2009-08-20 / Community News

Competence and Capabilities

My husband is very good at fixing things and building things. He seems to know instinctively just what to do and which tools to use. I can wield a Phillips head screwdriver with the best of them ("them" being the Phillips head screwdriver wielders, I guess) but if something is broken, I have little trouble diagnosing the problem. As a result, my husband may find me wielding a screwdriver where I should perhaps be wielding a toilet bowl plunger.

As for building things, I can't even build a two-layer birthday cake, much less a two-story addition. In fact, a two-story birdhouse would probably be beyond my capabilities. If my husband told me where to put the nail, I could probably make that hammer sing, though, admittedly, those first few swings would be kind of dicey because my fingers would still be in danger of painful consequence if I missed.

I'm not so incompetent in emergency situations, however. If my husband was not around, I could fix a leaky pipe with bubblegum and duct tape. It wouldn't be a sexy fix, but it'd hold until he came home.

As capable as my husband is when it comes to fixing or building, he seems to be lost when it comes to things that are second nature to me. He tries to handle his share of the housework but he's not very good at it. And for the life of me, I haven't been able to figure out in 27 years of marriage whether his household chore-related incompetence is real or contrived. He must feel the same way about me.

"You couldn't possibly be that stupid!"

I don't know whether I'd rather that he thinks I'm stupid, or that he thinks I'm pretending stupidity to get out of fixing something. It's a no-win situation for both of us.

When I see my husband head for the laundry room with a basket full of dirty clothes, some of which are mine, I make an excuse to help him sort the clothes.

Sorting is apparently an alien concept to his mind. He can usually get the whites right, but a white shirt with colored stripes does tend to confound him. The categories for colored and dark clothing are something he is simply incapable of understanding.

While he flings clothes indiscriminately into random piles, I'll be bending over tossing them into the correct piles.

He'll hold up something and say "Is this a light color or a dark color?"

Without looking up from my task, I'll ask, "What color is it?"


"Well, is it a dark red or a light red?"

You can see the challenges he has to face, the poor dear.

It also has apparently never occurred to him what happens to the outside of a laundry detergent jug when you don't rinse out the measuring cup/cap before putting it back on top of the jug. So even though I'm the one who rinses the cap out, he gets the benefit of a goo-free laundry experience and I get his detergent backwash all over my hands.

It is second nature for me to clean out the lint trap between loads; a difficult thing to do with detergent on my hands. Although he has learned (finally) to clean it out due to the many times he still had wet clothes after a drying cycle, he still tends to collect the lint balls on top of my dryer instead of tossing them in the trash can less than a foot from his body.

The lint balls combine with the goo from the backwashed laundry detergent to make my dryer look like a giant, dead Chia Pet. Maybe he's got a latent desire to create abstract art while he's doing the laundry. That's an obscure talent to be sure.

You can reach Laura at lsnyder@lauraonlife.com Or visit her website www.lauraonlife.com for more columns and info about her books.

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