Because I sit around the house all day doing, as far as anyone knows, absolutely nothing, people have sometimes called me during the day simply because I was the only person they knew who was reliably available.
We were always everyone’s emergency number. “Oh, yes,” they would tell anyone who asked, “if one of our children suddenly comes down with a highly contagious disease and you can’t reach us, by all means call Mark and Barbara. One of them is always around.”
Occasionally I would get a call to help with something for which I could not have been less qualified, but for which I was marginally better than nothing. I’m thinking here of the time our friend Rory called me to drive over to her new house into which her family had not yet moved. When I arrived, she ushered me toward a wall and had me face it. There were eight white rectangles on the wall that contrasted only slightly from the wall itself, which was also white.
“Which do you like best?” Rory asked me.
I firmly believed that it was a trick question, but I decided to play it safe. “The white one,” I replied.
She sighed. “Yes, but which one? Antique white? Linen white? Eggshell white…?”
I looked at her incredulously. “Wait. They’re different?”
She told me to go home.
“You know I don’t like that kind of modern art,” I said, “although it’s better than that one we saw where it was just a black canvas.” (My definition of art: if it’s something I could do, it ain’t art.)
Barbara sighed. (I have that affect on women when they ask for my decorating opinions. Actually, even when they don’t.) She said, “Which color for the kitchen wall opposite the window?”
This time, I could actually distinguish between the colors, but it was a difficult choice, because all we have is a small square sample of the counter, and one stool for the island, and the floor which is covered with dust. So I pointed at one of the swatches not quite at random. “That one.”
“Naw,” Barbara said, “I don’t like that one.”
Okay, two things here. First, why did you show me a choice you don’t like? And second, why ask my opinion if you’re going to discard it so callously?
“I’ll ask Casey.” Barbara said.
Well, that was more like it. I married Barbara, and we raised an artistic daughter, precisely so that they could choose paint colors, and I could go back to doing whatever the hell it is I do all day.
See you soon.