Tuesday, August 07, 2018

The MIL Part Four: Communication Breakdown

As I’ve mentioned before, my mother-in-law lives with us. And seriously, the wheels would go spinning off if she didn’t live with us. Sure, I’ve got the underemployed time to spend doing the laundry and keeping things going, but I understand and realize all that she does. If the Jamie and I were working full time, we wouldn’t be able to suck down beer and float around in the pool all day on Saturdays.

It’s the littlest of things that causes friction in the house. And it’s usually just misunderstanding each other. Jamie and I both believe that the MIL's hearing is fading away, but she doesn’t crank up the television like it’s Eddie Van Halen’s wall of amplifiers.

My wife has started working from home one day a week. We tend to leave her alone, but I think Jamie is starting to understand some of the “little friction points” on my end. She has suggested that I get away from the house during the day for my own sanity. Jamie has discovered the “flop, flop, flop, flop” sounds when her perpetually housecoated mother walks around. Then there’s the constant dog inquiries… “Do you wanna go outside?” “Do you wanna come inside?” And she is always talking to herself. You just don’t know if she’s talking to you or what. It can be maddening when you’re not in a good mood or like Jamie, you’ve got work to do.

Jamie tries to cocoon herself off from the rest of us, but her mother has the magical powers that cut through 8 inches of steel in order to reach her last nerve center. We all have mothers so, I think that I know that particular pain.

My wife came up to me early yesterday evening and said, “Well, you’ve managed to piss her off again.”

“What the hell did I do?” I asked even though I felt that it had something to do with the changing of the filter on the Roomba.

She explained that it was my tone when I asked a simple question… Several times.

It seems that I get a certain tone when I’m clearly enunciating and talking loudly enough to be fully understood. It could be the radio guy in me or the inner A-hole, I don’t know. But for some reason, they find my tone angry and a little condescending. It certainly isn’t the reason I get that tone. I’m just looking to be more clearly understood. I’m not even aware that I may be coming off like a jerk to them.

Eugene Infraction Exhibit A:

I was looking for our purple cooler. It’s a soft-sided cooler that you can sling over your shoulder for easy carrying. I needed to pack it full of alcoholic goodies to take over to Bait and Bobbie’s house to drink since we were all going to hang out. I couldn’t find it. I asked the MIL if she had seen it. She asked Jamie. Jamie told her to look outside.

The MIL came back into the game room where I was stuffing a less desirable cooler full of goodies from our beer fridge. The MIL had the purple cooler in her hands. She said, “It was outside on the little table under the eave.”

Since we just had a 20-minute rain shower I asked a simple question, “Is it wet?”

She fumbled around with it, took a step down into the game room.

I tend to be impatient when I ask a question and get no answer. Perhaps she didn’t hear me. “Is it wet?” I asked again a little louder.

She was talking about something inside the cooler and fumbling with the zipper. I said just a little bit louder, “Linda, you have the cooler in your hands. Is… It… Wet?”

Again, it’s a soft-sided cooler that you can sling over your shoulder. I didn’t want to sling a wet, soft-sided cooler over my shoulder if I didn’t have to.

Well, my innocent line of questioning rubbed her the wrong way. She was checking to see if the INSIDE of the cooler was wet. I didn’t care about the inside because chances were excellent that it was going to get wet even if it were dry.

Later, she told me that I should remember that her 72-year-old brain doesn’t react as fast as it used to. I told her that I didn’t know if her 72-year-old ears were hearing me.

So yeah, a misunderstanding.

Eugene Infraction Exhibit B:

Monday is the day that I routinely clean and service the Roomba. I take things off to untangle the hair from around moving parts and brushes. I get the lint, dust, and hair out of the brushes. I clean the axle of the front tracking wheel so when the thing wants to turn, it does so easily. If you don’t do that at least on a weekly basis, the joker won’t last you too long.

I noticed that the filter area had dust balls in it and the filter looked nasty. I took the filter off and banged it on the deck railing. I pounded a dust cloud out of the thing that would have signaled any Native Americans in the area about possible danger. So, I went back inside after the servicing and said something, again, about cleaning the filter after every use. It should be taken outside and tapped on the railing to get the dust out.

She said, “I’ll rinse it with water to clean it out.”

“Why would you rinse it with water?” I asked.

“You said it was okay!” she replied.

“The filter is made of paper.” I said. “Why would I approve of watering a paper filter?? Paper and water don’t really get along together.”

So somewhere along the way, there was some miscommunication.

I asked if she knew where the replacement filter was and she knew exactly where it was. I felt that it was probably time since we’ve had the thing for nearly 2 years AND that someone has been cleaning the filter with water. I tossed the old one and handed her the new one to replace.

Can I see the woman trying to prolong the life of the filter?

ABSOLUTELY! We’ve had to break the woman of trying to get every ounce of liquid soap out of the dispensers by making it ineffective with the addition of water. You know that last little bit at the bottom that won't come out through the pump anymore?

Well, she adds about a third of the bottle's size with water to get the last little bit.

We’ve explained that watering it down neutralizes the germ-killing power of the soap. But that didn’t stop her. So we took the passive-aggressive approach when we noticed a stream of watery liquid soap squirting on us or across the room. We just emptied the bottle and threw it away. And then finally Jamie explained to her again about how it’s not a good practice along with assuring her that we aren’t destitute. I think that’s starting to settle in.

Serenity now!

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