Herald and Journal, Oct. 25, 1999

I'm not strange, he's strange


The strangest thing happened on Sunday night. Tom came into the kitchen and took his usual place at the table. This is Tom's chair and when he enters the kitchen, any interlopers occupying his space will be asked to leave it.

I was sitting across the table. Our daughter, Gina, was seated to his left. Tom's eyes darted around the table. Then he studied the area silently until he saw what he was searching for.

He turned to Gina and said, "Hand me the remote, I just don't feel right without it."

We laughed in recognition. It was a truly revelatory moment. We both knew he felt that way. We were just surprised he admitted it.

Here was a man seated at his own kitchen table and, for heaven's sake, the two remotes were in front of his daughter. This just couldn't be. A woman might have control of the remote.

A few years ago, Keith, our son-in-law, told me about a study that was done on men and remote controls. The report revealed that a man always has to have control of the remote while he is in the room. If he leaves the room he will hand the remote to another male, even if it is a male child. Yielding the remote to a female is taboo.

There are no male children left at home to hand the remote to, so I guess that leaves me a slim chance of getting my hands on it. Of course, Tom could walk outside and hand the remote to Indy. He may be a dog, but he is a male.

One of Tom's other "possessions" that must be in close proximity when he sits at the kitchen table is "the box."

It's nothing special. It's just an old cardboard box that says "Xerox" on it. I suppose it held copying paper at one time. Now it holds all the important things that Tom needs to keep close at hand. Woe be unto him, or her in this case, who puts anything on top of what Tom has piled in this cardboard box, or removes anything from it.

The box is overflowing with farm magazines, car magazines, pens, business cards, papers with phone numbers and directions, magazine articles on calving and feeding colostrum, and anything automotive that he is interested in at the time. Currently, it is topped off with the latest Cabela's catalog.

If I can't find the local phone book, I usually look in the box first. I do this in spite of the fact that I'm not supposed to take anything out of the pile. I consider the phone book to be community property, however.

The box always sits to Tom's right at the table. Since we have a large table, it usually isn't in the way. We bought a large, solid table so we would have room for our six kids. Now we have one daughter left at home who is seldom here to eat with us.

That means we can spread out the newspaper, the mail and the magazines until we are ready to throw them away. I have my own little pile of things I am saving to read, "when I get time." Periodically, the pile gets too big, and I winnow out the chaff.

Would you believe Tom feels as much separation anxiety about this cardboard box as he does about the TV remotes? If the box is removed because we are setting the table for company, he will need it back in its place when the meal is done.

Some day, just for fun, I think I'll pile all of the remotes into Tom's kitchen box and hide it somewhere.

To be honest, this need to have control of things is like a woman's need to be in control of her purse. I can't stand to have anyone, even my daughters, dig around in my purse. If anyone needs to find something in it, I would prefer to be the one.

I'm not hiding anything in there. Okay, maybe the occasional candy bar. I just have a problem with strange hands, any hands but mine, wandering through my purse. There's nothing wrong with that, is there?

But men, they sure are strange creatures, aren't they?

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