I moved last year, I had an entire box dedicated to belts. I can count on one hand how many times I have worn a belt in the past 10 years yet I refuse to part with them - "just in case." In addition, I am a self-proclaimed candle hater - open flames + drunk + clumsy is never a good combo. In that aforementioned move, I had three boxes of candles - 99% of which had never been lit other than the initial burn the wick for some weird superstition of how it causes me bad luck (whatever). To incriminate myself one step further, I refused to move said candles to storage for fear of them melting so instead moved them four times in three months. Genius.

    Great post but the fluff is inevitable.


  5. Truism - When in doubt - DON'T!

    Jenny in Nebraska

  6. Personally, I haven't moved in a long time, but when my son and his girlfriend were in college, we helped them move after each school year. So your reference to "miscellaneous" hit home.

    Loved your comments about the accent pillows and this sentence, for some reason, made me crak up: “I just carried this f*cking box,” I thought to myself. This place has more accents than a Swiss bus station.

    It was very sweet of you to help your SLF move and carry all her stuff. Ss she told you, she needed it for nesting. I can relate and understand. You the man!

  7. Supremely funny post! I'm a girl and even I don't get the candle thing! Why do you NEED so many freaking CANDLES anyway? Can't you turn on a LIGHT????

    This from the woman who lives alone and has more china than the White House...ah well...

    I don't know if it's a Truism or not but my favorite is:

    "Hanging on to resentment is like letting somebody live rent-free in your head."

  8. I'm surprised you weren't more familiar with accent pillows after your big bedroom make-over!!!

    Congrats to SLF on the move! It's always a good feeling to be done with moving and all nested in!

  9. Mary, I'm familiar with them. I just don't own 100 of them. Thanks as always for reading! DP

  10. Wow. I think Derek and the Boys might disagree with that second one, LD. Some of the female readers might take exception to the first. Thanks for playing along. I'll stay away from unicorns in the future! DP

  11. Back in my single days, I used to really enjoy the purging of crap that a move from apartment to apartment meant. When I looked around at our house last year, I said, "OK, we're going to clean like we're moving. Think what you'd definitely want to take if we were moving into a smaller house. Throw everything else out." It actually worked, but with seven in the house, the crap tends to build up again. Sigh. As far as truisms, my favorite poster at my desk says "Teenagers! Tired of being harassed by your stupid parents? Act Now! Move out ... get a job ... pay your own bills. Do it while you still know everything." (Got that when my oldest was 16.) But heard these two lately that I like: "If you're talking behind my back, then you're in a good position to kiss my A.." and "At any given moment, you have the power to say, This is NOT how the story is going to end."
    Quick and extremely unrelated question, DP -- I saw in your last post that you wrote of flying to a triathlon. Do you bring your own bike? I might fly to visit a friend in florida for a tri there. I like my bike, but I'm not in for the competition, except for against my own previous times, and if it's pricey, do people rent them at their destination?
    Clare in NJ

  12. Clare, nice truisms. Yes, I either rent a bike or I have friends in CO who will loan me one. It's easier and cheaper than shipping it. Good luck! DP

  13. That was funny! Hope SLF's move went well!

    I'm with hk, I have so many belts that I can't part with just in case I might need to sport one in the future.

    DP, everything you said about women and packing/moving are so undeniably true!! It's so funny to read your take on it :)

    My favorite part was...
    “I just carried this f*cking box”


  14. truism about candles (candles seem to be all the rage in this installment):
    If during an ice storm in college in the hairspray-soaked early 90s you light an illegal candle in your dorm room and your drunk roommate reaches over said candle for the jug of wine, she WILL spontaneously combust.

    not sure that is a truism but it sure brought back a funny memory.

    Cheers :) Alisa in hairspray-free Colorado

  15. it occurs to me that saying it was a funny memory sounds a bit sick and twisted but the roommate was just fine save for her wool sweater smelling like burning hair (or maybe that was a bit of her hair)

    speaking of burning, a bacon truism: don't cook bacon naked
    A in CO

  16. that reminds me of another. You can't buy happiness, but you CAN buy bacon, which is about the same thing.
    (except we in New Jersey know that pork roll is better!)

  17. After watching my daughters university hockey team play this weekend: Shoot for the stars but aim for the net.....dammit!
    Jeanne in Toronto