Anyone who knows me likely knows how anal I am. I not only have a container for everything, I have containers of containers, neatly labeled in Helvetica type, “Containers.” They are stacked on a shelf, along with other containers of valuable possessions — all neatly labeled — so I can find whatever I need whenever I happen to need it. I carry the expansive inventory in my head. (French milled soaps: attic; blue box; white cube shelves; second shelf to the right; middle.) I tried keeping an Excel spreadsheet of everything I owned and where it was, but the hours of upkeep it demanded required I eliminate sleep.
As you would imagine, many of my stored treasures have no immediate use. As a matter of fact, I have kept some items for 30 years before I desperately needed them. But when you suddenly have to have a black plastic squeeze bottle to hold dish soap so it will match the black counter in your kitchen, you are mightily proud of yourself when you pull one out of a box labeled “Travel Containers: Multi-colored.”
As anal I might be, I married a man who is even worse. (Alex is stored in the computer room, in a black chair, in front of two monitors. While his T-shirt says, “Koln, Germany” in big, bold letters, it should not be mistaken for a label.)
Not only is Alex persnickety about where things are, he is obsessively precise in his demands for order. When he ran a yarn shop, people admired his hundreds upon hundreds of bins of yarns, neatly stacked on shelves, each one bearing a label with the name of the yarn, the manufacturer, and the color of yarn in that box. Almost to a person they’d see the sight and exclaim, “I’ve never seen so much yarn…so neatly stored!” Some were so impressed, they’d write about Alex’s masterpiece of organization and order neatly disguised as a yarn shop. (Check out the Audknits blog.)
It was a constant frustration to Alex’s staff that every bin had to be perfectly aligned on the shelf…every little soldier in its proper place. If something were askew, you could be sure Alex would find it, fix it, and then remind us all once again that we needed to be more careful when we stored the bins.
One particularly disorganized staff member several times commented to me, “You and Alex are very well matched,” thinking how clever she was to so sweetly deliver what she perceived as a supreme insult. Instead of letting on that I knew the intent, I’d gaze back blankly, blinking, as if I were truly as stupid as she believed. (I’ve grown accustomed to the smug demeanor of passive aggressives who think they earn bonus points for launching a stealth attack. The corporate world is filled with them. They forget that the corporate world is also rife with those who get stealth revenge.)
Anyway, surprising as it might seem, my mostly quiet, orderly world is sometimes shattered by a random event that sends both Alex and me into a tailspin. I offer, as an example, last Saturday evening. We were having a lovely time watching the sunset when Alex went into the kitchen to pour himself a beverage. The next thing I know, he calls me in and points to the sugar bowl in the cupboard.
“Why is this here?” he demanded.
“It’s always there,” I responded, not immediately sensing what was wrong. By “there” I meant, on the second shelf of the dish cupboard.
“It is not!” he exclaimed, furiously. “Look at it! It’s in front of the glasses! How can I get a glass out if the sugar bowl is in the way?”
Okay, he had me on that one. But, in my world, if I see something out of place, I just put it back where it belongs. I don’t expect an explanation of how the incident occurred, why it occurred, and how it will be resolved…along with a heartfelt apology and a promise to never let it happen again.
“Oh, for God’s sake, move it!” I retorted. I picked up the sugar bowl and slammed it into its correct, traditional location.
I didn’t like his tone; he didn’t like my snotty reaction to what was, evidently, a crisis.
“This is chaos!” he exclaimed, throwing up his arms. “I cannot live in chaos!”
Chaos? Chaos is people rioting the streets. Chaos is airplanes falling out of the sky. Chaos is not the sugar bowl, which you can see, carelessly (and perhaps even maliciously) placed to the right of the cow creamer. Well, not in my world, anyway.
It took a while for both of us to get over the incident and the residual anger and resentment that ensued…and I’m not sure even today that Alex has completely forgiven me for so carelessly (and inconsiderately) putting the sugar bowl where it clearly didn’t belong.
I still bristle when I think of how appalled he was over an 8″ misalignment in the universe. And he is probably still recovering from teetering so closely on the precipice of disaster. (And this from a man who doesn’t believe in the Higgs-Boson!)
I mean, it’s not like the Closet Crisis of 1983 when I put one of his casual shirts into his dress shirt closet…or the Sock Disaster of 2012 when a sport sock was found in his dress sock drawer. His outrage on those two occasions was perfectly understandable. Wasn’t it?
I’m sure we’ll both get over this horrific incident. Eventually. But until that time, I’m going to be extra careful. And just to make sure that the universe is back and on the right track, today I’ll be realigning my summer blouses according to sleeve length. And then into subsets by color in the order they appear on the color chart ROYGBIV. You know…maybe that woman was right. Maybe we are very well matched.