Every now and then, while navigating the ever raging waters of life, I happen to stumble upon a little piece of insight. A nugget of wisdom that I can take from a recent experience that originally caused me pain, embarrassment, or confusion. These moments can come from a trip miles away from home, or right in your own living room. The following is a retelling of an incident from the latter…
I promise you with all of my heart that my wife and I are neat and clean people. However, it might be hard to agree with me if you were to visit our apartment on the wrong night. Sometimes in the middle of the week we’re both tired and could give a damn about where our clothes land after we’ve peeled them off and tossed them away like its our last night at Burning Man. Maybe we’re subconsciously shedding all the bullshit one encounters after spending the best hours of the day dealing with douches at work and swerving to avoid vehicular douches on the drive home.
Basically, catch us on the wrong Wednesday and you’d think the nice couple you thought you knew is actually squatting in the apartment you visited and is now forced to kill you for realizing it.
Since we aren’t murders and actually pay to live in our apartment, we decided to do something about the messiness once and for all. One Saturday morning, I cut my wife off in the middle of suggesting we go to our favorite diner for breakfast.
“Nope. Not today baby. We need to clean this damn apartment!”
Before she could protest or offer a brilliantly delivered put down, I darted out of the room, yanked the vacuum from behind the door like a young King Arthur pulling a sword from a stone, and began going over the living room carpet like a madman. The newly laid lines of cleanliness left in the vacuum’s wake mixed with the crunching sound of debris being collected in its tank filled me with satisfaction. Little did I know, my joy was short lived. The sound of the long brush on the underside of the vacuum began to change. It seemed to be struggling to more. I then noticed the cleaner was no longer picking up the debris on the carpet. The vacuum was broken.
“Wow”, my wife exclaimed while sitting at the kitchen table watching me work.
I know you were raised by a black woman from the south, cuz that’s the only way you would know to automatically grab a broom and start sweeping the carpet like that!”
I was in no mood to laugh since my tank top was now drenched in sweat and I was making very little progress with the carpet. All the while, My wife had her viewing spot on the kitchen table.
“It’s ok, my Daddy’s not tripping. Just tell him the vacuum is broken.”
Before I could respond, there was a knock on the door.
Damn!” I yelled out loud, and then immediately slapped my hand over my face.
My wife’s eyes are the size of saucers.
All I could think to do was whisper, “Do you think he heard?!”
The question was cut off by another knock on the door. I answered and offered him a friendly hello with as much forced casualness as possible and let the tall slender man inside.
“Hey”, he said, then casually strolled to the couch and took a seat. I’m always impressed with the level of class that previous generations have. This respectable man eased back on the couch amongst pure chaos and acted as if he was relaxing in a suite at the Hilton.
While his demeanor was casual, I did notice his careful gaze taking in the scene in front of him.
Hoping to intercept a moment of embarrassment, I blurted out,
“Sorry, the vacuum’s broken.”
“Oh”, he said “And you tried to sweep?”
“Emphasis on the word, tried.”, my wife felt the need to chime in.
“Let me see the broom.” He said.
I handed him the broom and he began to sweep. Not in the paniced, haphazard way that I had, but in a much more careful and measured way. Instead of trying to take on the whole carpet at once, he focused on one section and made the debris into a small pile.
“See”, he said in an offhand way. “If you just do one little pile at a time it’s easy.”
He handed me the broom and I was able to finish the job and make the carpet look semi presentable again. My father in law left about an hour later and after seeing him to the door I turned and looked at the carpet to take in the minor moment of victory. A moment that came to a sudden halt when my wife said,
“I was about to tell you to do it like that.”
With a mischievous grin, she kissed me on the cheek and skipped into the bedroom. I swore I could hear the slightest hint of a giggle as she closed the bedroom door.
Since then, I have been able to use this little experience as a reminder. When I get overwhelmed by an ever growing to-do list or I have trouble meeting a self emposed deadline. Just like those individually collected piles of debris on the carpet, I will not try to picture the entirety of an assignment as a whole but will instead tackle it one section at a time. All it took was for a grown man to need to be shown how to use a broom.