"Zap it," my Darling Wife said to me one day as I took my third bite of my tuna sandwich. I took the bite and put down the sandwich and reached for the remote control. I zapped the commercial, fast-forwarding the tape machine until the commercial was gone. That assignment completed, I put down the remote control and picked up my sandwich again. I had about eight minutes before her voice would ring out again.
Lately, my Darling Quilting Wife, has taken to watching TV during lunch. Therefore, she is part of the 66 percent of people who, a recent study reports, watch TV while they are eating. However, she doesn't watch the news or one of the talk shows. No, that would be disrespectful to her meal, a carefully planned nutritious meal. What she watches is.... Does it need to be said?
Three mornings a week she has me set the video recorder to tape "Simply Quilts," which comes on here in California at 6:30 a.m. and again at 11:30 a.m. This fall the show changed from two days a week to three days a week. That increased my work load.
"I want a raise," I said to her one day at noon. She sat at the end of the table farthest away from the TV set where she could see it best. I sat at the middle of the table, closer to the TV.
"For what?" she asked, as if she didn't know what my life had become like since she had given me the daily job of operating the video recorder.
"For having to interrupt my meal at every commercial that comes on," I said.
"How much am I paying you now?" she asked.
"Nothing," I said.
"All right. I'll double that."
So, I had my raise, and I didn't think much more about it until the day she set her place at the table differently.
"Knife, fork, spoon, pad, pencil," she said to herself as she laid out the utensils alongside her plate.
"Are you planning a special meal?" I asked. "Or are you counting calories?"
"Notes," she said, and then I realized it was lunch time again and that meant another quilting show.
"Notes?" I asked, just to be sure. But I knew.
"Sometimes there's something I want to remember, and I always forget it. So now I'm not going to forget anything. Quilting takes a lot of concentration."
"Is that why you poured lines of salt all over the table yesterday?" I asked.
"I wanted to remember the block pattern, so I just drew it," she said as if she were making absolute sense.
"You drew a block pattern on the table in salt?"
"I copied it later," she said. "But now with a pad and pencil I can save the salt."
So that was how it began. I taped the shows, and we played one back each day at lunch. I occasionally got to eat my lunch between zapping the commercials. I could have quit my job, of course, but with my raise in pay and her hands full with her food and pad and pencil, I stayed on the job.
There were drawbacks, of course. Some days the shows were old ones she had already seen, and I had to fast-forward a half hour on the tape. Sometimes a guest on the show would annoy her by showing how to make a complicated quilt in the twenty minutes or so the show actually ran between commercials. Directions for making that quilt, a quilt that might have taken the guest three years to make, were given so fast that my Darling Wife burned up her pad and wore out several pencils trying to copy down the directions for three years' work.
"I cannot do that," she said as she watched one show in which the guest had spread out about a thousand-million blocks in neat rows arranged by color and then, through the magic of time-lapse photography, assembled them in minutes.
"You don't have to do that," I said. I zapped the guest, the quilt and the show.
"Why did you do that?" Darling Wife asked, startled as the show whizzed by.
"Did you want to watch that?" I asked.
"No," she said.
"Because it was an impossible quilt for me to make, and I don't want to make it, and no one can learn to make that in one show."
"Right," I said.
"No, go back," she said. I want to watch it anyway."
So, I rewound. I rewound a lot. She watched that show and she groaned and made noises of frustration, but she stopped taking notes. When the show was over, she said, "I learned something from that show."
"What did you learn?" I asked.
"I learned that there are some colors I don't like. I didn't like the gold metallic fabric with the raspberry colored threads and the red polka dot combination on the green-striped stars."
"Neither did I," I said.
Yesterday she watched a new show. Lately I had learned to make simple lunches, mostly finger foods I could actually manage to eat with one hand as I zapped through her shows. But no matter how carefully I had chosen my meal, I still didn't have a chance to eat it.
"This is good," she said as the show began. She seemed absorbed in the quilting techniques being demonstrated and I began to savor the flavor of my carrot sticks. "No, stop," she said. "Go back."
"Go back where," I said as I looked at the television set and then back to her. She was scribbling madly on her pad with her fork.
"Use the pencil," I said.
"Go back to the last part," she said as she replaced the fork with the pencil and continued to take notes.
I went back. The tape ran. She took notes. "Again," she said.
"Go back to the beginning. I didn't get all the information."
I went back. I went back again. And again. It took her 55 minutes to watch a ten minute segment of the show. Then, her pad full of notes, she sighed. "That was a good show," she said.
"I'm glad," I said. My uneaten lunch still lay on the plate in front of me. My fingers hurt from pressing the fast-rewind and fast-forward and stop and play buttons. "But I want another raise," I said.
"All right," she said. And true to her word, she doubled my salary again. I'm worth it.
Copyright 1999 by A.B. Silver
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