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Laurie Nigro
Why can’t he talk on the phone and simultaneously do anything else?

Stock photo: Fotolia

I am constantly amazed by my husband’s complete and utter inability to multitask. It baffles me on a level that is outside my realm of understanding. How can a fully functioning adult human not have the skills to do more than one thing at a time? Why would any deity wire a brain with such a debilitating handicap? For many thousands of years, men have enjoyed a patriarchal society, which I find astounding since most of them can’t make dinner AND do the dishes, too.

I’ve wondered how we ever moved away from a matriarchy, as we women are so clearly better suited to the task of running things. The only thing with which I could settle on, with any degree of confidence, is that, as a collective, we all said, “Fine. You don’t like it? Then do it yourself!” And from that group expression of furious exasperation, men took over. Because we were tired of listening to everyone complain. So while we were busy teaching them a lesson, they started doing it themselves. And now we’re left with a ruling class who cannot speak on the phone while simultaneously acknowledging that anything, or anyone, else exists.

My husband is a hardworking and brilliant human being. He is an asset to his profession and is actively involved in the organization. As such, many co-workers come to him for advice and assistance, at all hours of the day and night. Though he is out of the house a minimum of 68 hours per week, I understand that there are times he needs to field these phone calls. However, there are some times where it is more of a burden than others.

Do you remember that game Perfection? You were given a set amount of time to place a collection of puzzle pieces on the board. The timer ticked loudly and if you didn’t finish in the allotted amount of time, it made this horrid buzzing noise and all the pieces exploded up into the sky. Weeknights in our house are kind of like that. Except instead of puzzle pieces, it’s prep for the next day and the horrid buzzing is me screaming at people to pick out their clothes because there is no way I’m looking for socks at 4:13 in the morning. I may also be the explosion part. So when my husband’s phone rings during these critical prep hours, I get a little twitch. Because the second that device touches his ear, he is removed from life. It’s like he goes into a bubble where he is not only useless but also in the way. He becomes a giant, unnecessary lump, taking up space and requiring extra effort, as I have to work around it.

When the telltale ring/vibration started the other night, I sighed deeply and mentally wrote him off for the next 10 to 50 minutes. While he was on that phone, I stacked the firewood in the wood racks next to the fireplace, started a fire, made his lunch and put together his clothes for the next day, cleaned up the dinner I had made and served, did the dinner dishes and re-grouted the bathroom tile. OK, maybe not that last one. But I think that if I knew how to grout, I probably could’ve pulled that off too.

While all of this is going on, if I so much as make eye contact with my husband, he is startled. Not only have I alerted him to the fact that life is continuing on around him, I have confused him. Is there an emergency? Is the house on fire? Have aliens invaded? (because all of this could happen without him noticing.) Otherwise, why am I interrupting? How can I expect him to acknowledge me, while also listening to the caller?

As a contrast, when I’m on the phone for any more than six minutes I cannot physically stop myself from doing things. Dishes are a good one. Cooking works sometimes, but I have a fairly irrational fear of dropping my phone into dinner, so it’s not my first choice. Folding laundry is another monotonous task that lends itself to a good, long girlfriend-therapy session. The last time I was on the phone for a cathartic chat, I dusted the whole house. And I didn’t even realize it until I was done and found myself staring down at a filthy duster, wondering how it got in my hand.

Therefore, watching my husband become both blind and immobile is bizarre. Also, it’s super annoying. Those puzzle pieces are on a limited time schedule. There is very little wiggle room and no one prefers to lose. When he finally finished the call, I shook my head at him, never getting over the paralysis that I had just witnessed.

“What?”

“How can you just curl up into a see-nothing, do-nothing fetal ball like that? When I’m on the phone, I do so many things, and I don’t even realize I’m doing them.”

“Do you really want me to do things without realizing it?”

Touché.

“No. I never want that.”

But I did want wine. So, as restitution for my pain and suffering, he went to the wine store. Because even though it’s literally around the corner, it was too-late-to-be-talking-to-people-and-trying-to-be-polite o’clock. I wasn’t leaving the house. But the husband doesn’t care about any of those social constraints, so off he went. I got wine. He got a happy wife. And he didn’t have to do any of the evening chores (Yes, I can be bought with wine. Don’t judge me. We all have our price.) And then we went softly into that good night. Without any of the raging or the dying. Another successful day!

Maybe tomorrow I’ll learn to grout, so I’m prepared for the next time his phone rings. I found these instructions from thefamilyhandyman.com but I’m not encouraged by the part where he says that it can be “an awful job.” Maybe I’ll stick to dusting.
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Laurie Nigro, is the mother of two biological children and one husband. She also takes care of a menagerie of animals that leave throw-up around for her to step in in the middle of the night. Laurie’s passionate about frugal, natural living, which is a nice way of saying she’s a kombucha-brewing, incense-burning, foodie freak who tries really hard not to spend money on crap made by child laborers. You can hear her rant about her muse (aka husband) and other things that have no bearing on your life, in this space each Sunday.

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Laurie Nigro
Laurie is the mother of two biological children and one husband and the caretaker of a menagerie of animals. Laurie is passionate about frugal, natural living. She was recognized by the L.I. Press Club with a “best humor column” award in 2016 and 2017. Email Laurie