Monday, May 26, 2008

The biggest sham of them all

As I recently settled down into our grizzled old recliner that has been handed down through the generations like a folk story, I grabbed a pillow and slid it behind my back. Through the first thirty years of my life, pillows had been an accessory almost exclusively employed on or about the cranium, but lately I’ve found myself putting them to more geriatric uses, uses that include propping up spinal columns.

I opened the lid on my laptop and was immediately reminded that my last session ended abruptly and without my consent; the error message asked if I’d like to restore my active desktop settings.

“Sure, whatever that means” I thought, clicking the “yes” button.

“Are you sure?” the computer asked ominously. Apparently, restoring one’s active desktop settings is not an activity to be taken lightly. Deciding to have children, choosing a career path, restoring your active desktop settings: those are the biggies.

My finger trembled as it hovered over the mouse button. I clicked “yes” and winced, wondering how many launches I’d just authorized NORAD to make. Instead, the computer put the pretty wallpaper picture of a buttercup back on the screen. Why this action required more fail-safes than my credit card company puts on the personal information that it accidentally distributes once a quarter, I’m still not sure.

My wife Kara strolled into the room and said, “Hey, don’t squoosh that pillow. It’s a sham. You’re only supposed to use it for decoration.”

“I’ll say it’s a sham,” I replied, removing the ostensible pillow from behind my back. Kara likes to have stuff that we’re not allowed to use, things like shams and every single item that we received as a wedding gift. Personally, if something is going to be useless and lying around the house, I think it should be me.

Kara and I differ in opinion on some of these matters, but any issues we have stem largely from our being of different eras. Though we’re only separated in age by less than three years, the gulf between our experiences can be wide.

The other day, I pulled a kitchen chair around backwards, sat straddling the back of it and said, “Hey, hey, hey. What’s happening?”

She stared at me blankly.

“Hey, hey, hey. I’m sitting like Roger from ‘What’s Happening?’ Remember that show?” I asked.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she said.

It wasn’t just that she’d never seen the seminal show of my childhood summer vacations; she’d never even heard of it. Dwayne accidentally spilling secrets. Dee eating peanut butter out of the jar. Rerun dancing in his red beret and getting caught taping a Doobie Brothers concert. These things never existed to Kara, but she’d seen every episode of “Saved by the Bell” several times over. It’s a wonder we can even hold a conversation.

I suppose our different perspectives are occasionally helpful. If there’s one important thing I’ve learned after nearly four years of marriage, it’s that it’s okay to put utensils in the dishwasher pointy-end-down. Growing up in a pointy-end-up household, I never knew any other way. The occasional finger stabbing seemed normal. Going pointy-end-down, you could practically belly flop onto the loaded bottom rack if you wanted to, though I could think of better ways to spend an afternoon.

So I’m still not so sure about having an entire class of pillows that can’t be used for any activities that might be considered pillow-like, but there’s a chance that I’ll change my mind. Usually, over time, I come to see things Kara's way. This is due to a phenomenon known as love. Or Stockholm syndrome. Either way, pointy-end-down is definitely the way to go.

You can give Mike Todd your launch codes at


  1. What's Happening was the best show of our childhood. It was even better than the Al Albert's showcase. I'm not speaking to Kara again until she's watched the entire series on DVD. Shirley was hot!

  2. What I`ve never understood are window valences. There`s absolutely nothing wrong with the tops of curtains, yet designers would have us believe they need to be as out of sight as a Victorian lady`s ankle.

    Perhaps you`ll let us know what Memphis thinks of pillow shams.

  3. Perl -- Shirley? Dude, what about Mabel?

    Loon -- Dang, you're right. Valences - that's gold right there! Wish we'd spoken before this column was done. I could have wrung at least 200 words out of that one. And don't worry - Memphis is still alive. She'll be the star again next week. And then every week after that.

  4. Ha. Stockholm syndrome - so how long have been held hostage now?

  5. You just made me snort in my cubicle. Somebody's gonna find out I'm not working!

    You need to talk to my husband. I, too, have never seen an episode of "What's Happening", nor "Welcome Back Kotter" or "Hogan's Heroes," much to my husband's chagrin. I blame it on not having cable, but I'm really not sure if these were actually on cable or not...I HAVE however seen every episode of "The Facts of Life," "Dukes of Hazzard," and "The Greatest American Hero" (Believe it or not, I'm walking on air.)

    Paula :)

  6. allover -- Ha. It depends on when you start counting. Either just over eight years or just under four.

    Paula -- No "What's Happening?" either? What in the hey, hey, hey is going on around here? At least we're all up to speed on Blair and Tootie. Also, the wikipedia entry for "Greatest American Hero" was way more interesting to me than it should have been.