Saturday, September 18, 2010

Red flags, warning bells, and the county dump

     I'm worried about my husband, Chris. I think he's beginning to crack from all the pressure of being left home alone with no adult supervision while his wife's away at college.  There have been little signs appearing, red flags cropping up, warning bells and whistles sounding, to which I paid little attention at first. Now, however, some really strange things are starting to happen, and  I'm starting to get worried.
     First, Chris called to say he couldn't get the heater to come on in the pool. Now let me explain why this is alarming.  Whenever I was home, he hated to turn the pool heater on, saying it cost too much money to run, it made the water too hot, it wasn't refreshing with the tepid temperature, it caused algae to grow on the sides of the pool, it made the water murky, etc., etc.,etc. I would turn the heater on, only to go outside later and discover that it had been switched off. This was a pattern that was repeated every summer, all summer long, for as long as we had lived in the house.  Secondly, it's September, and the average high temperature for the past three months has been 125 degrees.  That water should be practically boiling by now, and the need for a heater was minimal, if at all.  Thirdly, he doesn't swim in the pool, he only dips, as in jump-in, jump-out. I'm the pool lounger, the eternal floater, the basking bather, only happy when the water is as warm as a freshly drawn, scented, luxurious bubble bath. My husband, however, could get by with just running through a sprinkler for the amount of time he got wet in the cement pond.  His idea of a swim was to dive off the board, glide underwater to the shallow end, climb up the steps, shake off, and that's that-- so what difference did the temperature make if you're only in it for three seconds? His idea of a fun day at the pool was to hand-vacuum the whole thing, slowly and methodically, slurping out every leaf and blade of grass as I tried to manuever my float away from the hose--but basking in the warm waters just wasn't his thing.  And finally, he was just getting ready to head out of town for a four day golfing trip to the Hamptons, so why heat the pool? No one was going to be there, no one would be swimming, even the dogs weren't going to be taking a little dip. It just didn't make sense to heat the whole dang thing. The scary thing is, it turned out the only problem was that he had to turn on the switch.Yes--the "ON" switch-- just one little flick, and voila! Heat! Fortunately, I was able to correct that little problem by phone, but a red flag was beginning to show up on my radar.
     The next little episode occurred about 4:40 the next morning.  During the night, the security alarm started a continuos and annoying beeping and a "Trouble" message appeared on the key pad.  Concerned, Chris called the security company, and they informed him that the back-up battery system was not holding a charge. To fix the problem, they would send a technician out with a new battery pack, and all he had to do was give them our security password so they could  process the work order.  Well, that presented a little problem. He rolled through every possible answer we have ever used for any security question ever asked, but all to no avail.  He tried maiden names, pet names, birth dates, middle names, favorite songs, first school attended, mother's maiden name, father's mother's name, first grade teacher's name, but failed on each attempt.  After numerous tries, the very patient customer service rep finally said, "Mr. Daly, you really just don't know what it is. Call your wife and then call us back."
     Fortunately for me, I had turned my cell phone off the night before, so I did not receive his 4:30 a.m. call. Unfortunately for him, he remained frustrated and unable to go back to sleep as the alarm slowly chirped on through the night. Wide awake and alone in the house, perhaps a little delirious from sleep deprivation, he decided the most logical thing to do was to engage in a little night vacuuming.  Much to his surprise, the vacuum is equipped with a light, and he discovered that if one vacuums in the middle of the night with all the lights turned off, that tiny light illuminates every single atom of dust that has permeated the entire house. It was almost like a miracle, the dust he could see with one little 15watt bulb! He dusted every corner, every baseboard, every floor; he moved every couch and chair, shifted cupboards and sideboards, and rolled up rugs. He plowed through every inch of that house, sucking up bags of fur balls and dust bunnies that had been secretly lurking in the dark recesses of our home, purging the entire residence of any trace of dirt. And this was at 4:30 in the morning.   He was proud of his accomplishments and eager to tell me about his EUREKA! moment of discovering that night vacuuming was by far superior to that done in the light of day. He had just spent the entire night vacuuming and he was excited about it!  I was concerned.
     As he recanted his frustrations with the alarm system,  I reminded him of the password AND the secret spot where we had always kept it recorded. Another problem solved by phone, but warning bells were ringing like mad in my head.
     Now, let me interject here that this was obviously a man who loved to clean.  Don't get me wrong, he's not an effiminate man by any means. He's an ex-football and baseball player, an avid golfer, loves his card night at the club and wouldn't be caught dead with a "man-bag". He's a guys-guy sort of guy, but we all have our little quirks, and he loved to clean. I had always viewed his obsessive-compulsive cleaning as a secret little gift from God and quite possibly the best thing any wife could ever ask for, and I never tried to discourage his compulsions.  His idea of a fun day at home was to tackle a room from top to bottom, scrubbing and polishing it to a shine, then moving to a section of the yard to repeat the same process. If he wasn't vacuuming, he was sweeping. If he wasn't sweeping, he was raking. If he wasn't raking, he was clipping. If he wasn't clipping, he was chopping. Then, after all that,  he would gather up all his clippings and piles and mounds of trash and dirt and debris, throw the whole pile onto the back of a 16 foot trailer, and head for one of his favorite spots in town--the county trash dump-- where he could freely deposit all the accumulated detritus and debris that had cluttered and dirtied his home.
         Obviously, the man loved to vacuum--pools, houses, cars,whatever-- but midnight vacuuming was a bit disturbing. Another red flag was waving directly before my eyes as I questioned the sanity of a man who vacuums alone, in the dark, in the middle of the night, and I could only hope he was not naked at the time. That would be truly disturbing. A lonely old man vacuuming naked in the middle of the night surely had to be a sign of someone slipping over the edge of sanity.
     So I had to ask myself, was he losing some of his marbles? Was he starting to crack from living alone with nothing but a couple of spoiled and pampered poodles to keep him company? Was that little bald spot slowly appearing on his crown actually an escape route for some of his gray matter? Should I be concerned? Should I call for a consultation, enroll him in a little therapy, arrange for a psychological evaluation, call in the professionals?
    After much thought and reflection, I decided that the best investment to make-- and what he really needed-- was a brand new vacuum cleaner,a really high powered Electrolux or Kirby, something with a kick, some real power and vroom! to it that would spice up his night cleaning. I thought I'd also invest in a nice new pair of manly pajamas, a bottle of Sleep-eeze,  and a little notebook where he could record all the instructions and directions necessary for the efficient and orderly  management of a household.
      And then, I congratulated myself for having the cleanest house in town and decided it was about time to make a trip home.

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